Research Design and Methodology

A comparative case study was conducted to answer the main research question (Schnell et al. 2011). The units of analysis of this study are European higher education institutions in different Bologna countries, while the units of observation are departments of European higher education institutions. To select the units of analysis we chose for the non-probability sampling approach of extreme case sampling, as “concepts are often defined by their extremes, that is, their ideal types (Gerring 2004, p. 101)”. Specifically, we selected one German and one Dutch HEI, as these countries have adopted the ESG to a different degree, with the Netherlands being perceived as a forerunner, “fully matching the ESG model (ESU 2009,

p. 57)”, while German HEIs are seen having less focus on the ESG in the HEIs as “Student unions expressed their concerns regarding the internal quality assurance systems in Germany (ESU 2009, p. 57)”.

The units of observation were chosen purposively focusing on the smallest entity to which internal quality assurance process is delegated at both studied HEIs. Hereby, we selected two units in similar academic disciplines which have similar number of students. For the Dutch case study, a Faculty offering Economic, Political and Social Sciences, with a student population of around 2200 students, was selected. For the German case study, a German Faculty Institute offering similar degrees to around 1600 students was selected. The German Institute belongs to the Faculty of Educational and Social Sciences and is the smallest entity to which the responsibility for internal quality assurance is delegated at the HEI.

Data Collection

The data collection consisted of desk research, analysing national and institutional policy documents on internal quality assurance. Moreover eight semi-structured interviews (four at each institution) with academic staff, quality assurance officers and the student association were conducted. To better depict the student opinion on the institutions' internal quality assurance systems, a student survey with 93 respondents from the Dutch Institute and 83 respondents from the German Institute was undertaken (see Table 1).

Different data sets were used to depict the institutional and student views regarding the students' role in internal quality assurance processes. By comparing and triangulating this data we aimed to interpret to what extent students were participating in the internal quality assurance processes as stakeholders and how salient they were.

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