• August 6th, 2020

Opinion: Tertiary institutions must develop and maintain a culture of quality assurance

Higher education without quality is useless and a waste of money and time. That there should always be quality in higher education is not debatable. Private and public sectors want to be served by high quality graduates. Although there is enough evidence to show that quality in high education has been compromised in many areas, there is no doubt that everyone wants to pay for and receive quality education. In other words, students, parents, guardians and the society at large want value for money.

In order to keep higher education institutions on alert on matters of quality in education, the Association of African Universities (AAU) offers high-level training workshops on quality insurance in higher education. It was therefore commendable that some academics and administrative staff members from the University of Namibia, Namibia University of Science and Technology, International University of Management, and Welwitchia Health Training Centre, enrolled for a five-day workshop on quality assurance that was run by the AAU last week.  That these higher education institutions saw it fit to pay for their employees to undergo training in quality assurance shows how much value these institutions place on the quality of their degree programmes and the services they render to their students. 

Run under the theme “Quality Assurance, Student-Centred Teaching Skills and Innovative Research for the 21st Century Higher Education”, the AAU workshop covered a wide range of topics on how higher education institutions can enforce and ensure quality education. The areas covered in the workshop centred on developing a culture of quality in the university community from cleaners through the ranks to top management. In other words, quality in higher education can only be achieved when all members of the whole university community are involved and are conscious of the significant roles they play in the whole chain.

There can never be quality teaching when lecturers are not supported by state-of-the art teaching and learning infrastructure and equipment. Quality education can never be achieved when students are always out of lectures chasing faculty officers because of missing continuous assessment marks. Neither will quality education be realised when examinations leak because of what has been infamously dubbed ‘a thigh for a pass’. Quality education does not exist where those in power can change students’ failed marks to passed marks at a ‘reasonable fee’ or a ‘gentleman’s fee’. 

Still, how can we talk of quality education when students hire other people to write their assignments during the semester, and worsen the cases by sharpening their cheating skills during examinations? It is not a secret now that university students have perfected the art of cheating skills in such a way that they now easily get away with it. Academic dishonesty has reached such unprecedented high levels that have seriously affected the quality of education in our higher education institutions. 

According to the AAU, the above problems of academic dishonesty and problems can be lessened by employing various means in the whole system. By emphasing the mantra “Quality begins with you” in the university community, many institutions have managed to sentitise all levels of the university community about the importance of ensuring quality in the institution. The use of vibrant quality assurance committees is also recommended.  The committees may be tasked to set the quality assurance targets of the university after establishing the overall quality assurance cornerstones. Monitoring and evaluation is also important in the development of a culture of quality assurance in a university. Sometimes it is not clear who monitors some operations or systems. Worse still, it often takes a long time to evaluate the effectiveness of some systems or policies and when this is finally done, it is discovered that they should have been abandoned a long time back. In this case, many cohorts of students would have graduated after following a defected programme. Therefore, by regularly monitoring and evaluating systems and policies, higher education institutions ensure quality by keeping abreast with current trends in education. Current trends can also be achieved through the internationalisation of education. When universities enter into exchange programmes with international universities, they do not just do that for the sake of doing it. Students benefit from exchange programmes taken abroad. Academics benefit also by learning different ways of doing things from other institutions. In addition, academics engage in collaborative research with scholars at partners institutions. When this happens, cross-fertilisation of ides takes place. The research findings can be used to improve the quality of teaching and learning. Also, it is important for universities to benchmark their degree programmes with partner universities from abroad in order to improve quality at the home institution. By regularly reviewing degree programmes in consultation with partner institutions, universities improve the quality of education by keeping well-informed of new developments and knowledge in various fields of specialisations.

In the advent of the Fourth industrial revolution, higher education institutions should focus more on using digital methods of teaching and learning in order to improve quality in education. By using platforms as ‘moodle’, ‘google classroom’, ‘liveboard’, and others,  lecturers and students get into interactive teach and learning that enhances student-centred learning. In other words, we are entering an era where quality education can be offered to students without physical boundaries.

While the AAU quality training was a great success according to those who attended it, and according to the aspects covered, it was felt that it could have been conducted at each of the institutions in order for many people to receive training. The training excluded key departments from these institutions that have a big stake in ensuring quality in higher education. 

The involvement of the National Council of Higher Education (NCHE) in the quality assurance training was hailed by the participants and the AAU.

* Professor Jairos Kangira is the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Namibia. He writes on his own accord. Email address:kjairos@gmail.com

Staff Reporter
2019-11-01 08:37:39 | 9 months ago

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