Quality of education
Whether we are buying a piece of fruit at the grocery store, looking for our first house, or searching for our soul mate, we all pay attention to quality. Of course, quality takes on an entirely different meaning whether we are dealing with consumer goods, a human being, or an institution of higher learning, but the principle remains the same.
By quality, we are essentially referring to the “accumulation of characteristics and properties that mean that something fills its purpose or meets our needs well or not” . A high-quality education system, therefore, must fit with what society and students, the primary stakeholders, expect from it. However, the main difficulty lies in the fact that from one person to another, the expectations surrounding universities differ greatly, with some attributing a more academic role to them, while others assign a more utilitarian role .
Since the 1964 Parent Report, the concept of quality in the Quebec university network tends to gravitate around these two visions and to be associated more precisely with the accomplishment of universities’ missions, the growth in individuals’ competences, excellence in knowledge transmission, specialist training, and knowledge production . For many, utility is taking an increasingly important role in such a way that the quality of universities should be evaluated more and more in relation to their capacity to serve the interests of principal economic players, rather than based on their ability to preserve and transmit knowledge in full academic freedom. This would mean progressively moving from a model of so-called liberal or scientific universities to a model that places an emphasis on public service universities, and then entrepreneurial universities .
Considering the many pressures that currently exist in the Quebec education system, notably its internationalisation, new demands surrounding accessibility, accelerated knowledge production, the expectations and influence of the labour market, and the privatisation of higher education funding, it is important to stay alert so as to maintain the quality of our institutions and of the education that students receive. Yet how do we evaluate the quality of our higher education system if not everyone agrees on what needs to be evaluated? This is where one of the major difficulties lies.
For the government, university is perceived as a public service. The training and research offered must therefore be contextualised and take into account the needs and preoccupations of society. In order to improve quality in this context, the government is seeking to ensure “the presence of regular professors at every level of teaching, balance in the contributions of professors and teaching assistants, the link between teaching, research and collective service responsibilities, inter-institutional and international mobility for students, and the preparation of students for post-university life, their socioprofessional insertion, and ultimately, their intellectual contribution to a better informed and more critical society.” 
Over the years, the concept of quality assurance has been put forwards, referring to the “processes and mechanisms that help guarantee the quality of programmes, establishments, or of a national training system” . Sometimes internal, sometimes external, these mechanisms serve to ensure accountability, supervision of operations, evaluation, and the improvement of current practices. Inspired by the private sector, the term “quality assurance” has been criticised by some players in the field of higher education, who are critical of the orientation of the quality criteria towards labour market needs rather than towards the needs of society as a whole.
While the term still lacks precision, particularly when detailing what needs to be evaluated and how, the issue of quality of education has always been a leading concern for the SSMU, which joined other student associations in multiple contexts to ensure that the necessary efforts are applied to make sure that students benefit from a high-quality academic environment.
 Définition Larousse
 Voir université libérale, université scientifique, service public et université entrepreneuriale (Lessard, p. 3).
 LESSARD, Claude (2012). « Modèles d’universités et conceptions de la qualité : pour une université plurielle et capable d’en témoigner », Conseil supérieur de l’éducation, p. 2
 Op. cit., 2012, p. 2
 Gouvernement du Québec (2012). « La qualité de l’enseignement supérieur au Québec », Cahier thématique)
 Vlãscesanu et al. (2004), cité dans JULIEN, Mélanie et Linda GOSSELIN (2012). « L’assurance qualité à l’enseignement universitaire : une conception à promouvoir et à mettre en œuvre », Conseil supérieur de l’éducation, p. 7.