Shared misunderstandings? Competing and conflicting meaning structures in quality assurance

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


This article shows how the professional discourse on quality assurance in higher education is building on latent meaning structures that can be competing with each other and even subvert the messages on the manifest level. Taking the case of the Austrian higher education system as an example and employing a reconstructive-interpretative approach rooted in social science hermeneutics, five different meaning patterns are presented: a consumer protection pattern, an educative pattern, an entrepreneurial pattern, a managerial pattern and a quality engineering pattern. By analysing and comparing these patterns, the study argues for paying more attention to latencies and implicit meanings that might be overlooked by focusing on the manifest level of the discourse, in order to not lose track of important contradictions and sources of potential conflict.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85 - 101
JournalQuality in Higher Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 506009 Organisation theory
  • 504 not use (legacy)
  • 503018 University didactics

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