Controlling higher education from a distance: using Foucault’s governmentality to better understand accreditation
(2022) Cogent Education, 9 (1), art. no. 2073631
The Internationalization of Higher Education (IHE) has expanded significantly in quantity, scope, and complexity over the past two decades, advancing into a complex system able to influence and control numerous aspects of higher education. IHE has led to international ranking and university reputation concerns, increasing interest in accreditation among non-US universities. For many non-US universities, acquiring academic accreditation for programs is a top priority. However, accreditation as a top-down mandate creates close supervision from outside higher education. This non-empirical essay draws upon Foucault’s concept of governmentality to identify the mechanisms used by accreditation to control higher education institutions and programs and explains how these mechanisms monitor, influence, and maintain control of academic programs. The discussion illustrates how accreditation under the facade of quality assurance and improvement uses standardization and accountability coupled with various mechanisms to wield control over higher education institutions and programs. © 2022 The Author(s). This open access article is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) 4.0 license.
accountability; accreditation; Foucault; governmentality; higher education; quality assurance; standardization