• May 29th, 2020

Quality of higher education a distant dream in Namibia

Since the establishment of the Namibia Qualification Authority (NQA), through the act of parliament, Act 29 of 1996, there has been a tremendous improvement in the quality assurance of qualifications in Namibia.  
Among its most important legislative obligations, the NQA set up and administers the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). The NQF is made up of ten qualification levels, from level 1 to level 10. Each level represents a different level of difficulty in outcomes of learning. Simplistically, the NQF consists of Vocational Certificates at level 1-4, Diplomas at Level 5-6, Bachelor’s Degrees level 7, Honours Degrees at NQF level 8, Master’s Degrees at 9 and Doctorate Degrees at level 10. 

Another important legislative obligation of NQA is to accredit persons, institutions and organisations providing education and courses of instruction or training.  So all Namibian qualifications are registered and accredited at the above NQF levels. All foreign qualifications which are accredited in their countries of origin can be evaluated to see in which NQF level they can fit depending of their outcomes of learning.  There are two different subsystems of accreditation in Namibia under NQA. The first one is the institutional accreditation audits which simply look at quality assurance processes like policies and procedures, facilities and staffing. The second is programme (qualification) accreditation.  

Before any qualifications can be accredited, it should be registered on the Namibia Qualification Framework (NQF). The legislation also provides for foreign qualifications to be accredited if they are offered in Namibia as long as they are accredited in the country of origin. Foreign qualifications can also be accredited and not registered in Namibia under a local franchise agreement. 

However, not all foreign qualifications being offered in Namibia by various foreign institutions are accredited in Namibia. There are about five South African institutions, two from Botswana, one from Zambia, one from Zimbabwe (Midlands State University) who offers their qualifications in Namibia without accreditation. They do this by exploiting loopholes in the NQA Act. Distance education without NQA accreditation by foreign institutions is allowed by the Act. Recently, all these foreign institutions claim that they are offering distance education, but at the same time, they offer face to face tutorials in Namibia.

The major concern is that these institutions, if they are offering classes here in Namibia they should meet national accreditation standards.  Since they are not accredited the quality of their education and training does not meet national standards until Namibian accreditation has been granted. One Namibian NQA accredited institution with ambition to expand throughout SADC was denied to operate both in Botswana and South Africa before they are fully accredited in those countries by Botswana Training Authority (BOTA) and South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) respectively. So, the question is why we allow their institutions to operate in Namibia without accreditation whilst denying Namibian institutions to operate in their countries. What is more disturbing is that these foreign institutions especially from South Africa claim in their advertisements that they are recognized by NQA. This cannot be true because recognition in Namibia is only through a process of evaluation and accreditation by NQA. This is misleading the public.  They get away with it because they exploit the loopholes in the legislation, compromising the quality of qualifications offered in Namibia. These institutions are also unfairly competing with Namibian institutions who are constricted in their operations by meeting national requirements, whilst they have a free ride. So it makes perfect sense that these foreign institutions be stopped to offer qualifications through face to face classes in Namibia or they should go through the whole process of accreditation like any other institution.

Domestically, many bogus institutions also continue to operate in the country without accreditation exploiting the loopholes in the NQA Act. The current NQA Act in its current form does not empower the NQA secretariat to close any institution.  The Act says any ‘person, institution, or organisation providing instruction or training may apply to the NQA for accreditation’. This means institutions or persons can operate without accreditation. This compromises the quality of qualifications in Namibia and it therefore, makes perfect sense that the NQA is in the process of amending the Act in order to make it a must for any institution or person who provide education or training to get accredited before offering any services. However, the current accreditation regulations are contradictory in many of its clauses and have to be amended together with the Act. One regulation which is quite controversial is that for an institution and a programme to be accredited by NQA the institution should have students. The current process of accreditation requires the input of students, henceforth at first accreditation audit visit the institution has to have students. At the same time when an institution tries to recruit students without accreditation in a particular programme or a course the NQA according to the Act, inform the students not to register, as the qualification is not accredited. When NQA comes for the accreditation audit, they cannot finalize the accreditation without the students. 

What have been burdensome to the local higher educational institutions (HEIs) is to meet requirements from three different Acts.  Firstly, institutions have to meet the requirements of the NQA Act in order to be registered and accredited by NQA. This very strenuous, costly and cumbersome process can take several years.  Also, these requirements which one need to meet are very complex. Then the institutions also need to meet the requirements of the National Council of Higher Education (NCHE) which was established under the Higher Education Act, 2003 (Act no.26). The NCHE quality assurance system like NQA consists of two sub-systems that are programme accreditation and institutional audits. Some HEIs have to also meet the Namibia Training Authority (NTA) requirements, if they are offering qualifications at NQF level 5 and below under the Vocational Education and Training Act of 2008.This all means that private higher educational institutions have to do separately the cumbersome process with all the three institutions, NTA, NQA and NCHE.  One expert described this situation as a ‘Namibian Limousine’, and of late, there have been attempts by the institutions to put their activities under one roof to avoid duplication. The recent proposal to do joint accreditation and registration audits between NQA and NCHE and Even NTA makes perfect sense to avoid duplication of functions amongst them and reduces workload on institutions. 

When it comes to funding, all private higher education institutions are not funded or subsidized by the Ministry of Higher Education. The argument is that if Ministry of Education subsidizes private primary and secondary schools, why the Ministry of Higher Education is not subsidizing private higher education institutions. Limited resources will always be an excuse but what a compromise in terms of quality of higher education being delivered.  Recently, the funding of vocational education came into limelight with financial troubles at Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology (NIMT). Indeed quality vocational education and training is expensive. It cost an average of N$50 000 per student per year to produce a quality graduate in vocational training and it is even more expensive when it comes to higher education. It therefore makes sense that the government through the Namibia Training Authority continue to subsidize NIMT. And it makes even more sense for the government, through the Ministry of Higher Education to extend subsidies to accredited private higher education institutions. All the institutions are barely providing quality higher education because of lack of funding. Private higher education institutions currently run their institutions with the fees paid by students only. Given the current economic conditions students at these institutions cannot afford to pay high fees and institutions have lowered their fees to an average of about N$18 000 per year. This leaves a gap of over N$30 000 required per student per year to provide quality education and training. Accredited institutions like Monitronic Success College (MSC), International University of Management (IUM), Lingua, and Triumphant College have been providing higher education for many years and are in the same predicament as NIMT and should also receive some subsidies from the government through the Ministry of Higher Education, if the government is committed to provide universal quality higher education in the country. It is really unimaginable to lose all the private institutions because of lack of funding and only remain with University of Namibia (UNAM) and Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) in the entire country.

New Era Reporter
2018-09-12 09:23:09 | 1 years ago

Be the first to post a comment...