While the stated aim of quality assessments is to improve the quality of the products and services offered by universities, some faculty view them as instrumental in justifying government budget cuts in education. By means of a survey administered to more than 300 faculty from 20 academic programmes undergoing quality assessments, we studied perceptions of the reasons behind the assessments. The results of our analysis show that faculty participation in the assessment process significantly decreases the chances that faculty believe quality assessments are carried out for instrumental reasons. In addition, those who believe assessments are carried out for quality improvement reasons are more likely to rate the assessments as legitimate and to be more identified with the academic programme that is being assessed. This study emphasizes the significance of faculty attributions about quality assessments and shows that faculty participation is crucial in overcoming initial scepticism towards external interventions.