This paper deals with the links between assessment and the higher education reforms and their relation to the State. It advocates that assessment plays a crucial role not only technically, but also, and mainly, ethically and politically, in the changes and reforms in higher education and in society. It highlights two paradigms which conceive higher education as a product ruled by market logics and as a public right, respectively. Each has its epistemology and assessment model, with their scientific groundings, ideologies and effects on the social, political and economical life. The first one conceives assessment mainly as control, the other, as production of meaning. This turns assessment into an area full of contradictions and multiple references. It should thus be dealt with through complexity theories and applied using several instruments and combining different approaches. Understanding all these aspects is important to keep in mind that an educative assessment must have formative goals. Assessment must then be essentially a social process that questions the meanings of the formative endeavor.
Higher education; Assessment; Quantitative epistemology; Qualitative epistemology; Control; Production of meanings