1.4 Cross cultural communication

In this chapter we will focus on how to communicate with – staff, students and external stakeholders about building Quality Culture. We will use term cross-cultural comunication as methaphor how to communicate leader’s vision with different stakeholders. What kind of language leader should use for based on the target group?

We will try to explain you why is cross culture communication important for HEIs leader in this 5 minutes video.


Maarja Berkensa and Maiki Udamb in their article: Stakeholders in Higher Education Quality
Assurance: Richness in Diversity?, Higher Education Policy 30 (2017)
show based on twelve focus group interviews with main stakeholders (university rectors, employers, academic staff, government officials, students) in Estonia that the groups indeed have somewhat different perspectives on quality assurance, according to a predictable pattern.

The leader role is to building a plaform for communication of different stakeholders. Communication between stakeholders increases mutual understanding between actors. Such a process may increase the likelihood of a stable agreement and compliance, but it may also contribute positively to participants’ sense of justice,

Case study

The study is conducted in Estonia, a small binary higher education system with seven academic universities (one of which is private) and seventeen universities of applied sciences. Public universities are to a large extent publicly funded, with onlya very small part of the budget covered by tuition fees. Quality assurance isorganized The Estonian Quality Agency for Higher and Vocational Education (EKKA)


Two interviews were conducted with representatives of the state, including representatives from five ministries and leaders of local governments (a mayor and a county governor). Three interviews were conducted with entrepreneurs and top executives of public and private companies. Two interviews were carried out among high school students from four schools in different parts of the country and two interviews among students from five universities. One interview was conducted with rectors and two interviews with teaching staff from five institutions. Among the interviews with students, academic staff and rectors, both academic universities and universities of applied sciences were represented. Altogether, 12 interviewswere held with 68 people in total.


Employers emphasize the control function of quality assurance. Besides the control function, employers also want to see that quality assurance offers information to external parties — students, parents, employers, society
broadly — about quality of the university.

Quality assurance should give information about the graduate — who is the graduate and how ready he or she is. This is the most interesting piece of information for employers Employers expectedly link quality assurance with labor market needs, both at the program level and across programs. They wish to see that quality assurance considers what are actual needs and expectations to a graduate in a specific field and then assess.

Interestingly, employers bring up the issue of leadership several times. The purpose of quality assurance is not only to control the quality of education, but also to assess that a university has a vision, ambition, and knows where it is heading. Critically important is the issue of leadership, the issue of organization, like is there a vision and development plan? One of the aims could be to conceptualize the meaning of study fields, to think through, materialize, and monitor the mission, vision and development of the university. Whether the university itself has thought it through.

University rectors
The quality of leadership is[reflected in] its strategic plan – is it well done and feasible.

Academic staff
Similarly to rectors, academic staff also values greatly quality assurance for internal development.

Government representatives
Similarly to employers, also government officials emphasize the need to focus on a long-term vision of the university. Government representatives also focus strongly on quality assurance as giving a guarantee to external partners (particularly to students) about the credibility of the institution.

Current and prospective students
Both university students and prospective students are somewhat narrower in their answers. Students define the purpose of quality assurance particularly through the quality of the graduates. Students want to make sure that universities keep up with time and that their education stays labor market relevant in a quickly changing
environment. Students also mention trust and credibility as the most important aim of quality assurance.

underlines communication as key for development of Quality Culture. Read more in the article (10 min reading).


Prepare short information for different stakeholders of your institution, how developing Quality Culture enviroment could be benefical for them and what is their role in this ecosystem and how they contribute. (Try to be brief and prepare maximally half page information for each key stakeholders group). This task should take you about 30 minutes for each group.