The attributive theory of quality


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The attributive theory of quality a model for quality measurement in higher education
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ix, 180 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.
Afshar, Arash
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Education, Higher -- Evaluation -- Mathematical models   ( lcsh )
Theory (Philosophy)   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1990.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 167-178).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Arash Afshar.
General Note:
General Note:

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University of Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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Full Text







Copyright 1990


Arash Afshar


As with many human endeavors, this study would have

hardly been possible without the assistance, influence, and

support of several individuals. I welcome this opportunity to

express my appreciation to these individuals and to extend my

gratitude to those whose names are not mentioned.

I am grateful to Charles S. Williams for his support and

encouragement during the difficult early stages of my doctoral

studies. My sincere thanks to the members of my doctoral

committee for helping me "nail the jello to the wall." I am

especially indebted to Dr. James Wattenbarger for his valued

mentoring, guidance, friendship, and moral support when chaos

prevailed and confusion reigned; and to Dr. Sandra Damico for

her understanding, breadth of vision, and positive attitude.

My thanks to Dr. Paul George and Dr. Allan Burns for their

critique, guidance, and support whenever needed.

In my attempts to formalize my theory and study, I

solicited reaction from several colleagues. I appreciate the

initial feedback by Dr. William Grams and Dr. Iraj Hirmanpour,

and the implementation of the first design of the computer

model by Abolfazl Salimi. I am especially thankful to Koorosh

Bahrambeigian for revising and fine-tuning the final design of

the software model. The editorial help provided by my dear

friend, Thomas Edwards, was invaluable. I am also grateful to


Dr. Bennett Hudson of the Southern Association of Colleges and

Schools for his generous and timely assistance.

Finally, to my wife Louise and my daughters, Negar and

Yeganeh, I owe a great debt of gratitude for their quiet

understanding and forbearance since the very first trip to








Statement of Purpose .
Assumptions .
Definition of Terms .
Theories and Model .
Significance .
Organization of the Study


Definitions and Types .
Descriptive Theory .
Explanatory Theory .
Predictive Theory .
Theory Formalization .
Criteria for Evaluation of Theory
Figure 1: Evaluation Checklist .


Introduction . .
Quality and Quality Measurement
Accreditation . .
General Systems Theory .
Objectivity, Subjectivity, &
Intersubjectivity .


Introduction ..
Research Perspective ..
Research Population .
Selection of Samples .
Selection of the Panel .







Instrument . .
Data Collection . .
Figure 2 .. . .
The Illustration Model .
Calculation of Data .


Library at Institution A .
Library at Institution B .
Library at Institution C .
Library at Institution D .
Library at Institution E .
Tables 1-5 .
Tables 6 .
Tables 7-9 .


Conclusion .
Recommendations for Further Research
Limitations of the Study .














Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy



Arash Afshar

December 1990

Chairman: James L. Wattenbarger
Major Department: Educational Leadership

The purpose of this study was to develop and advance a

theoretical basis for defining and measuring quality,

specifically as it related to higher education institutions.

The need for such a theory became evident after an extensive

review of the related literature demonstrated absence of any

such theoretical bases; an abundance of vague, inconclusive,

and conflicting definitions; and an incomplete set of

measurement criteria.

Misconstruing quality as an independent, albeit abstract,

entity and attempting to define and measure it within this

frame of reference, emerged as the root of the problem.

Analysis of this finding led to the formulation of the

fundamental proposition of the Attributive Theory of Quality,

namely, that quality does not exist in isolation and as an


Copyright 1990


Arash Afshar

independent entity; rather, it only finds existence in

relation to the phenomenon to which it is attributed. This

theory defines quality as the interactive sum of all the

necessary and sufficient properties that comprise a


The Attributive Theory of Quality views any phenomenon as

a system. Thus, to illustrate the operationalization of the

proposed theory, a model--based on the general system theory--

was developed to calculate the interactive sum of the

properties (subsystems/components) of the phenomenon (a

community college library). The illustrative data (values and

weights) were provided by fifteen librarians at five community

college libraries (three at each location). The results

produced by the model were subsequently compared with the data

obtained from a panel of five accreditation experts assigned

by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The intersubjective approach to research mandated the

selection of experts for both testing and verification. The

arithmetic mean was accepted as the consensus figure for the

data, and verification of results was defined as an 80%

agreement between the results of the model and the panel's

opinion. The comparison demonstrated a 100% agreement between

rankings and less than 10% difference between numeric values

generated by the model and assigned by the panel, thus

upholding the validity of the theory and adequacy of the

illustration. Further research, however, is needed to


identify system components and establish parameters for

weights and values.


There is nothing more
difficult to take in hand,
more perilous to conduct, or
more uncertain in its success,
than to take the lead in the
introduction of a new order of

Niccolo Machiavelli (1513)
(In Young, 1983, p. 1)

Along with the other sectors of the society, American

higher education has been significantly affected by the

intense socio-economic changes of the 1980s. Resources are

dwindling, and the competition by business and industry in

providing higher education to the work force is increasing

(Bok, 1986; Cross, 1987). State boards of higher education,

made stronger in the 1970s, have moved into areas such as

curriculum quality control, and all three branches of the

federal government have found ways and the means of imposing

their views on the institutions (Stauffer, 1981).

These changes have resulted in increasing public

demand for accountability from institutions of higher

education, which in turn has, once more, focused attention

on "quality" which traditionally has been the primary

touchstone of education. Astin (1985a), Astin and Solmon

(1981), Bowen (1974), COPA (1986), Finn (1980), Freedman

(1987), Rathburn (1982), and other sources have acknowledged


that quality and its related issues will be the primary and

enduring concern and preoccupation of educators and the

public alike. More than any other factor, academic quality

will determine "not simply the prosperity of the

institutions, but how important a role colleges and

universities will play in American life through the end of

this century" (Stauffer, 1981, p. 5). Quality measurement

will change from an institutional concern to a national

priority (Ashworth, 1979). A proliferation of evaluation

activities in higher education focusing on maintenance and

improvement of quality (Craven, 1980) and appeals for

further involvement of accreditation bodies (COPA, 1986) are

clear evidence of this trend. These efforts, however, have

not been fruitful.

Although the term quality is one of the most

exhaustively used terms of everyday life, it has not yet

been accurately or acceptably defined, measured, or tested.

While many individuals and organizations are
seeking better ways to promote excellence in our
schools and colleges, very few have taken the
trouble to define what they mean by excellence
[and quality] in the first place. Despite this
inattention to definition, there are several
conceptions of excellence that are implicit in our
time-honored educational policies and practices.
(Astin, 1985a, p. ix)

Attempts to capture the concept of quality have

resulted in a wide range of interpretations, from

philosophical discourses to operational definitions.

Lawrence and Green (1980) stated that in most cases the


result of these labors has been an agreement that quality is

a "subjective" judgement by an individual based on some

supporting evidence. Rathburn (1982) maintained that

"researchers in higher education have noticeably refrained

from providing a constitutive definition of educational

quality but have, through research design and choice of

various evaluative criteria, operationally defined the

concept" (p. 2). Some of these criteria have been library

resources, selectivity, quality of students, students'

success, and faculty qualifications and publications.

A common method of defining and measuring the quality

of the institutions of higher education, dating back to the

early twentieth century, has been institutional ranking.

According to Solmon (1981) this practice

seems to have developed from the American interest
in excellence per se and in competition. Just as
Americans are interested in the top ten movies of
all time, in the largest corporation in any year,
and so on, we are interested in knowing which are
the best colleges, the best graduate programs in
economics. And those in the institutions of
higher learning are also interested in knowing
where they rate, less as a guide to how to do
better than as a discussion topic over cocktail.
(p. 8)

Since 1910, over one hundred such attempts, employing a wide

range of criteria and indicators, have been recorded among

which studies by Astin (1965a), Cartter (1966), Cattell

(1910), Knapp and Goodrich (1952), Roose and Anderson (1970)

can be mentioned. However, according to Astin (1985),

traditional concepts of "excellence" used in these studies--

reputational, resources, outcome, and content approaches--

have not been conclusive and have suffered major drawbacks.

Gourman's ranking and evaluation reports of American

colleges and universities, although widely accepted, did not

have any discernable logical or scientific foundation

(Coughlin, 1978; Webster, 1984). Even the most recent

scheme of ranking "America's Best Colleges" by the U.S. News

& World Report magazine conducted by Sheler, Toch, Morse,

Heupler, and Linnon (1989) is based on the five factors of

faculty, selection criteria, student retention, resources,

and student placement and overlooks other major

institutional components. The 1990 ranking of America's

graduate schools by the same publication--based on four of

these criteria--suffers from similar inadequacies

("America's Best," 1990).

These and other limited views of quality have had

serious adverse effects on higher education ranging from

unrealistic rating of different types of institutions

(Bowen, 1974; Lawrence & Green, 1980) to problems with

articulation and distribution of resources (funds) among

institutions. Overall, as Astin (1985a) indicated

they [traditional beliefs] are not necessarily
consistent with the educational mission of
institutions, they interfere with our efforts to
expand educational opportunity, and their use does
not promote greater excellence in the system as a
whole. (p. ix)

Attempts to develop alternative assessment criteria are

also numerous, ranging from earlier post-traditional views

reported by Rathburn (1982) to Astin's (1985) "talent

development approach." These are sincere efforts; however,

without an explicit and agreed-upon definition of quality to

serve as the basis for a measurement instrument, advances

toward solving this problem cannot be made.

Currently, the most intensive quality measurement and

control activities are undertaken by accrediting agencies.

Along with the local lay boards of education, accreditation

has been one of the two unique features of the American

educational machinery (Armstrong, 1962; Crippen, 1981;

Selden, 1960). According to Brubacher and Rudy (1968),

accrediting processes were initiated by leaders in education

in response to a need for articulation between and quality

control of diverse educational organizations that have

developed in this country (Crippen, 1981).

The importance of accreditation and accrediting

agencies is reflected in the history and growth of these

institutions. The American pattern of accreditation, with

the specific purpose of improving quality standards, emerged

in 1906 (Stauffer, 1981; Young et al. 1983). The first

accrediting activity occurred in 1910, and the first list of

regionally accredited institutions was published by the

North Central Association in 1913 (Crippen, 1981; Orlans,

1975; Selden, 1960). Today, six regional and more than 70

program accrediting agencies, operating as private entities,

and a number of state and federal agencies in the public

sector (Crippen, 1981; Kaplin & Hunter, 1966) are involved

with identifying and determining academic quality and

encouraging institutions to maintain and enhance academic

quality (Crippen, 1981).

The process of accreditation has been defined

operationally in a number of ways. According to Orlans

(1975), the basis of any accreditation activity must be the

development of standards against which the features of a

program can be compared. However, agreement upon a set of

standards may be a controversial matter. The standards

should reflect the consensus of the leading institutions or

programs in a professional field and must be reviewed

periodically with the thought in mind that changes may need

to be made (Crippen, 1981). Bertrand (1974) maintained that

accreditation was the process of comparing characteristics

of an institution with a previously agreed-upon and approved

"set of standards that provide a level of educational

quality or competence as derived by a knowledgeable group of

individuals sanctioned by a profession or educational

agency" (Adcox, 1983, p. 1).

A review of the criteria for accreditation reflected in

the Standards Handbooks of the six regional accrediting

agencies revealed an extensive disparity among the

definitions, criteria, standards, and foci of emphasis,

verifying the shortcomings identified by Selden (1960).

These weaknesses in the accreditation process were

identified as (a) an inability to evaluate quality in

education, and (b) the failure to determine the relative

emphasis that should be placed on different features of the

evaluative process (Adcox, 1983).

The traditional theories and practices have proven to

be inadequate. Meanwhile, the concern over the quality of

education in this era of tremendous diversity and rapidly

changing social, economic, technological, and political

environment is more serious than ever before. A critical

review of these beliefs and theories of excellence is

necessary. "One problem is that these theories are seldom

stated explicitly; rather, they are more often implicit in

our actions and policies" (Astin, 1985a, p. xi).

A review of the existing literature revealed the root

of the problem to be the common misconception that "quality"

is an independently existing phenomenon, such as mass or

volume, and that the concept known and referred to as

quality exists in isolation. This belief has resulted in

the formation of an inadequate theoretical basis that, in

turn, has resulted in a number of inconclusive definitions

of quality. Naturally, as with any ill-conceived and poorly

defined phenomenon, the attempts to measure quality have

proven to be futile, leading to the current state of

confusion and uncertainty. A fresh systematic approach,

therefore, is needed to settle the controversies over the

concept, definition, and measurement of quality.

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this study was to develop and advance a

theoretical basis for defining and, subsequently, measuring

quality, especially as it related to evaluation of higher

education institutions for such purposes as accreditation.

This theory, called the Attributive Theory of Quality,

(introduced and evaluated in Chapter II) is advanced by the

author to this end. To illustrate the operationalized

theory, a calculation model based on the general systems

theory (described in Chapter IV) supplements the study.


1. The numeric value generated by the model is the

indicator of quality in any given system.

2. The purpose of the proposed model is to illustrate the

operationalization of the Attributive Theory of

Quality. In this context, the values and weights

(numbers reflecting the condition and importance factor

of components of a system, e.g., an institution) can be

assigned intersubjectively by knowledgeable experts

working at the institutions based on their perceptions

of the value and importance of each component to the

mission of the institution.

3. The arithmetic mean represents the intersubjectively

drawn consensus figure.

4. High and low values represent the strong and weak

components of the system respectively.


5. Comparison of phenomena can be carried out by assigning

relative numerical values to them.

6. "Numerical terms express some of the most abstract

ideas which the human mind is capable of forming"

(Struik, 1967, p. 8).

7. Mathematics is not so much a body of knowledge as a

special kind of language, one so perfect and abstract

that--hopefully--it may be understood by intelligent

creatures throughout the universe, however different

their organs of sense and perception (Bergamini, 1963,

p. 10).

Definition of Terms

Before further discussion of the theory and the model,

a number of definitions are necessary to clarify the

theoretical and application concepts of the study:

Attributes are properties of phenomena, objects, etc.

(Hall & Fagen, 1968, p. 81). An attribute has its existence

in a phenomenon, and does not exist in and of itself, e.g.,

weight of an object (Adler, 1978, p. 12).

Attributive means "of or having the nature of an

attribution or attribute" (American Heritage Dictionary,


Components are the smallest meaningful units that

interact with each other to fulfill the purposes) of the

system (Silver, 1983, p. 51); e.g., print equipment or card

catalogs in a library.


Condition is the degree to which a property is present

in a component, e.g., number of books supporting a

particular program or the number of hours a library is open

(staff availability).

Phenomenon is any tangible or intangible (material or

abstract) object, process, or product; anything that exists.

Subsystem is a system within the larger system. It is a

set of components interrelating (within a boundary) for a

purpose that relates to the purposes) of the larger system

(Silver, 1983, p. 55). A library is a subsystem of an

institution and an off-campus site is a subsystem of a


System is an integrated assembly of interacting

elements designed to carry out cooperatively a predetermined

function (Flagle, 1960); a set of objects together with

relationships between the objects and between their

attributes (Hall & Fagen, 1968). In this study, an

institution of higher education is considered as a system

(consisting of a number of subsystems and components).

Track (In the graphic depiction of system as a

hierarchy) is the path of a component to the system (at the

top) through subsystems.

Value indicates the condition of a component or the

degree to which the property or characteristic comprising a

component is present. This value is a numeric variable

between 0.0 (absence of the property) and 100 (property

present at optimal level) and can be assigned

intersubjectively by experts.

Weight is the contribution factor (the worth or

importance) of a subsystem (in percentage figure) to its

immediate system at the next level of hierarchy which in

turn can be a subsystem of another system, e.g., the

importance (contribution factor) of the staff subsystem to

library as compared with the institutional relationship or

services subsystems. The concept of weight in the context

of this study is used differently from the ones used in

other areas.

Theories and Model

According to Adler (1978), distinguishing between a

phenomenon and its attributes dates back to the time of

Aristotle who divided the physical world into bodies and

attributes. An attribute belongs to a body and has its

existence in it, but not in and of itself. Attributes of

phenomena, unlike phenomena themselves, are not changeable,

though they represent the changes in the phenomena. In

other words, a change in an attribute, such as quality, is

only possible by changes in the phenomenon to which it

belongs. In addition to the basic physical attributes, a

phenomenon has other attributes including its "relationships

with other things, the actions it performs, the results of

its being acted on, the time of its coming into existence,

the duration of its existence, and the time of its ceasing

to exist" (p. 14).

The proposed Attributive Theory of Quality (further

discussed in Chapter II) provides the theoretical basis for

understanding the concept and formulating a conclusive

definition for quality, especially as it relates to the

evaluation of higher education institutions. This theory

postulates that quality does not exist as an independent

entity or phenomenon; that is, it cannot be perceived in

isolation; rather, it only exists in relation to the

phenomenon to which it is attributed. Similar to attributes

such as weight or size, quality is only identifiable when it

is considered in relation to an object. As such, it can be

defined and measured as the interactive sum of all the

necessary and sufficient properties that comprise the

phenomenon. Specifically, to determine the presence and

measure the degree, or the quantity, of quality of any

phenomenon (considered a system within the context of the

Attributive Theory of Quality), the components of the

phenomenon, e.g., an institution of higher education, must

be identified; and then, the values and weights of the

components (and the subsystems formed by them) must be

established so that the interactive sum of all the

subsystems can be obtained to indicate the quality of the


According to the Attributive Theory of Quality, any

phenomenon is a system, therefore, the general systems

theory is used as the theoretical/methodological basis for

constructing a measurement model which will illustrate the

operationalization of the proposed theory. Boulding (1968)

describes the general systems theory as

a level of theoretical model-building which lies
somewhere between the highly generalized
constructions of pure mathematics and the specific
theories of the specialized disciplines.
Mathematics attempts to organize highly general
relationships into a coherent system, a system
however which does not have any necessary
connections with the "real" world around us. It
studies all thinkable relationships abstracted
from any concrete situation or body of empirical
knowledge. (p. 3)

At an operational level, systems approach can be used as a

methodology to place an abstract concept and entity into a

practical framework. In this context, according to

Kimbrough and Nunnery (1983),

systems theory is not a set of assumptions from
which empirical laws can be derived by logico-
mathematical procedures; it does not constitute a
universal, all-inclusive, substantive body of
thought. In fact, some scholars have suggested it
is not even a "theory," but a methodology, and one that
is empirical and interdisciplinary. (p. 320)

Whether a theory or a methodology, the systems approach to

understanding the world and acquiring knowledge about any

phenomenon is preferred, because this approach is

a way of thinking and of seeing the world .
stressing the idea of logical, thorough, and
methodical thinking. The systems philosophy
becomes a way to relate complex ideas, principles,
and laws so that they become meaningful. (Johnson
et al., 1976, p. 63)


The model presented in this study was constructed so as "to

depict a physically possible, albeit idealized, reality

whose existence would naturally manifest itself in the laws

requiring explanation" (Dilworth, 1986, p. 155).

Although such a model, with its illustrative function,

can satisfy the requirements of both theories, the dispute

over the objectivity or subjectivity of the data and results

will be present and must be resolved. As stated earlier in

this chapter, quality has generally been perceived as a

subjective judgment by an individual (Lawrence & Green,

1980), and "objective" measurement of "subjectivity" has

long been a source of dispute. Extensive literature on

subjectivity and objectivity has been generated by the

philosophers and philosophers of science from as far back as

Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle (Feyerbend, 1981).

Emphasis on objectivity gained strength in the early

decades of the twentieth century and dominated science in

general, and the evaluation and measurement in education and

other social sciences in particular. This dominance and

perceived preference, however, has been seriously questioned

during the past two decades,

a person's subjectivity, in the descriptive,
unabusive sense which I favour, is the tissue of
his or her knowledge, opinions, emotions,
feelings, and tastes, which yields the flavour,
the style, the personalness of his or her approach
to things. .. With some banality, but little
prejudice, we can speak of a "point of view" and
say that objectivity is possible only within a
point of view and is thus a quality of one's
subjectivity. (Deutscher, 1983, p. 41)

With this considerable shift in direction, another

concept, intersubjectivity, advocated by the philosophers of

science has been increasingly gaining momentum.

Intersubjective is defined as

used and understood by, or valid for different
subjects. Especially, language, concepts,
knowledge, confirmability. The character of
science is especially emphasized by scientific
empiricism. (Runes, 1984)

D'Espagnat (1983) further describes this approach to

development of science,

for Niels Bohr, a statement is objective as soon
as it is valid for any observer. Thus, for such
scientists a statement or a definition that
makes reference, even in an essential way, to the
concept of human observer can very well be
objective: it suffices that it be invariant with
respect to a change of observers. Let me call
objectivity defined this way weak objectivity. It
differs from subjectivity fundamentally through
this invariance. It could also be called
"intersubjectivity." Even a die-hard realist
could not deny that weak objectivity is sufficient
for development of science, at least so long as it
refrains from any claim of describing what lies
beyond human experience. (p. 58)

This is to say that despite some of the perceived

weaknesses, for research in education as a social science,

the intersubjective approach has more applicability than

other commonly used methods,

admittedly, intersubjectivity is a rough
approximation of the topic of these explorations,
since the term prejudges the intended theme as a
relationship between individuals. The
advantage of intersubjectivity is its customary
usage; cautiously employed, the term serves as a
handy launching-pad for excursion into less
familiar terrain. (Dallmayr, 1981, p. 40)

This study, therefore, adopts an intersubjective

approach to data collection and analysis, which in turn

necessitates adopting a qualitative research methodology.

Depending on the developmental stage of the
research effort, this approach can both enhance
understanding and help verify findings. The
intersubjective approach is usually intended to
lead to a final product that all can agree
represents a valid description and analysis of a
situation. (Firestone, 1988, p. 210)

As for the reliability and validity of the methodology and

the findings of the study, it should be noted that

if there did exist a "scientific method" which
scientists wield, the only purpose of
intersubjective testing would be to assure that
human frailty does not interfere with its
operation; intersubjective testability would not
be a logically necessary part of research. But for
our approach, which requires that proposals be
evaluated and accepted by the community of
qualified scientists before they can become a part
of science, intersubjective testing is crucial.
(Brown, 1977, p. 154)


The principal contribution of this study, the

Attributive Theory of Quality, is that it provides a solid

conceptual and operational basis for defining quality as

attributed to higher education, and further, by utilizing

the general systems theory, adds a secondary contribution in

form of a quality measurement model. The theoretical and

methodological bases of the study clarify the confusion that

has historically prevailed around this concept. The

underlying theory, the Attributive Theory of Quality,

regards quality as an attribute rather than an independent

entity, thus ending the futile labor of those who try to

define a non-entity. This concept of quality is then placed

in the context of the general systems theory to make its

quantitative measurement possible.

The postulates of the proposed theory settle some of

the most important disputes over the concept of quality as

it relates to education in general and higher education in

particular. First, by asserting that the quality of a

phenomenon, such as an institution of higher education, is

the interactive sum of all of its "necessary and sufficient"

properties of that phenomenon, e.g., all of the components

needed for an institution to fulfill its missions; it

establishes that the quality of each phenomenon should be

(a) measured only in relation to itself, and (b) only based

on the elements/factors that are directly contribute to the

fulfillment of its mission. As such, the proposed theory

puts to rest such unsuccessful "quality indicator" concepts

as reputational (based on comparison), and resources,

outcome, and content (based on single components). Also,

since the evaluation of the institutions will be based on

the necessary and sufficient properties, excessive resources

which do not serve the educational goals of the institution

(financial investments, for example) will be excluded from

consideration. Additionally, the proposed theory limits the

comparison between institutions to those belonging to the

same class (community colleges vis-a-vis four-year


universities vis-a-vis research universities), limiting the

inequities in resource distribution caused by fallacious

comparisons of the non-comparables.

This systematic approach to evaluation also drastically

improves the effectiveness of accreditation processes and

practices. The application of the system theory requires

the identification of all the subsystems and components of

an entity and precludes the omission of any part, however

insignificant, from the evaluation process, thus ensuring

the comprehensiveness of the assessments and self-studies.

Moreover, by including both the weight (the importance/

contribution factor) and the value (indicator of the

condition) of the component, this approach provides a more

accurate account of the real value of each component, while

demonstrating the strong and weak points of a system as they

affect its overall quality. Decision-makers can evaluate

factors such as cost, manpower, implementation time, etc.,

against the relative weight (importance) of each subsystem

to determine its overall effect on the system. With this

information, they can identify the improvement actions which

will result in a higher yield in the overall quality of the

system and allocate their resources accordingly.

This study also provides several major leads for

further investigation and, consequently, adds considerably

to the existing body of research. Classifying the

institutions and identifying their subsystems, defining the

parameters and methodologies for assigning weights and

values, and methods of evaluating decisions are some of the

areas of research, the results of which can contribute

vastly to the current body of knowledge. Finally, faced

with the persistent anomalies of the past and absence of any

discernable paradigm (Kuhn, 1973), this study provides the

first such paradigm.

Organization of the Study

This study is organized in six chapters. Following the

Introduction, Chapter II is fully allocated to the

introduction and evaluation of the Attributive Theory of

Quality. Chapter III, the review of the related literature

covers the literature on quality and quality measurement,

accreditation, systems theory and systems approach, and

objectivity, subjectivity and intersubjectivity. In Chapter

IV, the methodology, data collection and analysis, and the

model for illustrating the operationalization of the

Attributive Theory of Quality are presented. Chapter V

presents the findings, and Chapter VI contains a summary,

the conclusion, and the recommendations for further studies.

Practical implications for the agencies and individuals

involved in evaluative processes are also addressed here.


We must begin with the mistake and find
out the truth in it.
That is, we must uncover the source of
the error; otherwise hearing what is
true won't help us.
It cannot penetrate when something is
taking its place.

(Nersessian, 1984, p. 1)

"There is nothing more practical than a good theory."
(Kerlinger, 1964, p. 12)

Theories are generated to "impose order on naturally

unordered experiences by providing systematic ways of

viewing a basically chaotic world" (Fawcett & Downs, 1986,

p. 2) and to assist in understanding, explaining,

predicting, and controlling natural events (Kerlinger,

1964). In simple terms, through theories people seek to

depict the what, why, and how of a phenomenon. A theory is,

therefore, an abstract representation of reality as we

perceive it.

Theory is the culmination of a highly abstract
thought process whereby ideas are removed in
successive stages from the world of immediate
experience. Nevertheless, because of the logic of
the thought process and the indirect linkage of
constructs to concepts, theories are of profound
significance for understanding the experienced
world. (Silver, 1983, p. 6)

The Attributive Theory of Quality was formulated as a

response to the prevailing state of confusion over the

concept of quality and quality measurement. A review of the

related literature (Chapter III) revealed the absence of any

solid theoretical bases or any constitutive or operational

definitions for quality. The author's contention is that

the lack of a theoretical framework has been the primary

cause of chaos since concepts, definitions, propositions,

and abstractions are embedded in theories.

The Attributive Theory of Quality proposed in this

study has the potential to provide a solid theoretical basis

for formulating a conclusive definition for quality. This

theory postulates that quality does not exist as an

independent entity or concept, that is, perceived in

isolation. Rather, it only exists in relation to the

phenomenon to which it is attributed and as such, can be

defined and measured as the interactive (composite) sum of

all the necessary and sufficient properties that comprise

the phenomenon. At this stage, an evaluation of this theory

based on the criteria represented in the literature is

deemed necessary. First, however, a review of theory in

general seems appropriate.

Definitions and Types

Definitions of theory are numerous, recurrent, and

varied in the current literature on theory and research.

These definitions range from general to specific and from

loose to restrictive. Some of the better known definitions

of theory include

a set of logically interrelated propositions .. an
integrated set of propositional statements, each of
which is an integration of constructs representing
clusters of concepts pertinent to the world of human
experience. (Silver, 1983, p. 6)

a set of interconnected propositions that have the
same referent--the subject of the theory. .
(Argyris & Schon, 1974, p. 4)

a conceptualization--an orientation toward or
perspective on phenomena [which] forms the basis
for [the] written or formal theory. (Reynolds,
1971, p. 21)

[according to Einstein] a continuous process that
is followed in an effort to develop an
increasingly simple and valid picture of reality.
The definition is also very broad; any abstraction
developed to understand "what is" can be called a
theory. (Kimbrough & Nunnery, 1983 p. 240)

a theory is a set of interrelated constructs
(concepts), definitions, and propositions that
present a systematic view of phenomena by
specifying relations among variables, with the
purpose of explaining and predicting the phenomena
If by using the theory we are able to
predict successfully, then the theory is confirmed
and this is enough. (Kerlinger, 1964, p. 11)

a theory is a provisional explanatory proposition,
or set of propositions, concerning some natural
phenomena and consisting of symbolic
representations of (1) the observed relationships
among (measured) events, (2) the mechanisms or
structures presumed to underlie such
relationships, or (3) inferred relationships and
underlying mechanisms intended to account for
observed data in the absence of any direct
empirical manifestation of the relationships.
(Marx, 1976, p. 237)

a theory consists of a set of related assumptions
concerning the relevant empirical phenomena, and
empirical definitions to permit the user to move
from the abstract theory to empirical observation.
(Hall & Lindzey, 1978, p. 15)

The Attributive Theory of Quality can be placed within the

parameters of any of these definitions.

As stated, the proposed theory was formulated after

extensive research in literature failed to produce a solid

theoretical framework for definition and measurement of

quality. The search in literature was essential, because

theory and research are the two components of the scientific

process. Brown (1977) considered their relationship a

dialectic, a transaction whereby theory determines what data

are needed and research results provide challenges to

accepted theories. According to Fawcett & Downs (1986),

theory development relies on research and research needs

theory as its guide. They further added that research

is neither more nor less than the vehicle for
theory development. It is the method used to
gather the data needed for the theory. This is
true whether the purpose of the research is to
generate a theory or test one. When the purpose
is theory generation, the phenomenon of interest
suggests things to look for. Conversely, if
the purpose is theory testing, the theory dictates
the data to be collected. (p. 4)

A number of classifications for theories in relation to

research have been presented (Diers, 1979; Payton, 1979;

Stevens, 1984). A classification by Fawcett & Downs (1986)

will be referred to in this study.

Descriptive theory (with descriptive research)

Considered the most basic type, descriptive theories,

which describe or classify specific dimensions or

characteristics of a phenomenon, are needed "when nothing or


very little is known about the phenomenon in question. They

state "what is" (Fawcett & Downs, 1986, p. 4). Stevens

(1984) classified descriptive theories into (a) naming

theories which describe the dimensions or characteristics of

some phenomenon, and (b) classification theories, frequently

referred to as typologies or taxonomies, which are more

elaborate in that they describe the structural

interrelationship of the dimensions or characteristics of a

phenomenon. "The dimensions may be mutually exclusive,

overlapping, hierarchial, or sequential" (Fawcett & Downs,

1986, p. 5).

Descriptive (exploratory) research is used to generate

and test descriptive theories. This type of research is

directed toward answering questions such as "what is this?"

(Diers, 1979, p. 103), and "what are the existing

characteristics of the real world relative to the specific

question" (Payton, 1979, p. 44)? Nonempirical methods such

as philosophical (describing the phenomenon through critical

discussion) and historical (description of phenomena that

occurred at an earlier time) inquires may be used in this

type of research.

Explanatory theory (with correlational research)

Explanatory theories specify relations between

dimensions or characteristics of a phenomenon by explaining

how the parts of a phenomenon are related to one another.

These theories can be developed by correlational research

only after descriptive theories have been developed and

validated and seek to answer such questions as "what is

happening here?" (Diers, 1979, p. 125), and "to what extent

do two (or more) characteristics tend to occur together"

(Payton, 1979, p. 44)? Correlational studies use the

empirical method which requires measurement of the

dimensions or characteristics of phenomena in their natural

states (Fawcett & Downs, 1986).

Predictive theory (with experimental research)

By addressing the causation or the "why" of change in a

phenomenon, predictive theories seek to predict the precise

relationships between dimensions or characteristics of a

phenomenon or differences between groups. This type of

theory may be developed after explanatory theories have been

formulated and are generated and tested by experimental

research. Predictive theories ask questions such as "what

will happen if ?" (Diers, 1979, p. 145), and "is

treatment A different from treatment B" (Payton, 1979, p.

45)? Experimental research uses the empirical method of

experimentation which involves the manipulation of some

phenomenon to determine its effect on some dimension or

characteristic of another phenomenon (Fawcett & Downs,


As a descriptive theory, the Attributive Theory of

Quality can be further strengthened through exploratory

research that might reveal the need for further expansion of

the theory to explanatory and eventually predictive types.

Two other aspects, i.e., theory formalization and

evaluation, should be addressed in relation to the proposed

theory. However, in order to avoid redundancy, a point-to-

point reference to the Attributive Theory of Quality will

not be made. Instead, the rest of this section should be

viewed with the Attributive Theory of Quality in mind. An

evaluation checklist will conclude this section.

Theory Formalization

Briefly stated, theories are made up of one or more

concepts, the definitions of those concepts, and the

propositions that state something about the concepts.

Several forms of theories are evident in research reports.

For example, in theory-generating studies, the theory

frequently is presented in the form of one or more newly

discovered concepts, the dimensions of the conceptss, and

relevant propositions. Regardless of the form, however,

theories are rarely presented as explicit sets of concepts,

definitions, and propositions; but rather as "untidy and

inelegant narratives" (Marx, 1976, p. 235), which must be

analyzed systematically so that their concepts, definitions,

and propositions can be identified. This process is

accomplished by theory formalization, also called

theoretical substraction. It is used to understand a theory

and to extract an explicit statement and a diagram of a

theory from its verbal explanation,

theory formalization may even involve the
translation of a verbal theory into a mathematical
or computer language. This means that symbols are
substituted for concepts, and equations, for
propositions. The result of theory formalization
is a concise and polished version of the theory
that sets forth its components clearly, concisely,
pictorially, and if desired, symbolically.
(Fawcett & Downs, 1986, p. 15)


The first step in theory formalization is the

identification of its major concepts. Fawcett and Downs

(1986) defined a concept as the description of an abstract

idea or mental image of some phenomenon. They added that a

concept summarized the related observations and experiences

and referred to the properties of a phenomenon, not to the

phenomenon itself. Concepts "give meaning to sense

perceptions and enable us to categorize, interpret, and

structure the phenomenon" (p. 16), and make up the

vocabulary of a theory.

Although the observations and experiences are
real, our concepts are only mental creations. The
terms associated with concepts are merely devices
created for filing and communication. .
Ultimately, [the concept] is only a collection of
letters and has no intrinsic meaning (Babbie,
1983, p. 107).


According to Fawcett and Downs (1986), identification

of the definitions of the concepts used in theory is the

second step in theory formalization. As the basic building

blocks of theories, concepts must be precisely and


accurately defined so that the meaning of one concept may be

distinguished from the meaning of another.

To make the concepts of a theory empirically testable,

two types of definitions are needed. The constitutive

definition (also called a theoretical, a nominal, or a

rational definition) defines a concept with other concepts

and provides it with theoretical meaning, that is, what the

concept is. The operational definition, also known as

epistemic or real definition, provides the concept with

empirical meaning by defining it in terms of observable

data. Operational definitions (which are needed regardless

of type of research) are measurement-oriented

interpretations of constitutive definitions (Fawcett &

Downs, 1986). Kerlinger (1964) identified two classes of

operational definitions: The measured operational definition

stating how a concept will be measured, and the experimental

operational definition showing the details of operations

required to manipulate the concept.


A proposition is a declarative statement about a

concept or the relation between concepts. Specifying

relational or nonrelational propositions is the third step

in theory formalization. Relational propositions link two

or more concepts by stating that changes in one variable is

systematically accompanied by changes in another variable.

Nonrelational propositions either state the existence of a

concept or define it. The former assert the existence or

level of existence of a phenomenon, and the latter describe

its characteristics. Constitutive and operational

definitions actually are definitional propositions (Fawcett

& Downs, 1986).

Hierarchies of propositions

Hierarchical ordering of the propositions according to

their levels of abstraction, on a continuum from abstract to

concrete or from concrete to abstract, is the fourth step in

theory formalization. The abstract propositions are

concerned with more general phenomena or a wider class of

objects than are the concrete propositions, which are

concerned with more specific phenomena or a narrower class

of objects. Gibson (1960) referred to abstract statements

as unrestricted propositions and to concrete statements as

restricted propositions and noted that the distinction

resulted from the limits of space and time within which the

proposition was applied (Fawcett & Downs, 1986).


Construction of a diagram of the theory is the final

step in theory formalization. A diagram helps to determine

how all concepts, definitions, and propositions of the

theory were brought together. It is the final aid to

understanding exactly what the theory says and what it does

not say. It also facilitates the identification of gaps and

overlapping ideas in the theory (Fawcett & Downs, 1986).

Criteria for Evaluation of Theory

Criteria for the evaluation of theory can be found in

the literature of almost every discipline. The current

literature reflected an overall agreement on four criteria

for evaluation of a theory. These criteria, as presented by

Fawcett & Downs (1983), included significance, internal

consistency, parsimony, and testability. An evaluation of

the Attributive Theory of Quality will be conducted against

these criteria.

Significance of a theory

According to Fawcett & Downs (1983), the basic premise

of this criteria is that a theory should address a phenomena

of interest to a discipline, as well as providing both

precision in prediction and explanatory power. Precision,

they elaborated, referred to the ability of a theory to make

accurate prediction about a phenomenon--its occurrence, its

relationship to another phenomenon, etc., in objective terms

that may be expressed in mathematical equations. "A theory

that provides a good explanation of some phenomenon can be

said to rate highly on explanatory power because it produces

a feeling of understanding in those who study it" (Goodson &

Morgan, 1976, p. 297). Both precision and explanatory

powers are needed because no matter how precise the

statement about concepts might be, the concepts are neither

meaningful nor significant unless they are understood.

Although, according to Dubin (1978) it is possible for a

theory to achieve high precision in prediction without

explaining how the predicted outcome was achieved (precision

paradox), and conversely, it is also possible for a theory

to achieve high explanatory power without the concomitant

ability to predict precise outcomes (power paradox). It

should be noted that theories with high precision tend to be

narrow in scope; and those with high explanatory power,

broad in scope. Either case is problematic. Theories must

therefore be somewhat general and complex, yet encompass a

small number of well-defined concepts. These are referred

to as "theories of the middle range" (Fawcett & Downs, 1986,

p. 55).

Internal consistency of a theory

This criterion requires concepts to reflect semantic

clarity and consistency. In an internally consistent

theory, concepts are clearly defined and the same

definitions are used throughout the theory. Semantic

clarity and consistency are related in such a way that one

without the other is useless (Chinn & Jacobs, 1983).

Internal consistency also requires that concepts should not

be redundant and that propositions reflect structural

consistency, that is, logical relationships. Flaws in the

logical structure of a theory can result in incomplete

(discontinued) sets of propositions which occur when some

propositions are not explicit (Fawcett & Downs, 1986).

Parsimony of a theory

Parsimony requires a theory to use as few concepts,

definitions, and propositions as possible to describe,

explain, or predict a phenomenon. Marx (1976) claimed that

parsimony had both historic and logical bases,

Historically, scientists have learned that the
more [theoretical statements] that are involved--
or the more complex a theory is--the greater
likelihood there is of error. Logically,
the reason for the greater effectiveness of the
simple solution is, in large part, that science
mainly consists of a more or less feeble groping
toward "truth," or factualness, and that most of
our original ideas are doomed to extinction. On a
probability basis alone, therefore, the fewer the
links in the chain, the less likelihood of serious
error. (p. 251)

False parsimony occurs because of oversimplification of

the phenomenon or when the theory does not capture the

essential features of a phenomenon. A theory, therefore,

should be evaluated to determine "whether the most

parsimonious statement clarifies rather than obscures the

phenomenon, and whether it effectively deals with all the

data about the phenomenon" (Fawcett & Downs, 1986, p. 59).

Testability of a theory

The basic requisite of a useful theory is generally

considered its testability. Marx (1976) maintained that if

"there is no way of testing a theory, it is scientifically

worthless, no matter how plausible, imaginative, or

innovative it may be" (p. 249). However, the views on

testability differ. There is a strict view that considers a

theory testable only if its concepts can be observed

FIGURE 1. Criteria Checklist for Evaluation of Theory

Is the theory that was generated or tested SIGNIFICANT?

Y Does the theory address a phenomenon of interest to
the discipline?
Y Does the theory improve the precision with which a
phenomenon can be predicted as well as the under-
standing of the phenomenon?

Is the theory INTERNALLY CONSISTENT? (To be tested)

Do the concepts reflect semantic clarity and
Are concepts redundant?
Do the propositions reflect structural consistency?
Are there incomplete or redundant sets of
Do the observations [research results] substantiate
the conclusions of an inductively developed theory?
Are the premises of a deductively developed theory

Is the theory PARSIMONIOUS? (To be tested)

Is the theory stated clearly and concisely?

Is the theory TESTABLE?

Y Can the concepts be empirically observed?
Y Can the propositions be measured?
N/A Can the derived hypotheses be falsified?

Adapted from Fawcett & Downs, 1986, p. 69.


empirically, if its propositions can be measured, and if its

derived hypotheses can be falsified. Another view maintains

that testability does not have to be direct and yet another

that theories should be potentially testable. Finally, one

view holds that theories should be testable through

imaginary or thought experiments rather than by empirical

means. Empirical testability is not, of course, an

appropriate criterion for theories developed by nonempirical

methods such as philosophic inquiry and historic

research. Rather, these methods include their own rules for

theory testing (Fawcett & Downs, 1986)

To conclude this section, the Attributive Theory of

Quality will be measured against the criteria listed in a

checklist (Figure 1) adopted from Fawcett & Downs (1986).

It should, however, be noted that because of the limitation

of this study, that is, the absence of empirical data, the

proposed theory could not be evaluated against the two

criteria of internal consistency and parsimony within the

scope of this study.


"It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data."
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1859-1930
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes


An extensive systematic search for literature on

quality and quality measurement in general and in the

education sector was conducted. Initially, a computer-

assisted search was conducted in three general but distinct

areas, (a) quality and evaluation, (b) accreditation, and

(c) the general systems and decision theories. To guide the

search, various relevant descriptors including the following

were used: quality; excellence; quality measurement;

evaluation (-criteria, -methods, program-, formative-,

summative-, etc.); assessment; accountability; effectiveness

(program-, organizational-, etc.); accreditation; systems

theory; systems approach; decision theory; decision-making;

quantitative analysis; planning models; mathematical models;

etc. Later, another detailed search for literature on

objectivity, subjectivity and intersubjectivity in

philosophy, science, and research was also conducted.

The review of the gleaned materials demonstrated the

need for substantial refinement and narrowing of the titles

in the first two areas. The outcome was a considerable

amount of literature that dealt more specifically with

accreditation, assessment and evaluation as related to

quality and quality measurement. Also, included in this

category was literature on institutional rankings as earlier

forms of quality indicators.

The literature on accreditation was equally

inconclusive in relation to the questions of quality and

quality measurement. Most of the material covered the

history and processes of accreditation (Armstrong, 1962;

Orlans, 1975; Selden, 1960; etc.), and even the review of

the Handbooks of the Accreditation published by the six

regional accreditation agencies (MSACS, 1982; NCACS, 1988;

NEASC, 1983; NWASC, 1988; SACS, 1988; WASC, 1988) had no

acceptable definitions for quality, although the term, along

with its perceived synonyms such as excellence and

effectiveness, was repeatedly used.

The literature on the general systems theory and its

applications was available, but the search for materials

dealing with the decision theory and decision tree Analysis

resulted in identifying a limited number of journal

articles. Even the attempts for finding leads for more

material through examination of the references provided in

each work failed because the articles mostly cross-referred

to each other. Nevertheless, five of these articles

provided some basic (although business-specific) information

on the subject, and were initially deemed relevant to this

study (Brown, 1970; Hammond, 1967; Magee, 1964a; Magee,

1964b; and Ulvila & Brown, 1982). Further analysis,

however, proved these articles to be inappropriate for this

study, and they were consequently omitted.

Subjectivity and objectivity in perception and

measurement were recurrent themes in the literature. The

debate between the proponents of objectivity and

subjectivity has a long history, with each side assigning

more validity and creditability to their approach, leaving

the main question unanswered. The review of this literature

did, however, suggest a relatively new approach to

perception and measurement of such concepts as quality,

namely, the intersubjective approach (Brown, 1977; Dallmayr,

1981; d'Espagnat, 1983; Firestone, 1988; etc.). The

intersubjective approach has proven to be more appropriate

for this study and was, therefore, adopted as the research


The main body of the review will, therefore, include

three parts: quality and quality measurement (covering

institutional rankings and accreditation); the general

systems theory; and, finally, objectivity, subjectivity, and

intersubjectivity. The review of the literature related to

theory construction and testing has been presented in

chapter II.

Quality and Quality Measurement

The ubiquitous and elusive concept of quality has

preoccupied people throughout history, and attempts to

capture the concept of quality have resulted in a wide range

of interpretations from philosophical discourses to

operational definitions. The outcome of these efforts has

been a common understanding that quality is a subjective

concept and as such does not lend itself to accurate

definition or measurement.

Attempts to define quality are not uncommon. Juran

(1988) contended that the word quality has multiple

meanings, and that two of those meanings dominate the use of

the word, "(a) quality consists of those product features

which meet the needs of customers and thereby provide

product satisfaction, and (b) quality consists of freedom

from deficiencies" (p. 2.2). Cartter (1966) defined it as

"someone's subjective assessment" (p. 4), and Roose and

Anderson (1970) labelled it as "an amorphous attribute" (p.

xi). Measuring quality has been equally difficult, "But

quality assessment, whether academic or procedural, is

inherently difficult. There are no agreed-upon, defined

standards for measurement, let alone methods for improving

them" (Stauffer, 1981, p. 2).

To illustrate the prevalent frustration and confusion

over the concept, definition, and measurement of quality the

following outcry by Pirsig (1975) is often quoted,

quality you know what it is, yet you don't know
what it is. But that's self-contradictory. But some
things are better than others, that is, they have more
quality. But when you try to say what the quality is,
apart from the things that have it, it all goes poof!
There's nothing to talk about. But if you can't say
what quality is, how do you know that it even exists?
If no one knows what it is, then for all practical
purposes it doesn't exist at all. But for all
practical purposes it does exist. What else are the
grades based on? Why else would people pay fortunes
for some things and throw others in the trash pile?
Obviously some things are better than others...but
what's the betternesss'. So round and round you
go, spinning mental wheels and nowhere finding anyplace
to get traction. What the hell is Quality? What is it
(p. 184)?

Quality measurement and improvement have been among the

most enduring issues in higher education. According to

Solmon (1981), the implications of quality in higher

education have been excellence, accomplishment, and being

distinguished. He, however, considered the three concepts

quite different. Being distinguished could reflect the

difference between leading or innovative institutions and

those that were not. Accomplishment referred to goal

achievement by the institutions which affected various

participants in the educational process. The concept of

excellence probably has come closest to "connoting what is

usually viewed as quality in higher education--a consensus

that an institution or a program is superior. Once again

the unresolved question is, how is this superiority

measured, that is, superiority along what dimensions? And

superiority compared to what" (p. 6)? Of course, the other

extreme in the assessment of institutional or program

quality seems to have developed from the American interest

in excellence per se and in competition (Clark, 1976).

Institutional ranking and accreditation have been the

two most common methods of defining and measuring the

quality of the institutions of higher education in America.

Ranking, particularly reputational ranking, has received

widespread acceptance through decades. Since 1910, over one

hundred such attempts employing a wide range of criteria and

indicators have been recorded. Most of these rankings have

dealt with graduate programs and only a few address the

undergraduate schools. Several reviews and critiques of

these studies have been conducted (Dolan, 1976; Lawrence &

Green, 1980; Webster, 1981; Rathburn, 1982; etc.).

Therefore, to avoid needless repetition, this part of the

review will first give a brief chronological account of the

most notable of these rankings, and then will present an

overall critique of the ranking schemes and their criteria

and indicators.

Institutional Ranking

In 1910, James McKeen Cattell devised the first

academic quality ranking (Webster, 1986a). In the same

year, Abraham Flexner's report, "Medical Education in the

United States and Canada" forced the low quality [smaller?]

medical schools out of business (Stauffer, 1981). More than

a decade later, in 1924, Raymond M. Hughes conducted the

first studies for the Association of American Colleges,

which incidentally was created in 1900 in response to the

need to certify to European universities which American

institutions educated students at quality levels meriting

admission to their doctoral programs. Hughes's primary

reason for this work was his interest in offering his

students some guidance in choosing appropriate graduate

schools. Based on this study, Hughes published the first

reputational ranking of graduate programs in 1925. He

replicated this study for the American Council on Education

(ACE) in 1934 (Stauffer, 1981).

The 1924 and 1934 studies by Hughes remained in force

for almost two decades until Knapp and Goodrich (1952)

published their controversial report which showed that few

of the nation's most highly regarded universities excelled

in producing male scientists. Knapp and Goodrich argued

that the reason some institutions excelled in the production

of scientists was because they had excellent faculty members

and curricula in science.

The next major study, however, was not conducted until

1959. This study was conducted by Hayward Keniston as a

part of an educational survey of the University of

Pennsylvania. Whereas Hughes had used the number of

prominent scholars in each school as the only criterion in

his 1925 study and the quality of facilities and staff of

the doctoral program for the 1934 report, Keniston based his

evaluation on the quality of doctoral programs and the

faculty (Rathburn, 1982). Keniston asked department

chairmen in 25 leading universities to list, preferably in

rank order, the 15 strongest departments in their fields at

the 25 institutions. He calculated scores for each

department by assigning a weight inversely to the rank

orders--a department listed first would receive 15 and the

one listed fifteenth, would be weighted 1. The total of the

weighted ranking would then determine the rank of the

department. Lists of the top 20 or so departments in the 24

disciplines were published in 1959 as an appendix to a study

of graduate education at the University of Pennsylvania

(Roose & Anderson, 1970, p. 1). This study was later used

to generate the list of the top 20 institutions.

In the same year, Chesly Manly published the first

ranking of undergraduate colleges for the Chicago Tribune.

The basis of the ranking was the reputation of the

institutions among the higher education experts and

objective data when there was no clearly defined consensus

among his experts (Webster, 1986b). Lazarsfeld and

Thielens, Jr. (1958) grouped the 165 institutions at which

the social scientists they studied were employed into eight

levels of quality (although they did not publish the list of

which schools fell into which group). They used the number

of library volumes as the criterion.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, the rating game

gained momentum. In 1960 Ousiew & Castetter correlated the


amount of money spent at the institutions as the objective

quantifiable measure with the established rankings of

institutional quality, and in 1963, Pike conducted a study

of Texas community colleges based on current expenditure,

enrollment, and expenditure per student (Rathburn, 1982).

In 1963, Jordan divided 119 colleges and universities into

five strata according to the quality of their undergraduate

education based on the library volumes per student and

library staff salaries (measure associated with graduate

schools). In 1964, the American Council on Education

developed a six-level stratification of 767 liberal arts

colleges which included all predominantly undergraduate

four-year colleges and universities, although this

classification was apparently never published. The "quality

per student" criterion was used by Brown in 1965 (Webster,

1986b, p. 39).

By this time, new criteria and indicators were being

considered. Astin (1965b) listed the 25 highest-ranking

colleges and universities by their "estimated selectivity,"

in 1961-1963. This criterion was based on the selection of

the institutions (first or second choice) by the juniors who

were taking the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

One of the most notable studies of this type was the

1966 ranking of the doctoral programs (departments) by Allan

Cartter. Besides ranking, Cartter's aim was to correct the

flaws in studies conducted by Hughes and Keniston.

According to Rathburn (1982), lack of control for

geographical bias and raters' biases toward their alma

mater, failure to distinguish measures of faculty quality

from measures of educational quality, and using the

department chairpersons were considered as the more

important flaws.

Cartter's 1964 survey included 4,000 faculty members in

30 disciplines at 106 major institutions who were asked to

select from a number of descriptors the one that best suited

(a) the quality of the graduate faculty, (b) the

effectiveness of the doctoral program, and (c) the degree of

expected change in the relative position of departments in

any of the major institutions that offered doctoral study in

the rater's discipline. To each term describing the quality

of faculty and the effectiveness of the program, Cartter

assigned a numerical weight which he used to calculate the

average scores for each question for each department at each

institution. The score of the most important factor, the

quality of graduate faculty scores, could range from a high

of 5.00 (rated as "Distinguished") to a 0.0 (considered to

be of a quality "not sufficient to provide acceptable

doctoral training"). The "Distinguished" departments, those

with scores of 4.01 and higher, and the "Strong" ones

(scoring 3.01-4.00) were listed in rank order. The

departments labelled as "Good" (2.51-3.00) and "Adequate

plus" (2.00-2.50) were listed alphabetically. These

results, together with an extensive discussion of the

relationship of the scores to other factors that were

assumed to contribute to high-quality graduate education,

were published in 1966 (Roose, 1970). Despite the apparent

validity of the results of Cartter's study (high correlation

with a number of measures such as faculty salaries, library

resources, and publication indexes), Cartter refused to

produce institutional rankings by aggregating the

departmental rankings. Magoun (1966), however, presented an

aggregated indicator of the institutional ranking based on

the data from Cartter's report by assigning additional

scores to the descriptors "good", "adequate plus", and

"acceptable plus", etc., (for which no scores were assigned

in the report). "The ranges of ratings which differentiate

clusters were upper, 4.5-4.1; upper-middle, 4.0-3.5; lower-

middle, 3.4-2.4; lower 2.3-1.3. All ratings referred to the

quality of graduate faculty (Magoun, 1966, p. 483).

Parenthetically, similar studies to produce program/

institutional rankings were undertaken by Morgan, Kearney,

and Regen, (1976), the National Science Foundation (1969);

and Petrowski, Brown, and Duffy, (1973). Carpenter and

Carpenter (1970), Cole and Lipton (1977), Cox and Catt

(1977), Gregg and Sims (1972), Margulies and Blau (1973),

and Munson and Nelson (1977) used the two ACE criteria,

quality of graduate faculty and effectiveness of the

doctoral program (Rathburn, 1982).


The most significant study after Cartter's 1966 report

was conducted by Roose and Anderson (1970) for ACE.

Although this report presented "a range of raters" scores

rather than absolute raw departmental scores and spoke in

terms of quality ranges instead of specific institutional

rankings its results were very similar to Cartter's

report (Rathburn, 1982). Meanwhile, a number of other

studies were published.

Abram Samuel's 1965 pamphlet, "Where the Colleges Rank"

and its successive issues (1967 and 1973) were "two of the

most successful attempts to rank colleges and universities

by the quality of their undergraduate education" although he

considered them "more of a conversation piece than anything

else" (Webster, 1986b, p. 40). In his most refined edition

(1973), he assigned an arbitrarily selected number out of

1,142 to the institutions, which reflected the primitive

state of such rankings. In 1967, Brown conducted another

study in which he introduced eight criteria (measures

associated with graduate schools) for ranking. These

criteria included total income per student, proportion of

students entering graduate school, proportion of graduate

students, number of library volumes per students, total

number of full-time faculty, faculty-student ratio,

proportion of faculty with doctorate, and average faculty

compensation. A number of non-academic ratings began to

appear in popular press and even commercial and often


unreliable versions of rankings were generated, among which

the dubious Gourman's Reports (form 1967 to 1989) should be

mentioned that regardless of their lacking any logical or

scientific foundation (Coughlin, 1978; Webster, 1984) have

received wide acceptance, even in the academe.

During this period, additional ranking criteria were

also introduced. Lewis (1968) suggested publication

productivity; George Pierson (1969) published a ranking of

almost 100 colleges and universities according to how many

leaders, in a great many fields, they had graduated. A

study by Wispe (1969) used research productivity as the

evaluation criterion; Krause and Krause (1970) evaluated

students' success; and Walters (1970) presented 58

indicators for assessment of community colleges.

Correlation of quantifiable measures to established ranking

of institutional quality was also attempted. Astin (1977)

suggested selectivity; Hagstorm (1971), and Elton and Rose

(1972) proposed institutional size; and Drew (1975) included

research productivity.

In 1978, Astin's Higher Education Research Institute of

Los Angeles listed the 25 most selective institutions of

higher education in the United States, and--since all of

them were privately controlled--also the 25 most selective

public universities, basing the lists on the 1973 freshman

scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the

American College Test (ACT), with ACT scores converted into

SAT-score equivalents (Astin & Solmon, 1979). To test

selectivity as a criterion, they rated four-year schools by

the combined SAT and ACT scores of the freshman class that

entered in Fall 1976, and found it to have correlation with

other characteristics such as student-faculty ratio. Later

they added the institution's drawing power to this criterion

(Astin & Solmon, 1979).

In their 1981 study, Solmon and Astin ranked the

leading departments in seven fields of study at schools that

had not been rated in the top category in these fields in

the Roose/Anderson reputational ranking of Ph.D. granting

departments. The fields were biology, business, chemistry,

economics, English, history, and sociology. The departments

were rated according to their reputation for quality

according to these six criteria: the overall quality of

undergraduate program, preparation of students for graduate

and professional school, preparation of students for

employment after college, faculty commitment to

undergraduate teaching, scholarly or professional

accomplishments of faculty, innovativeness of curriculum and

pedagogy. Later, Solmon and Astin excluded business from

their analysis because of problems with the data (Solmon &

Astin, 1981).

The staff of U.S. News and World Report have been

involved in quality ranking since 1983 and although they

have tried to improve and validate their methodologies, the

results of their efforts, along with the other "popular

press" ratings, have only received public attention. Even

the 1989 version (Sheler, et al., 1989) with a seemingly

scientific methodology and objective data has serious flaws.

This study, besides assigning arbitrary weights and scores,

bases the ranking on only five criteria of

selectivity (the higher the caliber of the student

body, the richer the educational experience in the

classroom and on campus);

reputation (a well-respected name on a diploma can

open doors in the working world and at graduate


faculty (top-quality instruction depends on a low

student-teacher ratio, a highly educated faculty

and an ample budget);

resources (endowment income, library budget and

government funding are good measures of a school's

financial fitness); and

retention ( a school's ability to see freshmen

through to graduation says a lot about its

commitment to students).

The authors omitted retention criterion from their 1990

ranking of America's "best" graduate schools, but the

ranking, despite attempts for improved the methodology,

still suffers from the same shortcomings as its predecessors

(America's 1990).

The two editions of the "Baccalaureate Sources of

Ph.D.s" by Franklin and Marshall College which lists leading

producers of Ph.D.s from among 867 "four-year, private,

primarily undergraduate institutions," from 1920 to 1980 has

claimed such productivity as "one important measure of


Critique of Ranking

Most of these evaluative studies have been widely

accepted and have had long-lasting effects on higher

education, although they have been conducted infrequently

(Solmon, 1981). Hughes studies, for example, evolved from a

basic guide for undergraduates to "procedures for quality

ratings including the identification of the nation's leading

institutions through numerical ranks based upon the informal

opinions of academicians" (Rathburn, 1982, p. 13). Most of

these reports suffered from a number of general and specific

flaws. Cartter (1966), for example, identified geographical

and rater biases, failure to distinguish measures of faculty

quality from measures of educational quality, the failure to

account for the biases of raters toward their alma mater,

and the choice of department chairs as raters in the Hughes

and Keniston studies. "Normativeness is inherent in quality

control and appears unlikely to diminish. Even when

definitions and methodology are designed with precision,

controversy ensues: attempts in the last several decades to

assess the quality of graduate programs are a case in point"

(Stauffer, 1981, p. 2). He added that the methodologies,

data analyses and application of the results of these

evaluative reports have been subject to questions and


First, only 15 out of several hundred studies (Webster,

1986b, p. 40) addressed the undergraduate education which

has been the largest segment of American higher education.

Second, those that did, represented the quality of an

institution or department with a number--aggregated or

otherwise--and then committed the logical fallacy of

comparing it with other units across the nation, whether or

not they were comparable in terms of type, size, mission,

etc. Third, regardless of the several different criteria

and benchmarks that were employed, none of these studies

considered the overall institutional system (all the input,

processes, and output), thus, overlooking several major

components and factors. Fourth, in these ratings, "results

may be inextricably tied to the precedents set in previous

reputational studies" (Solmon, 1981, p. 25). Fifth, peer

review--rating by faculty as experts--has been the

methodology used in most of these studies and has received

most attention among academics, primarily because experts,

by definition, have not been obligated to justify their

selection. However, because their judgments have proven to

be heavily influenced by only one factor, that is, their

perceptions of the scholarly accomplishments of the faculty

in that department (Astin & Solmon, 1981), using peer

judgments in determining the quality of academic

institutions has been "a focus of national controversy for

some time" ("Cartter," 1977, p. 44),

Other weaknesses of reputational ranking have been

listed as lack of an agreed-upon definition of quality

(Lawrence & Green 1980); unscientific approaches that

reward large, orthodox research institutions (Solmon, 1981);

failing to recognize diversity, innovation, and

nontraditional models (Dolan, 1976); and rater bias. Alumni

have demonstrated positive bias toward their alma mater, and

raters' biases have generally displayed halo/horn effects in

which an institution's standing affects a particular program

positively or negatively or vice versa. Webster (1981)

reported a case that clearly demonstrated this phenomenon,

In 1980 two professors at the University of
Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce published a
monograph containing a list of the twelve "top-
ranked undergraduate business programs" in the
United States according to, among others, senior
personnel executives of America's largest
industrial firms, banks, and public utilities.
These senior personnel executives named Harvard,
Stanford, Columbia, the University of Chicago, and
Northwestern as having undergraduate business
schools among the nation's twelve best,
unfortunately overlooking the fact that none of
these institutions even has an undergraduate
school of business. (p. 20)

Astin (1985b), while introducing yet another

inconclusive criteria, maintained that other traditional

concepts of "excellence" used in previous studies--

reputational, resources, outcome, and content approaches--

have not been effective and have suffered major drawbacks.

In the reputational view, excellence is equated
with an institution's rank in the prestige pecking
order, as revealed, for example, in periodic
national surveys. The resources approach equates
quality or excellence with such things as the test
scores of entering fresh-men, the endowment, the
physical plant, the scholarly productivity of the
faculty, and so on. The reputation and resources
approaches are, of course, mutually reinforcing.
For the past few years I have been arguing that
these traditional views do not serve us well, and
that we should redefine excellence in terms that
are more consistent with higher education's most
fundamental purpose: the education of students.
(p. 35)

The literature reviewed in this study provided a list

of criteria for evaluation and ranking of institutions of

higher education that reflected the efforts for finding an

acceptable and conclusive benchmark for measuring

institutional quality. Even if aggregated, these criteria

would only address the system in parts, and even then,

without factoring the interrelationship among them, they

would not be able to produce a conclusive result. Briefly,

these criteria and approaches--a number of which were

reported by Fotheringham (1978)--included

faculty per capital article publication
faculty reputation and quality of the educational
faculty eminence through scholarship--especially
at the graduate level
number of prominent scholars
the quality of facilities and staff of the
doctoral program
quality of doctoral programs and the faculty
the quality of the graduate faculty
total number of full-time faculty
faculty-student ratio
proportion of faculty with doctorate
average faculty compensation

research productivity
faculty commitment to undergraduate teaching
- scholarly or professional accomplishments of
student/faculty ratios
faculty satisfaction and achievement
reputation and accessibility of faculty
- quality of students
the quality of preparation of doctoral students
estimated selectivity
- proportion of students entering graduate school
proportion of graduate students
students' success
selectivity based on freshman SAT/ACT scores
preparation of students for graduate/professional
preparation of students for employment after
institution's popularity among high ability
institution's popularity among out-of state
being the most often selected schools by all
total enrollment size
percentage of graduate students
value added approach (outcome)
student satisfaction
access and retention
prominence of the alumni
- number of leaders graduated in any field
- alumni achievements
- library resources
- library holdings
- other educational facilities
- amount of money spent
- current expenditure and expenditure per student
- library volumes per student and library staff
- total income per student
- number of library volumes per students
- resources (endowment, library budget, financial
- institutional size
- sheer institutional size
- financial resources
- per student expenditures for various purposes
- curricula
- innovative programs
- the effectiveness of the doctoral program
the degree of expected change in departments
overall quality of undergraduate program

innovativeness of curriculum and pedagogy
producing Ph.D.s
total bachelor's degrees awarded in that field
the percentage of baccalaureates awarded in
various fields
business/industry experts' views
reputation among higher education expert
the top institutions as rated by Gourman 1977
reputation (a well-respected name)
factors contributing to an effective and
professional environment
control (private vs. public, etc.)
geographic region
prestige (an interaction between size and
goals and goal achievement
customized measures for different institutions
administrator satisfaction and achievements
services provided to local and broader communities
innovativeness and leadership
rates of improvement in different dimensions
views given by multiple evaluators
quality not quantity
institution/program contributions to the student
and community


The accreditation process was among the early efforts

to deal with the issue of educational quality control and

even today, the most intensive quality measurement and

control activities have been undertaken by accrediting

agencies. Along with the local lay boards of education,

accreditation, dating as far back as 1787, has been one of

the two unique features of the American educational

machinery (Armstrong, 1962; Crippen, 1981; Selden, 1960).

It is a non-governmental, voluntary means for regional,

specialized, and other national accrediting agencies to set

the characteristics, qualities, and manner in which those

who seek and hold membership in the agencies are judged


(Thrash, 1979, p. 116). In 1960, Selden stated that higher

education in modern society could function only with the aid

of some organizational method that ensured the maintenance

of academic quality (p. 86).

It is not enough to have quality. Quality also
has to be maintained and guaranteed. In higher
education, QUALITY ASSURANCE is the collective
term for institutional activities, policies, and
procedures that provide a measure of confidence
that what is done academically is consistent with
the institution's goals and is likely to effect
learning at levels established by the institution
or by the external bodies. (Kendall, 1983, p. 74)

Accreditation has been defined conceptually,

procedurally, and operationally and unlike quality, the

definitions are similar. Orlans (1975) reported it as "a

process of recognizing those educational institutions whose

performance and integrity entitles them to the confidence of

the educational community and the public" (p. 2). Bertrand

(1974) considered it as evaluating an institution's

characteristics such as programs or curriculum against a set

of standards established by a knowledgeable group of

individuals sanctioned by a profession or educational

agency. Selden (1956) defined it as the process whereby an

organization or agency recognizes a college or a university

or a program of study as having met certain minimum

predetermined qualifications or standards. The basic

characteristics of accreditation, according to Selden (1956)

are (a) its prevailing sense of voluntarism, (b) its strong

tradition of self-regulation, (c) its reliance on evaluation

techniques, and (d) its primary concern with quality.

Historically and currently, accreditation at postsecondary

level has been intended to foster excellence by developing

criteria and guidelines for assessing educational

effectiveness; encouraging improvement; ensuring

appropriateness of institutional objectives; providing

counsel and assistance; encouraging diversity; and

protecting against encroachment (Young, 1979, p. 216).

The importance of accreditation and accrediting

agencies is reflected in their history and growth.

Accreditation practices were initiated by leaders in

education in response to a need for articulation among

institutions and quality control of the diverse educational

organizations that developed in this country (Brubaker &

Rudy, 1968, p. 389). By the late nineteenth and early

twentieth centuries, associations of academic leaders were

being formed, the College Entrance Examination Board was

founded, and conferences were held--notable was the 1906

meeting in Williamstown, Massachusetts, from which the

American pattern of accreditation evolved--with the

specified purpose of improving quality standards (Stauffer,

1981, p. 1). According to one account (Crippen, 1981), the

first regional accrediting agency--New England Association--

was established in 1885, the first accrediting activity

occurred in 1910, and the first list of regionally

accredited institutions was published by the North Central

Association in 1913 (Crippen, 1981; Orlans, 1975; Selden,


The main purpose of the regional agencies should be

twofold--to assist in improving institutions and to indicate

those that are known to be generally effective in achieving

appropriate educational objectives (Kells, 1976, p. 27).

Today, six regional and more than 70 program accrediting

agencies functioning as private entities, as well as a

number of state and federal agencies in the public sector

(Crippen, 1981; Kaplin & Hunter, 1966) are directly and

indirectly involved with identifying and determining

academic quality and with encouraging institutions to

maintain and enhance academic quality. Regional accrediting

associations serve many purposes, but the public identifies

them primarily with their quality assurance function.

Various higher education consumers rely heavily on the

judgments of regional accrediting associations to satisfy

concerns about institutional quality. Students, faculty,

employers, federal and state governments, and the public in

general see regional accrediting association approval as

evidence that an institution meets qualitative criteria

(Troutt, 1979, p. 200).

In fulfilling its role, accreditation focuses on two

concerns: (a) educational quality, defined and interpreted

within the context of the institution's or program's own

statement of scope and purpose as compared with similar


institutions and programs, and (b) institutional integrity,

that the institution or program is what it says it is and

does what it says it does. Accreditation agencies have

evaluated and encouraged educational quality by looking at

conditions that have been believed to be necessary and

desirable to produce educational quality (input, resources,

and process) and by looking at evidence that the institution

or program has indeed achieved educational quality

(outcomes) (Young, 1983, p. 25).

Accreditation is the outcome of an evaluative process

guided by criteria generally based on judging an institution

or a program in the light of its stated purposes. Through

this process the accrediting agency provides an assurance of

the educational quality of its members to the educational

community, the general public, and other agencies or

organizations. In addition to its judging function, the

accrediting association serves an enabling function. It

encourages institutional and program improvement through

continuous self-study and evaluation; it provides counsel

and assistance to established and developing institutions

and programs; and it protects its members against

encroachment that might jeopardize their educational

effectiveness or academic freedom (Armstrong, 1962; Thrash,


Relative to accreditation, quality has generally been

defined as "institutional effectiveness in achieving

appropriate educational objectives" (Millard, 1986, p. 1);

or "quality in education relates directly to the educational

appropriateness of objectives and to the effective use of

resources in achieving those objectives" (COPA, 1986, p. 1).

The literature, however, shows that even here the

definitions of quality are vague, varied and inconclusive.

Students, faculty, resources, location, and
results are all factors that influence the quality
of education. However, the key to bringing these
elements together is how well goals and objectives
are defined and how appropriate they are to the
needs of individual and society. (COPA, 1986, p.

Troutt (1979) reported that accrediting bodies have tried to

define quality in terms of evaluative criteria which vary in

format, emphasis, and terminology, but they share common

areas of concern and similar assumptions about appraising

educational quality. These assumptions have been (a)

judgments about institutional quality should rest on

inferences from certain conditions rather than direct

assessment of student performance; (b) no common benchmarks

existed for assessing or defining institutional quality; and

(c) current accreditation criteria equated higher education

with a production process (p. 201).

The six regional accrediting agencies have

operationally defined accreditation and quality through

proposing standards and criteria that they contend will

ensure quality, excellence, and effectiveness. However,

these criteria are generally broad and non-specific, with


their interpretation mostly delegated to the institutions or

the members of visiting teams.

The number of the criteria also varies. The Middle

States Association (MSACS), while maintaining that the

quality and characteristics of superior institutions depend

somewhat on the type of institution (p. 1), proposed fifteen

standards which were described qualitatively, rather than

quantitatively (p. 3) and included such items as

institutional integrity and outcomes, and further considered

them as common denominators among all institutions (MSACS,

1987). The New England Association (NEASC) suggested twelve

"qualitative criteria for the measurement of institutional

effectiveness" (NEASC, 1983, p. 7) including one on ethical


The Northwestern Association (NWASC) established eleven

standards for evaluating quality, candidacy, and

accreditation which it defined as the condition in which

a postsecondary institution's own goals are
soundly conceived, that its educational programs
have been intelligently devised, that its purposes
are being accomplished, and that the institution
is so organized, staffed, and supported that it
should continue to merit confidence. (NWASC, 1988,
p. 3)

The Western Association (WASC) asserted validity for its

nine standards,

as a result of extensive experience and research,
the Commission has determined that there are
certain basic characteristics of quality required
of all institutions of higher education. The
Commission has found that institutions can readily
maintain their individuality while complying with

these established standards. These Commission
standards, policies, and procedures are
periodically reviewed and revised. (WASC, 1988,
pp. 2-3)

Finally, the Southern Association (SACS) and the North

Central Association (NCACS) have limited their standards to

five basic and broad standards. Similar to NCACS (1989, p.

1), the SACS (1988) has maintained that the purpose of

accreditation has been to improve educational quality; to

assure the public that the institutions meet established

standards (p. 7); and that these criteria assist the

institution "to achieve overall effectiveness in all areas

of its growth and ensure the quality of its educational

programs" (p. 9).

A comparison of the standards reveals that the six

agencies concur on five of the standards, thus implying a

higher level of importance for them. These common standards

include (a) institutional mission and objectives & purpose,

(b) educational programs, (c) library and learning

resources, (d) financial resources, and (e) administration.

Evidently, the accrediting bodies refrained from

establishing specific and formulated standards. Troutt

(1979) attributed this phenomenon to the fact that the

accrediting agencies universally disapproved "quantitative

benchmarks that bear no relation to institutional quality,"

and added "Current accreditation standards generally assume,

though, that no quantitative standards or common benchmarks

are acceptable" (p. 202).

Judging quality is not easy. It cannot be reduced
to quantitative indices or formulas. Such
judgments are made by gathering appropriate
information about an institution or program and by
having knowledgeable people appraise it. This is
the essence of the accreditation process. (COPA,
1986, p. 4)

Accreditation has been both praised and condemned.

While it has been credited with significant contributions to

the enhancement of the educational quality and effectiveness

(COPA, 1986, p. 1), it has also been the target of serious

criticisms from its early days. In 1939, Samuel P. Capen,

chancellor of the University of Buffalo, called the

accreditation officials "a horde of irresponsible outsiders,

each representing a separate selfish interest" (Young, 1983,

p. 13). Pinkham (1952) described accreditation as an

"elusive, nebulous, jellyfish term that means different

things to the same people who do not agree on what it

is they do not agree, and, I might add, on which they

disagree violently, emotionally, and dogmatically" (p. 47);

Wriston (1960) considered it a wasteful process based on

superficial judgment which "seeks not only to compare apples

with grapes, but both with camels and cods" (p. 320); and

finally Kells (1976) maintained that the word

'accreditation' is so misunderstood and so abused that it

should be abandoned" (27).

Current criticisms, however, aim more at the inability

of the accrediting agencies to define, assess, and improve

quality. Trout (1979) contended that "available research

cannot substantiate the claim that certain accrediting

association criteria assure institutional quality" (208).

Hefferlin (1974) charged that accreditation's evaluative

criteria failed to relate in any way to the educational

accomplishments of students, and Orlans (1975) maintained

that regional accreditation has stopped, for the most part,

making quality distinctions. Gollnick & Kunkel (1986) cited

ambiguous standards, ignoring factors essential to the

quality of programs, failure to apply standards

consistently, bias against certain types of institutions

resulting from uneven application of standards have often

been cited as the concerns over accreditation evaluations.

Some of this problem results from the fact that

accreditation criteria, despite their importance, have not

received sufficient attention from "researchers or scholars

in higher education, to the extent that even criticisms of

accreditation criteria fail to offer any detailed

information either about specific accreditation criteria or

their overall character" (Trout, 1979, p. 200).

Solmon (1981) maintained that simplistic notions of

quality have been developed for use in the accrediting

process. He maintained that the periodic accreditation

evaluations by professional associations and regional

accrediting bodies more closely "resemble a 'pass-fail'

system than a system of grades: certain minimum standards

are required, but no differentiations or comparisons are

made among those that pass or among those that fail" (p. 7).

Accreditation has at times been more concerned with

process than with results and has tended to evaluate

institutions and programs more on the basis of resources

than on how and for what purposes they are used. In

professional areas, it has at times appeared to be more

interested in professional status than in the quality of

educational preparation for entry into the field (COPA, 6).

This application of an industrial model has also been cited

as one of the reasons for criticism. To elaborate, Troutt

(1979) concluded that "instead of checking on the quality of

production outcomes, that is, student achievement, criteria

generally check on the quality of the assembly line, namely,

curricula, faculty, resources, etc." (p. 203). In general,

the accreditation evaluation has accepted at face value a

correspondence between resource availability and the

likelihood of achieving goals (Troutt, 1979). Therefore the

process, while failing to examine the relationships between

resources and goal achievement, becomes the rating of

quality based on factors, such as number of library books,

faculty members with doctorates, and students per classroom,

while alumni achievements and students' satisfaction with

their educational experience have not. This implies, on the

part of the accrediting body, a direct relationship between

the quality of the assembly line and the quality of the

product, leading to such actions as the AACSB's (American

Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business) refusal to grant

accreditation to the University of Hartford based on

insufficient number of faculty with Ph.D.s (implying that

professors--assembly line components--need Ph.D.s to be good

teachers), despite a 100% placement rate of the graduates--

product (Sandholtz, 1989).

Reliance of the federal and state governments on

accreditation for such issues as certification, licensure,

funding, etc., has created the threat of governmental

involvement in higher education and at the same time, has

eroded its voluntary nature (O'Neill & Heaney, 1982, p. 57).

Institutional support is also missing. Accreditation

matters are usually handed to "program directors who

necessarily have a narrow view, namely, their particular

program. Accreditation, even for one program, however, is a

matter for the whole institution" (58). In 1978,

dissatisfaction with COPA was running so deep that there was

talk of reviving the National Commission on Accrediting,

because many college presidents felt that it simply was not

protecting the institutions against specialized agencies

(Jacobson, 1980, 1, 10). At the same time, COPA's efforts

to improve the accreditation process was not receiving

support from the higher education community (Saunders, 1978,

65). Under these circumstances, a more aggressive role for

agencies is advocated,

accreditation is more than a passive process of
promoting self-improvement. Direct involvement is
needed for such improvement, although it is not
pursued. Direct involvement [was] defined as
action by a representative of an accreditation
agency(e.g., a member of the professional staff or
site visitor) that resulted in some observable
improvement in educational quality. (Jung, 1986,
p. 2)

Institutional self-study and peer evaluation have been

basic to the process of accreditation (Young, 1979). The

results of these analytical institutional or program self-

studies have contributed to sustaining and enhancing

educational quality. "Such self-evaluation is an essential

component in accreditation" (COPA, 1986, p. 5). Yet,

similar to the accreditation criteria, this first and most

important step has not had "a thorough empirical study"

(Kells & Kirkwood, 1979, p. 25).

To eliminate such flaws, accreditation has constantly

moved from quantitative measures to more qualitative

standards and increased emphasis on peer judgment, and "from

a primary emphasis on process and resources to increased

concentration on results and learning outcomes" (COPA, 1986,

p. 6). An over-emphasis on this new approach, however, has

posed some potential dangers such as over-dependence on

formulas, quantitative results, and the dangers of

homogenizing; confusing assessment with testing and moving

toward standardized testing (uniform tests indicate not

quality but minimum expected attainment that can easily be

confused with maximum expectations); replacing one type of

quantification with another; confusing assessment of

learning outcomes with the effectiveness of an institution

as a whole; and overlooking the relevance of process and

means to results or outcomes, because process and outcomes

constitute a continuum (Millard, 1987).

General Systems Theory

The failure to take a total system approach to

institutional evaluation is probably the main reason for the

failure of these evaluative attempts. "Institutional

effectiveness is a function of how well it [the institution]

accomplishes all of its objectives and its mission as a

whole, not just one part--as important as that part may be"

(Millard, 1987, p. 2). This notion is in accordance with

the main postulate of the Attributive Theory of Quality that

defines and measures quality of a phenomenon as the

interactive sum of all the necessary and sufficient

properties that comprise it, leading to the adoption of the

general systems theory for the analysis of the phenomena and

for model building. This approach is appropriate because

the systems theory, advanced by Bertalanffy (1968),

represents "a holistic view of phenomena, a recognition that

it is the nature of the relationships among parts rather

than the nature of the parts themselves that makes each

system unique" (Silver, 1983, p. 60). The general systems

theory, according to Boulding (1968), "studies all thinkable

relationships abstracted from any concrete situation or body

of empirical knowledge. It is not even confined to

'quantitative' relationships narrowly defined. ." (p. 3).

To further this notion, Johnson et al. (1976) indicated,

we are using this philosophy as a way of thinking
and of seeing the world around us and are
stressing the idea of logical, thorough, and
methodical thinking. The systems philosophy
becomes a way to relate complex ideas, principles,
and laws so that they become meaningful. (p. 63)

General systems theory is in accordance with the

scientific or positivistic approach to knowledge production

in that it aims at discovering "constancies or predictable

patterns in the flow of information and energy as forces

bearing on systems, and it promotes the search for

quantifiable factors in the relationships among parts"

(Silver, 1983, p. 60). Application of systems theory to

social organizations and phenomena has been advocated.

Starling (1975) maintained that systems concepts could

simplify complicated social groupings and make them

understandable, especially when social organizations were

increasing in numbers and in levels of social complexity.

Johnson et al. (1976) stated,

when used in this context, the term systems
connotes plan, method, order, and arrangement--
the development of a systematic theoretical
framework for describing general relationships of
theoretical model applicable to many disciplines,
whether physical, biological, behavioral, or
social. A distant goal of systems theory is to
develop a framework (or system of systems) that
will ultimately tie all disciplines together into an
understandable, cohesive whole. (p. 59)

Similar to the word quality, the term system has become

"a common word in our vocabulary. Most people use the word

as an everyday expression to describe what they do and how

they live" (Johnson et al., 1976 p. 57). However, unlike

quality, the concept of systems seems to be more uniformally

and clearly understood. A system has been defined as

an integrated assembly of interacting elements
designed to carry out cooperatively a
predetermined function. (Flagle et al., 1960, p.

a group of interdependent elements acting together
to accomplish a predetermined purpose. (Chorofas,
1965, p. 2)

a set of objects together with relationships
between the objects and between their attributes.
Our definition does imply of course that a system
has properties, functions or purposes distinct
from its constituent objects, relationships and
attributes. (Hall & Fagen, 1968, p. 81)

(1) something consisting of a set of (finite or
infinite) entities; (2) among which a set of
relations is specified, so that (3) deductions are
possible from some relations to others or from the
relations among the entities to the behavior or
history of the system. (Rapoport, 1968, p. 453)

An organized "something" that has direction to it
and some degree of internal unity. The structure
or organization of an orderly whole which clearly
shows the interrelationships of the parts to each
other and to the whole self. (Blendinger, 1969, p.

A group of interrelated parts, elements,
processes, components, functions, etc., which
together accomplish some specific objective.
(Atwood, 1977, p. 2)

An organized or complex whole, an assemblage or
combination of things or parts forming a complex
or unitary whole. When relating systems to
organizations, it may be even more meaningful to
define a system as "an array of components

designed to accomplish a particular objective
according to plan. (Johnson et al., 1976, p. 59)

Kimbrough & Nunnery (1983) cited the "common threads

among several definitions" (p. 299) and emphasized the three

concepts of interdependence, interrelation and

relationships, maintaining that "organizations, as well as

other systems, are composed of interacting subsystems, each

of which makes a contribution to the system of which it is a

part" (p. 300). Blendinger (1969) stated that the focus on

wholes, parts, and the relationships among the parts

"provide an opportunity for logical linkage among many

conceptualizations of a nonglobal nature" (p. 319), and

further listed four essential criteria for a system, (a) a

structure or organization, (b) the structure or organization

conceptualized as an orderly whole, (c) relation of parts to

each other, and (d) the relation of the parts to the whole.

A system, he added, could be described by a boundary within

which everything is a part or element of that particular

system. Riley & Riley (1959) indicated that interdependency

in a model of a social system suggested that introducing any

form of change, however insignificant, into a system would

impact the whole system until it reached a state of

equilibrium; a concept of utmost importance to higher


The system framework is comprehensive and covers a

number of concepts such as systems theory (the set of

related concepts or the body of knowledge that is

fundamental to all systems), systems analysis (the

application of modeling and problem solving), systems

philosophy (a way of thinking), and systems management (the

design and operation of organizations as systems) (Johnson

et al., 1976). The first two are pertinent to this study.

Systems Theory

The systems theory is the second theoretical basis of

this study, specifically utilized for model building and

data calculation. Boulding (1968) stated,

general systems theory is a name which has come
into use to describe a level of theoretical model-
building which lies somewhere between the highly
generalized constructions of pure mathematics and
the specific theories of the specialized
disciplines. Mathematics attempts to organize
highly general relationships into a coherent
system, a system however which does not have any
necessary connections with the "real" world around
us. (p. 3)

Miller (1978), looking at the analytical dimensions of the

systems theory, described it as "a set of related

definitions, assumptions, and propositions which deal with

reality as an integrated hierarchy of organizations of

matter and energy. System theory is, in part, an approach,

a frame of reference for analysis" (p. 9), and Rapoport

(1968) described it as a "program or a direction in the

contemporary philosophy of science aimed at the integration

of diverse content areas by means of a unified methodology

of conceptualization or of research" (p. 542).

Johnson et al. (1976) emphasized the point that the

whole was fundamental in systems theory, and indicated that

in this approach,

(1) the whole is primary and the parts are
secondary; (2) integration is the condition of the
interrelatedness of the many parts within one; (3)
the parts constitute an indissolvable whole such
that no part can be affected without affecting all
other parts; (4) parts play their role in light of
the purpose for which the whole exists; (5) the
nature of the part and its function is derived
from its position in the whole and its behavior is
regulated by the whole-to-part relationship; (6)
everything should start with the whole as a
premise, and the parts and their relationships
should evolve. (p. 59)

The utility of systems approach, if not as a theory, is

significant as a methodology for transferring abstract

concepts into concrete, practical contexts. According to

Kimbrough and Nunnery (1983),

systems theory is not a set of assumptions from
which empirical laws can be derived by logico-
mathematical procedures; it does not constitute a
universal, all-inclusive, substantive body of
thought. In fact, some scholars have suggested it
is not even a "theory," but a methodology, and one
that is empirical and interdisciplinary. (p. 320)

Systems Analysis

Closely related to systems theory--for the purposes of

model-building and problem-solving--is the concept of

systems analysis, which along with design, is central to the

systems approach (Blendinger, 1969). Analysis is defined as

the process of dissecting and examining the parts and

components of a whole and their relationships. A system may

be broken down "for the purpose of analysis into clusters or

subsystems of relative interaction and heightened

interdependence" (Brewer, 1975, p. 180). Therefore, system

analysis is "the task of examining the parts, elements,

processes, components, functions, etc., which make up a

system so as to determine their relationship to each other

and how each contributes to the accomplishment of the

objective of the system" (Atwood, 1977, p. 2).

Similarly, Blendinger (1969) defined systems analysis

as the process of breaking down or taking apart an existing

whole into its constituent parts or elements for the purpose

of depicting the relationship of the parts to the whole and

to each other. "Analysis involves the reduction of complex

entities into their component segments so that each segment

can be studied" (p. 50). The level of analysis (breakdown)

should, however, be predetermined, albeit, arbitrarily,

because the process of breaking down components can be

carried on to undefined number of levels. To restrict this

process, Johnson et al. (1976) defined the basic component

in terms of input/output,

in such instances, we can say that the
transformation process occurs in a "black box"--
and we know only what goes in and what comes out,
nothing else. We can use this "black box"
approach to demonstrate the role of components. A
basic unit, or "black box," which performs, or
provides the facility for performing, some part of
the defined transformation process will be defined
as a component. For our analysis, there is little
value in subdividing or describing this part of
the system beyond input and output. .
Systems, subsystems, and components, then, are
determined by definition. (p. 63)

In relation to complex systems such as higher education

institutions, Brewer (1975) maintained

The greater the organized complexity of a system,
the less likely it is that it can be analytically
decomposed and the more likely that shortrun
behavior of any one subsystem will ramify
throughout the entire system. To the extent that
a system may be broken down into clusters or
nearly-decomposed subsystems, we may separately
analyze their individual behavior to enhance our
understanding of the behavior of the whole.
Decomposed and nearly-decomposed systems are
analytically smaller and less complex than the
whole. They are brought within the limits of
man's analytic capacity. (p. 180-181)

In summary, the goal of the general systems theory is

to create "a body of systematic theoretical constructs which

will discuss the general relationships of the empirical

world" (Boulding, 1968, p. 4) based on which theoretical

models can be constructed for decision-making and problem


Model Building

In the language of contemporary science the word model,

which is widely used, covers several concepts and ideas. To

avoid false representation and misunderstandings, D'Espagnat

(1983) believed that scientific views must be expressed in

simple and pictorial ways to the relatively indifferent

public "to quickly construct an approximate idea about the

nature of things, an idea which is rough but is nevertheless

preferable to no idea at all. For such an idea may, after

all, encourage an interest in a deeper understanding of the

subject" (p. 107). Such simple models are implicitly

presented as being faithful descriptions of independent



One meaning of model, according to d'Espagnat (1983) is

a simplification that the mind performs on the real facts

which are considered to be highly complex and hardly

manageable, e.g., "reduced model" in technology. These

simplified models lend themselves to computation and to

verifiable revisions. And, in numerous cases, experiment

confirms the validity of the approximations thus made. .

This type of model is usually regarded to be a simplified

but essentially correct description of the 'reality of

things'" (p. 110).

Some models are abased theories that can be useful but

do not represent reality, even in approximation, and yet

another type is a metaphor that tries to express a truth

within the framework of known knowledge, the planetary model

of the atom being the most remarkable example. The word

model is also used in relation to theories that do claim to

describe reality itself but whose validity in this respect

can neither be proven nor refuted for lack of the means of

verification. In any case, it should be noted that a model

should not be interpreted as a total and intelligible

description of reality as is.

Dilworth (1986) stated that scientists build idealized

models based on their knowledge to understand the reality

underlying laws of science. "The model should be

constructed so as to depict a physically possible, albeit

idealized, reality whose existence would naturally manifest

itself in the laws requiring explanation" (p. 155). He

further added that such a model represented a phenomenon as

it related to scientific laws when the aspect of reality

which was responsible for it was not open to direct

inspection. Considering that these models depict the hidden

aspects of reality that constitute "the essence of

scientific theories, we can characterize theoretical terms

as terms used in referring to those entities in the real

world (should they exist) as are depicted in such models"

(p. 155).

In comparing scientific models with myth, d'Espagnat

(1983) asked whether the scientific models were the myths of

the time, or if they were antimyth? He considered their

relationship subtle and stated that "with regard to the use

of myth by the poet of the old and model by the modern

scientist, in both cases the choice was (and is) motivated

by the impossibility of exactly conveying a particular truth

through everyday language" (p. 109). There are at the same

time similarities and differences.

The main similarity is, of course, that both are
symbolic. It is always an error to take them
literally. In this respect, the myth of
Prometheus, the myth of Paradise on earth, and the
planetary model of the atom are quite obviously
similar. Another similarity is that,
nevertheless, neither myths nor models should be
considered to be arbitrary inventions. Both are
viewed as symbolic descriptions of something real.
A third similarity, the most essential perhaps, is
that myths and models play a positive role.
(d'Espagnat, 1983, p. 108)

In general, models are less ambitious than myth, and

therefore are more reliable. It is also appropriate here to

again point out that, unlike a theory, a model, as soon as

it has been acknowledged as such, is not discredited by some

false consequence of it, but that, quite the opposite, it

often remains useful in its own domain long after such an

imperfection has been discovered (d'Espagnat, 1983, p. 112).

According to Johnson et al. (1976), a model captured

the essence of a system without being bound by the details.

This method of system analysis presented a somewhat abstract

view of the system and provides the necessary information

for improving quality and decision-making, "the more

appropriate the model to the actual situation being

analyzed, the more valuable model building is as a tool in

analysis (p. 68).

To build a model based on the systems theory, Johnson

et al. (1976) prescribed the following steps: (a) systems

determination, (b) design and creation, (c) operation and

control, and (d) review and evaluation. Analysis determines

the system and its design and creation. According to

Blendinger (1969),

design, the other important technique in a systems
approach, differs from analysis in that it is a
putting together, or a synthesis, rather than a
taking apart. Analysis must precede synthesis
because design decisions cannot be relevant or
practical without prior specification of
appropriate tasks to achieve specific purposes.
(p. 391)

In the design stage, subsystems and components of the

model are arranged in some combination to transform inputs

and produce output. These parts of the system must be

arranged in a planned order, for example a hierarchy, to

achieve the optimum output. "One advantage of exhibiting a

hierarchy of systems in this way is that is gives us some

idea of the present gaps in both theoretical and empirical

knowledge" (Boulding, 1968, p. 8). The information during

the design stage determines the exact and proper way to

organize the system so as to accomplish the objectives

(Johnson et al., 1976). The design should be tested through

operation and evaluation, because basic to the theory of

systems is the premise that with certain inputs, the model

produces certain outputs or operates within established

limits, its effectiveness determined by subsequent


Subjectivity, Objectivity and Intersubjectivity

Subjectivity and objectivity, in both perception and

measurement, were recurrent themes in the reviewed

literature. A significant part of the available corpus

encompassed an ongoing debate between the proponents of

objectivity and subjectivity, or more accurately those

assigning a higher validity to one approach over the other.

Recent literature, however, reflected the belief that to

many "subjectivity and objectivity are two sides of

the same coin" (Dallmayr, 1981, p. ix), and rather than one

being the antithesis of the other, a degree of each is

present in the outcome of all evaluations and decisions. In

this vain, the intersubjective approach has been advanced as

the method of perception and measurement of such concepts

as quality.

Objectivism has been defined as "the doctrine that

things or qualities or values exist in their own right

independently of the knower and of the conditions of

knowledge; the assertion of the universal validity of

principles, values, and so on, as opposed to subjectivism"

(Honer & Hunt, 1978, p. 246). Deutscher (1983) considered

objectivity as "a characteristic of one's approach to or

attitude to things. To be objective is to have an attitude

such that one's understanding of and opinions about a thing

are drawn from and worked out in continual interchange with

it" (p. 136). Kupperman (1978) asserted that an idealized

truth, however approximate, existed for any reality, and

this truth formed the basis for the important claim, "that

there is a single optimal account or description of any set

of events or states of affairs, such that any competing

account or description is either inferior or synonymous. We

may call this claim the claim of objectivity" (p. 150).

Objectivity, commonly held up as an ideal, is

considered as an "intellectual, moral, emotional, and

sensual virtue, [and] is the capacity and preparedness to

draw one's ideas and attitudes, and to gain one's emotions

and feelings from their own objects" (Deutscher, 1983, p.

40). Objectivity is valued because it is perceived to

result in impartiality of evaluation, correctness of

opinions, fairness of judgments, control of emotions and

feelings, and reliability of measurements. It is also

associated with validity in science and scientific work.

Emphasis on objectivity, particularly through the use

of statistical methods, gained strength in the early decades

of the twentieth century and dominated science in general,

and the evaluation and measurement in education and other

social sciences in particular. This dominance and perceived

preference, however, has been seriously questioned during

the past two decades.

Some people believe it is possible to measure just
about anything objectively, including the quality
of education. If they are right, higher education
can certainly dispense with accrediting agencies
and turn their work over to social scientists and
computers. Then, before long, higher education
will also be able to dispense with the social
scientists. (Orlans, 1973, p. 218)

Deutscher (1983) dismissed objectivity as "a vain

search for an idealistic impossibility" or "a cold removal

of oneself from the stage of "real life". It has also been

implied that "the gains of objectivity are, in a sense, only

imaginary: the suspicion, supportable by at least some fact,

is that the cool detached removed observer does not really

know what is going on" (p. 42). One of the harshest attacks

on this type of objectivity, however, came from Poole


objectivity (what is in question is not adequate
objectivity, achieved after an analysis which
integrates the subjective into its result, but
that impoverished fragment of human reason with
which we are only too familiar), is made up of a
regress tautologies. [Tautology defined as]
Applied to the repetition of a statement as its
own reason, or to the identification of cause and
effect.' It is in that sense of self-referring
closedness towards external criteria that I use
the word here. (p. 44)

This objectivity, defined as social and political

status quo, encompasses all the unquestioned assumptions,

presuppositions, and attitudes that the society accepts as

being the case, that is objectively valid. "Objectivity is

the belief in objectivity as such. By definition,

objectivity is that which holds itself in place as the

dominant and unquestioned objectivity of a given society"

(Poole, 1972, p. 44). In this context, objectivity assumes

objects to be lifeless, non-conscious and deals with them as

such, or tries to make the subject an object "in relation to

the things which inevitably do surprise us with their

independent forces, chemistry, and inner and outer

autonomous lives" (Deutscher, 1983, p. 42).

Kupperman (1978) reported that earlier in this century,

a number of philosophers denied the objectivity of ethics.

Later the objectivity of history and social sciences, and

even the physical sciences were challenged, "mainly on the

grounds that theoretical assumptions interact with

scientific data in such a way that it becomes implausible to

speak of an objective collection of scientific data." This

is because "what we experience has a great deal to do with

the concepts with which we are armed, the systems of

measurement we accept, and the theoretical assumptions that

delineate the possible results of experiment" (p. 150). He

further states that "there is no reason to assume that all

kinds of statements that people make have equal claims to,

or hopes to, attain objectivity [suggesting that] no

knowledge developed within a linguistic frame work can reach

the ideal of objectivity. (p. 150).

On the other hand, subjectivity, commonly construed as

the opposite of objectivity, has received increasing

attention in the recent decades. Honer and Hunt (1978)

defined subjectivism as "the doctrine that all things that

exist, exist only as the knowing and experiencing of

conscious beings; that the world exists only for the mind,

and thus all existence is composed of minds and ideas;

dependence on mind or on consciousness" (p. 246). They

further defined subjective idealism as "the theory of

perception that maintains that what can be known is limited

to a person's idea; therefore, the ideas of a particular

perceiver constitutes reality (p. 246).

Wheelwright (1960) maintained that subjectivism opposed

positivism by denying that the world described by science

really exists. "It declares all scientific objects, whether

conceived as matter in motion or as statistically computed

units of energy, to be imaginary constructs whereby the

concrete data of experience are explained by being fitted

into a coherent conceptual system" (p. 125). Reiterating

the eighteenth century Irish philosopher, George Berkeley,

Wheelwright added,

the real world represents the way in which the
perceptions of fairly normal observers are
collectively interpreted. It is only by
perceptions that the world can be known. .
Esse est percipi: to be is nothing else than to be
perceived. Such is the challenging subjective
principle to which Berkeley's argument leads. .
That is to say, the materialist's supposition of
objects existing apart from some mind's actual
engagement in knowing them is meaningless in the
sense of being a barren abstraction, for which no
relevant evidence has been, or ever can be,
adduced. (p. 125)

However, subjectivism, despite its apparently

convincing arguments, opposes man's inherent and relatively

strong belief in the existence of "external world

independent of anyone's sensing of knowing it" (p. 125). In

this context, the term subjectivity has been used

pejoratively to imply the subjects' immersion in their own

sensations rather than responding to the objects of those,

and to associate individuals with idiosyncrasy, especially

when their actions or thoughts seem unusual or distinctive

to them. These implications, according to Deutscher (1983)

were thoughtless because they presupposed the conclusion

that individuals were "in error or out of touch with things,

from the observation that they are unusual in their

perceptions and judgments" (p. 41).

Brightman (1945), while partially accepting the

subjectivists' view that many evaluations were subjective,

maintained that it was not possible to prove that all values

or opinions were subjective, and that it was difficult to

distinguish between the subjective and objective. In

relation to this difficulty, he added, "subjectivism

represents the surrender of thought in the presence of great

difficulty; objectivism confronts the same difficulty but

keeps up the fight toward truth about reality" (p. 153).

His belief in objective standards, even if partially known,

was so strong that he asserted without them "reason will

collapse" (p. 160).

The proponents of subjectivity, however, have maintain

that arguments against subjectivism drawn from the so-called

"real world" cannot refute or weaken its logic, because "the

subjectivist argument fortifies itself by declaring that

both the world and all the evidences ever drawn from it are

but groups of ideas ordered in certain familiar ways"

(Wheelwright, 1960, p. 125). Deutscher (1983) asserted that

when one eliminates the confusions underlying the
pejorative sense of "subjective", it is possible
to see that objectivity is a form, a style, an
employment of our subjectivity, and not its
antithesis. A person's subjectivity, in the
descriptive, unabusive sense which I favour, is
the tissue of his or her knowledge, opinions,
emotions, feelings, and tastes, which yields the
flavour, the style, the personalness of his or her
approach to things. With some banality, but
little prejudice, we can speak of a "point of
view" and say that objectivity is possible only
within a point of view and is thus a quality of
one's subjectivity. (p. 41)


To resolve the dispute over the validity of either the

objective or subjective approach in portraying reality,

philosophers of science have reverted to the intersubjective

approach. Intersubjective has been defined as "used and

understood by, or valid for different subjects. Especially,

language, concepts, knowledge, confirmability. The

character of science is especially emphasized by scientific

empiricism" (Runes, 1984). According to Feyerabend (1981),

Aristotle considered knowledge as "a complex social product

that influences every generation, may even dominate it, but

which is also changed and improved by collaboration of many

generations" (p. 183).

Titus (1964) defined subjectivism, or more technically

epistemological idealism, as the belief that the "objects

and qualities do not exist independently of a consciousness

of them. Reality consists of consciousness and its states,

though not necessarily my consciousness and my states of

mind," (p. 44). On the other hand, objectivism, or

epistemological realism, asserted that an independent

reality exists apart from minds. Between the two, Titus

placed phenomenalism or epistemological dualism, whose

followers contend that people can only know phenomena and

not the ultimate reality, and that the external world, as

perceived by subjects, is not necessarily the same as or

even similar to the external world that stimulates their

senses. Convergence of subjective views, however, can

result in a realistic understanding of the world.

Dallmayr (1981) considered intersubjectivity as a

"handy launching-pad for excursion into less familiar

terrain" and attempted to explain intersubjectivity by

posing these questions,

to what extent is social or political practice an
outgrowth of human agency or a human subject, and
what is the meaning of subjectivity? In what
sense can social and political life be said to
emerge from human interaction or
intersubjectivity? Does intersubjectivity denote
an aggregation of human actors, and how is such
aggregation intelligible?
(p. 39)

Nagel (1986) assumed a close connection between

objectivity and intersubjectivity, and rejected the

appropriateness of pure objectivity for explaining the


so far as the content of the objective view goes,
it might be of a world in which I, its subject,
never have existed and never will. But since the
objective conception has a subject, the
possibility of its presence in the world is there,
and it allows me to bring the subjective and
objective views together. Until they are brought
together in this way, the purely objective
conception will leave something out which is both
true and remarkable. (p. 64)

Brown (1977) contended that the evaluation and

acceptance of scientific proposals as a part of science by

the community of qualified scientists required that the

objective theories be intersubjectively testable. The

critics, however, have argued that by relinquishing the

"ultimate decision on scientific questions to the scientific


community, rather than with an impersonal testing procedure,

will introduce subjective factors into the confirmation

process" (p. 154) and is not consistent with the very notion

of objectivity as it bases a body of knowledge on "fallible

presuppositions" (p. 154) leaving the scientific knowledge

without a foundation. In defense, Brown (1977) stated that

these presuppositions were subjective and that altering them

would change not only the body of scientific knowledge,

but the kinds of questions scientist ask and the
standards for judging what is scientific. Thus science
becomes an arbitrary construct and there is no reason
to take any proposed body of theory to be more valid
than another. (p. 154)

Feigl (1953) contended that the term intersubjective

reflected the social nature of the scientific enterprise and

considered intersubjective testability more adequate than

the general concept of objectivity for formulation of

science, arguing that this approach, besides being free from

bias or partiality, required that the knowledge-claims of

science be, at the least indirectly and to some degree,

confirmed or disconfirmed by those knowledgeable in the

field. He further added that in order to validate

knowledge-claims, they must be formulated in an

intersubjectively understandable manner, and then subjected

to the appropriate kind of tests in order to ascertain their

validity. He considered the beliefs otherwise generated as

theological or metaphysical and therefore devoid
of the type of meaning that we all associate with
the knowledge-claims of common sense or factual
science If there be any "truths" that are

accessible only to privileged individuals, such as
mystics or visionaries--that is, knowledge-claims
which by their very nature cannot independently be
checked by anyone else--then such "truths" are not
of the kind that we seek in the sciences. The
criterion of intersubjective testability thus
delimits the scientific from the nonscientific
activities of man. (p. 58)

Finally, d'Espagnat (1983) defined intersubjectivity in

the context of weak objectivity, reached when a statement or

concept was invariably valid for any observer and differing

from subjectivity through this invariance, maintaining that

"even a die-hard realist could not deny that weak

objectivity is sufficient for development of science, at

least so long as it refrains from any claim of describing

what lies beyond human experience" (p. 58).

The public's focus on high quality products is

intensifying. Therefore, dealing with quality and quality-

measurement issues will continue as one of main and critical

tasks of higher education in the coming decade. The need

for a systematic and realistic approach to defining and

measuring quality is more acute now than ever before.


Mind cannot form any notion of quantity
or quality without forming a precise
notion of degrees of each.
(Hume, 1975, p. 393)

But then Number is the Idea of Things.
(d'Espagnat, 1983, p. 51)


The primary purpose of this study was to advance the

Attributive Theory of Quality as the basis for defining and

measuring quality, especially as it related to the higher

education institutions. Then, to illustrate how the

proposed theory could be operationalized, a model based on

the general system theory was developed on Lotus 1-2-3

spreadsheet to perform the calculations. Subsequent to a

simulated run, the model was tested with illustrative data

collected from five community college libraries, and the

results were verified against a set of similar data acquired

from a panel of SACS experts.

The Attributive Theory of Quality defines quality as

the interactive sum of all the necessary and sufficient

properties (components/subsystems) that constitute a

phenomenon (system), prescribing a systems approach to

measurement. Consequently, three types of data were needed