E. Curraj

European University of Tirana (ALBANIA)
We live in the Information Age of a network society that is based on command and control centres of knowledge generation and information flows (Castells, 2001). The role of ICTs in quality teaching, productive learning and effective management in education systems have been the centre of intensive research, often leading to contradictory results. However, there is limited scientific research in regards to the use of ICTs and their impact in the higher education system in Albania as it is an emerging topic. This paper seeks to contribute to fill in to some extent this gap in scholarship by investigating the employment of ICTs for the advancement of quality academic governance and decision-making processes in the higher education (HE) system in Albania. The main purpose of this paper is to explore the ways in which and to what extent the application of Knowledge Management techniques can contribute to quality assurance and improvement of effective governance in the HE system in Albania. In this framework, this paper concentrates on two central pillars: the use of ICTs, particularly Knowledge Management techniques to develop student information management systems (SIMS) for HE settings and their impact on academic processes in terms of quality assurance and effective management. This research paper adopts a qualitative methodology supported by the analysis of a case study to explore the dynamics of the development of SIMS in a specific higher education setting. The research fieldwork was conducted in the European University of Tirana and it coincides with the full cycle of the SIMS project development for the period between November 2010 and September 2012. Consequently, this research paper owes to the documented materials and interpretative data collected during each phase of the SIMS Project in UET and couples these resources with a survey of the literature to investigate the impact of SIMS in the academic governance in terms of quality assurance and effective decision-making processes.

This paper engages in an in-depth assessment of the employment of SIMS, in a particular HE setting in Albania such as in the case of UET in order to identify not only the principal trends and achievements, but most importantly to pinpoint and critically examine the main constraints of the design, implementation and sustainability of SIMS. The research indicates that the design, development and implementation of SIMS in HE settings is an enormous endeavour that is related not just to technology and innovation, but it refers to social and human dimensions of education settings such as: it is an investment in terms of financial resources and human capital; it requires time, effort, innovation and problem-solving; it demands for change management and a continuous re-design; it solicits for the commitment and willingness of teaching and non-teaching staff, administrators, managers and education leaders to cooperate. In order for higher education to achieve their strategic objectives and for their education programmes to succeed, it is necessary not only to apply adequate ICTs, but to understand and evaluate the implications of such applications within HE settings through systematic and thorough research. This critical analysis may serve as a baseline for researchers, higher education leaders, policy-makers and other stakeholders working in the area of ICTs for higher education in Albania.