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Pursuing quality in mass higher education: the dilemma of equity and excellence in Italy

TitlePursuing quality in mass higher education: the dilemma of equity and excellence in Italy
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsFornari R, Pompili G
Secondary TitleItalian Journal of Sociology of Education
Date PublishedJune 2010
PublisherPadova University Press
Place PublishedPadova, IT
ISSN Number2035-4983
KeywordsEquity, excellence, mass higher education, quality

 In mass higher education systems the issue of equity and excellence becomes a dilemma that is difficult to resolve both in relation to policies and organizational practices implemented in universities. In fact, universities should make clear what their aims are or what their mission is in a modern society, harmonising their old and new functions and overcoming conflicts due to a growing number of stakeholders and their different interests. In this framework, since the 90’s quality has become the key word of the Higher Education policy agendas summarizing different concepts including those of equity and excellence. For this reason, starting from the work of Harvey and Green (1993) on definitions of quality, in this work these concepts will be treated as dimensions of the concept of quality with the aim of investigating their possible forms of coexistence. . To this purpose three research activities have been undertaken: a secondary analysis of data on the Italian system, an analysis of Italian universities’ websites and a case study. The exploratory hypothesis of our work is founded on the idea that there is always a combination of three definitions of quality, but that in each context the prevalence of one of them is related to the different characteristics of disciplines and students.