Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Educational Administration

Major Professor

E. Grady Bogue

Committee Members

Robert Cunningham, Russell French, Norma Mertz


This purpose of this descriptive, exploratory study was to describe Tennessee legislators' perceptions of higher education accountability policies and/or programs. Legislators' perceptions of the following: What it means and what is expected for accountability (research question 1), What is considered to be prime and important evidence of accountability (research question 2), To whom should higher education institutions be accountable (research question 3), and whether current policies and/or program are effective (research question 4) were all answered by the emerging research themes of this study.

A sample (approximately half) of Tennessee Senate and House legislative members serving on their respective education committees served as the population for this study. Fifteen in-depth, semi-structured interviews were completed.

Overall perceptions held by legislators triangulated the following finding: Public higher education institutions in the state of Tennessee were not effectively demonstrating accountability, and respective policies and practices have not resulted in increased confidence or better management. A variety of diverse themes emerged relative to their perceptions of accountability. This study sheds light on how legislators perceive the current status of higher education's accounting of resources (fiscal and human); how they comprehend, interpret and perceive data or reports that are intended to evaluate higher education's effectiveness and efficiency; and generally their viewpoints on accountability for higher education. Most importantly, this study provides meaningful data, offers policymakers insight on how to adopt, modify and/or revise higher education accountability policies, and contributes to an increased understanding of political officials viewpoint on this complex policy issue. Conclusions are drawn and recommendations for policy/practice and for future research are made.

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