Disciplinarity: A barrier to quality assurance? The UK experience of area studies

John Canning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Quality assurance in UK higher education has maintained a very strong disciplinary bias. This brings about important challenges in assessing the quality of multidisciplinary courses as well as assessing the quality of the student experience of joint honours and combined honours degree courses. Area studies is a critical case of multi/interdisciplinarity. The area studies benchmarking statement delegates assessment (and thereby disciplinary conventions) to its constituent disciplines, but offers little guidance about the quality implications of this process. The paper concludes that quality assurance in higher education needs to develop a greater sensitivity to the disciplinary nature of the identity of academics, whilst at the same time assessing teaching and learning from a perspective that reflects the multidisciplinary experience of the student, rather than the disciplinary identity of teaching staff.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-46
Number of pages10
JournalQuality in Higher Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2005


  • Area studies
  • Benchmarking
  • Interdisciplinarity
  • Multidisciplinarity
  • Student experience


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