Translating Quality Criteria in University Accreditation

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore how Danish higher education institutions (HEIs) navigate the demands and expectations of accreditation procedures, and how the limited freedom posed by accreditation schemes is used by HEIs by way of translation. Design/methodology/approach: Through document studies of policy documents and the institutional self-assessment reports, the paper follows the concept of quality from the international level to the Danish national level, and onwards into the individual HEIs, where the authors examine how notions of quality are constructed through the translation of national regulation, guidelines and procedures of accreditation into the self-narratives of the self-assessment reports. Findings: The authors find that the national guidelines for accreditation represents a complex translation of supranational guidelines by minimizing certain aspects and enhancing others. This national translation is then analyzed as the frame for the institutional translations where the analysis reveals how HEIs exercise a great deal of agency, within a quite narrow frame constituted by regulations and guidelines. Originality/value: By using the Olivers (1991) typology of organizational responses, the authors discuss how the HEIs not only imitate and abide to institutionalized norms and concepts of quality but also reformulate, edit, omit and enhance certain elements of quality. The authors demonstrate that when accreditation meets the HEIs, it is clearly the national agendas that are most pervasive and offer the most relevant vocabulary for the HEIs.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Accounting & Organizational Change
Pages (from-to)588-602
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Accreditation
  • Higher education institutions
  • Quality
  • Strategic responses
  • Translation


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