The Role of the Accreditation Process in Introducing Innovations Into Higher Education in Serbia

The Role of the Accreditation Process in Introducing Innovations Into Higher Education in Serbia

Nebojša Janićijević
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2708-5.ch004
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The chapter explores the role of the accreditation process in introducing innovations into higher education. The chapter starts with the assumption that the accreditation process can have a positive role in introducing innovations into higher education. This is if the standards bring novelties into the structure and function of higher education and if these organizations accept and implement the said standards in the long-run. The research was conducted through the case study of the first accreditation in higher education in Serbia. The institutional theory was used as theoretical framework of the analysis since the accreditation is observed as the process of institutionalization of a specific higher education model. The research has shown that accreditation had a limited impact on innovations in higher education in Serbia. The most common reaction of higher education institutions in Serbia to accreditation standards was their modified and partial implementation.
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Higher education has a deep social impact and importance. Consequently, it is often a subject of interest not only for the public policy creators, but also for the academic researchers. Innovations in the field of higher education are especially important since they revitalize this sector of society and enable it to constantly give a great contribution to social and economic development (Getz, Siegfried, & Anderson, 1997; Curry, 1992; Van Vught, 1989). However, initiating, directing, and realization of innovations in the higher education sector are very challenging because the higher education organizations – the ones that should be the realizers of innovations – are very often conservative and show difficulties in accepting and implementing the changes (Schneckenberg, 2009; Elton, 2003; Berg & Ostergren, 1977). Hence, it is not surprising that a large amount of research is dedicated precisely to the subject of inciting innovations in higher education. One of the processes that could have a positive catalyzing effect on initiating, accepting, and spreading of innovations in higher education is accreditation (Casile & Davis-Blake, 2002). Through accreditation, certain standards of structure and functioning are imposed on higher education organizations which could be used to introduce innovations into higher education. This role of the accreditation process is precisely the object of research in this paper.

In this paper, the innovations are treated as a separate type of changes, since every innovation is change, but not every change is innovation. Innovation is, indeed, the change that brings an important novelty into the processes or products of an organization. Any type of changes in an organization, even the innovative ones, may come from two sources: the external environment and the organization itself. For a long time, there has been a consensus in the literature that, observed by their cause or source, there are two main types of changes: external and internal (Porras & Robertson, 1987). Internal changes, or organizational development, occur due to the changes within the organization itself. The source of changes in this case is the development of competencies of the organization itself, in particular through the use of knowledge, ideas, or potential of the employees. In such changes, the management has a high degree of discretion, since they can use, but also ignore the internal causes of changes. On the other hand, external changes, or organizational adaptation, occur due to changes in the environment to which the organization must adapt. External changes may be initiated by the changes in market, economic, legal-institutional, or demographic environment. In such changes, the organization management does not have much room for discretion, and must change the organization and introduce novelties in it in order to adapt to and survive in the environment.

One of the important and common external sources of changes, and even innovations, in organization is the legal-institutional environment. The alterations of laws, standards, norms, and other regulations that govern organizations’ functioning almost inevitably cause changes in organizations themselves, and they must adapt to these changes that are supported by some authority (executive government, professional associations, and the like). If changes originating from the legal-institutional environment bring a certain degree of novelties and discontinuity into the structure or functioning of organization, then they may initiate innovations within the organizations. The accreditation process in higher education is precisely the process in which the legal-institutional environment of higher education institutions is being changed. If these changes are innovative and if the higher education institutions accept and implement them, the accreditation process will be the source of innovations in higher education.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Institutionalisation: A process by which an activity or interaction in society becomes an institution.

European Higher Education Area: Comparable, compatible and coherent systems of higher education in Europe.

University: Institution of higher (or tertiary) education and research which awards academic degrees in various academic disciplines.

Institutional Changes: changes in the structure and functioning of organizations in one sector due to changes in the institutional pattern in that sector.

Higher Education: Tertiary education leading to award of an academic degree.

Institution: A stable, repetitive pattern of behavior based on certain assumptions and values.

Innovation: Novelty in the content or form of a product or process.

Accredation: The process by which it is determined whether an organization meets the prescribed quality requirements or whether it has the ability to function in the prescribed manner.

Bologna Process: The process by which the European Higher Education Area was created.

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