English |  Español |  Français |  Italiano |  Português |  Русский |  Shqip

Master Thesis Reader - Research and Innovation in Higher Education

Academics coping with quality: a study of attitudes towards quality assurance in Georgian higher education

Mariam Shurgaia


The demand for quality assurance (QA) and accountability measures in Higher Education became central concern in European countries and presented significant challenges for institutions. In Georgia, similarly to other European countries, QA systems became integral part of Higher Education system after the adoption of the new Law on Higher Education in 2004 and joining Bologna process in 2005, which created legal and political demand for individual universities to establish Internal quality assurance (IQA) systems.  The call to dedicate institutional efforts to develop effective and robust IQA systems voiced in the Berlin Communique in 2003, was supported and prioritized by Georgian Government.  It was advocated that Georgian universities should build up an effective IQA system that would be guided by the common set of European standards for IQA framed under the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance document (Darakhvelidze, 2012). In this context HEIs were required to adjust to the new national policy instruments and go through the organisational change as a result of the implementation of IQA systems to meet the requirements of the National Accreditation Centre.

While HEIs as a whole have been affected by the changes initiated in the domain of QA, they also influenced day-to day activities of individual lecturers in many ways (Westerheijden, Hulpiau, & Waeytens, 2007). Academics who are faced with changes in their working lives introduced by IQA may respond with the different degrees of acceptance, support or resistance. It has been argued (Newton, 2000) that whether QA systems lead to improvement of educational processes or to formal compliance and ritualistic behaviors largely depends on the responses of academics. As Newton states, if academics have pivotal role in improving the quality of teaching and learning more attention needs to be paid to how they adjust to QA arrangements, which will lead to a better understanding of how to manage change process to get more support.

While number of researches on how academics view QA arrangements are conducted, the comprehensive study on how academics deal with the organizational changes after the establishment of IQA systems are absent in Georgian context.  Therefore, the purpose of the study is to investigate whether academics’ attitudes (cognitive, emotional and behavioral) are more positive or negative towards current and upcoming organisational changes related to the introduction of IQA systems and their requirements such as ECTS, self-assessment forms, student feedback forms, syllabus etc.  The study answers the following research questions:

I Key question:  which factors influence academics’ attitudes towards changes followed by the introduction of IQA systems in Georgian universities?

  1. Are the academics’ attitudes towards changes followed by the implementation of IQA systems more positive or negative?
  2. Do academics perceive impact of IQA on teaching and learning processes as more positive or negative?
  3. Are there any connections between perceived impact of IQA on teaching and learning processes and academics’ attitudes?
  4. Do academics perceive the level of such contextual factors as change related information, change-related self-efficacy and involvement in change processes high or low?
  5. Are there any connection between the contextual factors (change related information, change related self-efficacy and involvement in change process) and academics’ attitudes?
  6. Are there any connections between academics’ individual characteristics such as gender, experience in working with quality, program supervision, academic affiliation and disciplinary affiliation?
  7. Are there any connections between institutional arrangements (type of institution) and academics’ attitudes?

II Key question: How should the IQA system be developed so that it underpins the expectations of academic staff?

In order to meet the objectives of the study, individual level (the micro-level perspective) grounded in organizational change literature will be used.  This approach implies that organizational change is only possible if staff members are ready to change their mind-sets (Bouckenooghe, 2009).

Having underlined that the successful implementation of policies heavily depends on how staff members’ view the change process, the conceptual framework provided by Elizur and Guttman (1976) of attitudes towards change will be utilised for the purpose of the study. This concept derived from organizational psychology literature, covers a cognitive, affective or instrumental-behavioral modality. Cognitive response refers to the opinions about the advantages and disadvantages, usefulness and necessity of change; affective reaction to change refers to feelings of being linked to, satisfied with or anxious about change (Piderit, 2000), behavioural responses are the actions that are taken or are intended to be taken in the future for or against proposed change (Elizur and Guttman, 1976).  This concept allows identification of individual responses of two different poles towards change: positive and negative attitudes. Using three-dimensional perspective of attitudes towards change concept to study how academics deal with new quality arrangements will allow to cover key processes of human function: the processes by which individuals feel, think and act (Smollan, 2006).

While the main purpose of the study is to identify variables that would be likely to affect academics’ attitudes towards change in their working environment, the review of the organizational change literature, as well as higher education studies was conducted. The following variables were identified as likely to be affecting how academics staff looks at IQA systems: change-related information, involvement in change process, change related self-efficacy and perceived favorability of outcomes.

As the review of the relevant literature demonstrates, both: change process, associated with the quality of information regarding the change, involvement of academic staff members in the decision making processes and change-relate self-efficacy, together with the perceived outcomes of change introduced by IQA should represent two dimensions that are important in shaping academics’ attitudes towards change introduced by IQA and towards IQA system in general. When we take into consideration change process and perceived impact of change, along with the individual characteristics of academics and institutional arrangement they belong to (as portrayed in the Appendix 1), we can get a fairly complex picture of the factor influencing academics’ positive and negative attitudes.


The study employed quantitative research method, namely survey research. As it has been suggested the survey research is the best way to gather information from the large group of people, to summarize the characteristics of different groups and to measure their attitudes and opinions (Ary, Jacobs, Razavieh & Sorensen, 2010).

The key participants for the study-academic staff involved in teaching in three public and two private Georgian universities -were selected based on utilizing convenient sampling strategy. The main criterion for selecting universities was that they are accredited and therefore, have established IQA systems. Secondly, all selected universities are comprehensive higher education institutions and offer multi-profile educational programmes.  All three selected public universities benefited from the Tempus programme projects related to the development of IQA systems, thus, they have developed the capacity to administer QA processes internally. All three public universities are one of the oldest and biggest in Georgia. In terms of academic staff within the selected universities, the snowball sampling method was utilized. The attempt to make the sample as homogenous as possible was made including academic staff with different disciplinary affiliations.

The instrument consisting of forty one questions was developed. In the process of development of the questionnaire, previously established measures of each of the study variables were employed: attitudes towards change questionnaire (Vakola, Tsaousis & Nikolaou, 2005), perceived impact of IQA scale (Kleijnen et al. 2011) of QA and contextual factors’ scale as predictors of attitudes (Wanberg & Banas, 2000). Additional questions were added to the scales based on the analyses of the relevant literature and the given context. Some items were either adjusted to reflect the context of Georgian universities, or removed from scales to more adequately capture academics’ opinions. All items were translated from English to Georgian.

All closed items were formulated as statements and participants were asked to indicate their agreement on a five-point Likert type scale (1 = fully disagree, 2= disagree, 4= agree, 5=fully agree, 3= neutral). There were also options “I don’t know” and “I refuse to answer”.

The content validity of the overall instrument was determined by seven experts: six academic staff and one head of the IQA office.  The experts evaluated if the items of the sub-scales were relevant and clear in the selected context; if the items measured the construct they attempted to measure; if the statement were phrased in a way to avoid ambiguous answers.

Construct validity of the sub-scales was assessed using confirmatory factor analysis. As a result the following variables were extracted from the data: attitudes towards change (positive and negative), perceived effects of IQA (negative and positive), change-related information, change-related self-efficacy and involvement in change related process. These results suggest that the instrument indeed measures theoretical constructs that it is designed to measure.

The data collected through questionnaires were coded, entered cleaned and analyzed using special software: Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS 20). The following statistical analyses were conducted: descriptive statistics including the mean scores per item and per scale, standard deviation per item and percentage distribution; the independent-sample t-test (to determine if two different groups of academics have different perceptions and attitudes by determining statistical significance between their mean answers); one way analyses of variances (ANOVA) (to determine whether there are any differences between the means of more than two groups of academics); the Pearson product moment correlation (to measure whether there are statistically significant relationships between attitudes towards change and independent variables) and linear regression analyses (to assess the value of independent variables as predictors of attitudes towards change).

Content-analyses method was used to analyze qualitative data derived from open ended questions and to discover patter themes.

Key Findings and Recommendations

The study explored the literature on organisational change suggesting that employees’ resistance or commitment to change process can significantly affect the success of the change. The important variables that might shape the positive attitudes towards change were also identified. As it has been argued, change related processes such as communication with the staff members about the change, letting staff members participate in decision making processes and encouraging them that they can cope with the change situation, together with the perceived favourability of the change outcomes, are dimensions that increase employees’ commitment to the transformation process.  The literature on perceptions of academics towards the organisational changes associated with the implementation of IQA systems in the university context was also carefully reviewed in order to identify their possible impacts in Georgian universities. The literature analyses showed that perceived outcomes of QA on educational processes is a subject of strong controversy and academics’ evaluation may range from negative (such as increased bureaucracy, divergence from teaching and learning, threat to academic autonomy etc.) to positive (such as improvement of educational programmes, empowerment of students etc.).

While the negative attitudes of academics can be a major obstacle to the successful implementation of the IQA systems (Cardoso, et al., 2013), the result of this study is promising because it shows that academics are in general positive about the effects of IQA and are open to the changes introduced by the system in Georgian universities. Even though the primary purpose of the establishment of IQA systems in Georgian universities were mainly accountability driven and were aimed at complying with the minimum standards of the National Accreditation Centre, which, as it has been argued, does not receive the approval of the academic staff (Cardoso, et al., 2013; Harvey, 2004–12; Watty, 2006), the processes of accountability, such as monitoring of educational programmes, may have led to the improvement of educational practices in Georgian universities. This assumption can explain the study results that in general, academics have positive attitudes towards the IQA systems. Furthermore, securing and enhancing quality of teaching and learning processes by means of IQA systems which closely follow the Bologna guidelines, might be seen by academics as one step forward towards the country’s integration with Europe, which results their openness to the changes introduced by IQA systems.

Despite the fact that positive voice is dominant among academics, still the significant number of respondents were either openly or potentially against the IQA systems. One of the most important implications of the study results relate with how to reduce or overcome this resistance. As quantitative and qualitative data suggest, lack of involvement in decision making processes is the major concern of academics together with the lack of clear communication line about the necessity, benefits and outcomes of IQA practices. Furthermore, the need for trainings and staff development activities are strongly emphasized. While positive attitudes of academics are strongly linked with the belief that changes introduced by IQA contribute to the development of educational processes, the communication line between university management and academics needs to be strengthened in order to  disseminate the benefits of IQA activities and enable academics to better reflect on the necessity and outcomes of the IQA arrangements.  Secondly, encouragement of staff members that they can cope with the change related situations through offering more opportunities for staff development, should increase staff members’ belief that they can cope well with the IQA requirements and in turn, their commitment to the system.  Finally, as the findings of the study suggest, more involvement of academic staff in decision making processes through various means, such as opportunities for structured dialogue (Kezar and Eckel, 2002), or asking academic staff their opinions about the change processes emails, should help to reduce negative attitudes and encourage faculty members to feel that they can shape the changes in teaching and learning processes themselves.

Whereas existing research on institutional change as a result of implementation of IQA systems in Georgian universities has been focused at drawing general picture of academics’ attitudes towards this change and variables shaping those attitudes, further research might need to assess individual differences related to academics openness or resistance to change on more evenly distributed sample. Furthermore, in order to extend the generalizability of the results of the current study, inclusion of academic staff working in HEIs outside of the capital of Georgia is needed. Another suggestion for the future research is that more theoretical and empirical work is needed to further validate some of the sub-scales of the used instrument, such as of “perceived effects of IQA” or “perceived change related information”. Additionally, it might be also interesting to look at additional variables that might be shaping academics’ attitudes towards IQA systems and the changes they are implementing. For example, further research might test the assumption put forward in this study: that the overall positive attitude of Georgian academic towards IQA which might be influenced by academics’ strive for the country’s reintegration with Europe.


Ary, D., Jacobs, L. C., Razavieh, A., & Sorensen, C. (2010), Introduction to research in education. 8th ed. Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth.

Bouckenooghe, D. (2009), What is crucial in developing a positive attitude toward change? The role of content, context, process and individual variables to understanding readiness for change, (Doctoral thesis), Ghent University, Ghent, retrieved June 25, 2014. Available at: http://lib.ugent.be/fulltxt/RUG01/001/308/921/RUG01-001308921_2010_0001_AC.pdf.

Cardoso, S., Rosa, M. J., & Santos, C.S. (2013), Different academics' characteristics, different perceptions on quality assessment? Quality Assurance in Education, 21(1): 96-117.

Darakhvelidze, K. (2012), Institutionalization of Quality Assurance Culture and Organizational Learning: A Study of IQA Practices in Georgian Universities, unpublished master thesis, University of Oslo, Norway, retrieved June 2, 2014: Available at: https://www.duo.uio.no/handle/10852/30679.

Elizur, D., & Guttman, L. (1976), The structure of attitudes toward work and technological change within an organization. Administrative Science Quarterly, 21: 611–622.

Harvey, L. (2004–13), Analytic Quality Glossary. Available at: http://www.qualityresearchinternational.com/glossary/. [Last Accessed June 25, 2014].

Kezar, A., & Eckel, P. (2002), The effect of institutional culture on change strategies in higher education: Universal principles or culturally responsive concepts? The Journal of Higher Education, 73(4): 435-460.

Kleijnen, J., Dolmans, D., Willems, J. and van Hout, H. (2011), Does internal quality management contribute to more control or to improvement of higher education? A survey on faculty’s perceptions. Quality assurance in Education, 19 (2): 141-55.

Piderit, S. K. (2000), Rethinking resistance and recognizing ambivalence: A multidimensional view of attitudes toward an organizational change. The Academy of Management Review, 25(4): 783-794.

Smollan, R.K. (2006), Minds, hearts and deeds: Cognitive, affective and behavioural responses to change. Journal of Change Management, 6(2): 143-158.

Vakola, M., Tsaousis, I., & Nikolaou, I. (2005), The role of emotional intelligence and personality variables on attitudes toward organizational change. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 27(2): 160-174.

Wanberg, C. R., & Banas, J. T. (2000), Predictors and outcomes of openness to changes in a reorganizing workplace. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85: 132–142.

Watty, K. (2006), Want to know about quality in higher education? Ask an academic? Quality in Higher Education, 12(3): 291-301.

Westerheijden, D., Hulpiau, V. and Waeytens, K. (2007), From design and implementation to impact of quality assurance: an overview of some studies into what impacts improvement. Tertiary Education and Management, 13(4): 295-312.

There has been error in communication with Booktype server. Not sure right now where is the problem.

You should refresh this page.