First Southern Africa Sub-Regional Conference on Quality Assurance in Higher Education: 3-4 July 2014, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
In the wake of promoting quality in higher education delivery in the Southern Africa Sub-Region, the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZIMCHE) organised the First Sub-Regional Conference on Quality Assurance in Higher Education which took place on the 3rd and 4th of July 2014 in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The theme of the conference was �Development and Enhancement of Quality Assurance Systems in Higher Education in the Southern African Region�.
The Conference, being the first of its kind, was designed to facilitate sharing and exchange of experiences, best practices and promising approaches and strategies for addressing quality in higher education and overcoming barriers to regional harmonisation in the Southern African Region.
Calls for participation were sent to national higher education quality assurance agencies of regional countries, ministries of education departments responsible for quality assurance and universities.
The aimed to:
- get an overview of global developments in quality assurance in higher education;
- appreciate the status of higher education quality assurance systems in the Southern African countries;
- appreciate the perspectives of higher education quality assurance systems from the point of view of higher education institutions;
- comprehend the role of an institutional quality assurance unit in a higher education institution;
- recognize the role of a sub-regional quality assurance network and explore the possibility of setting up a Southern Africa sub-regional quality assurance network;
- entice the involvement of UNESCO and other development partners in higher education quality assurance programmes;
- discuss ways to strengthen collaboration and networking among stakeholders involved in quality assurance in higher education; and
- showcase evidence based collaboration through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) of Namibia and the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZIMCHE).
Eighty-eight participants drawn from the following ten countries of the Sub-Region attended the conference:
Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe
The attendance by the following people needs special mention:
- Dr O. N. Muchena, Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development of Zimbabwe;
- Dr W. T. Mbizvo, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development of Zimbabwe;
- Mrs M. Seto, UNESCO Regional Education Programme Specialist;
- Professor J. C. Mba, AfriQAN Coordinator;
- Professor M. H. H. Nkunya, Executive Secretary of the Inter-University Council of East Africa; and
- Professor G. H. G. Mohamedbhai, Honorary President of the International Association of Universities.
The Conference was officially opened by the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development of Zimbabwe, Dr O. N. Muchena.
Opening remarks were made by Professor J. Mba, representing AfriQAN, and Mrs M. Seto, the UNESCO Regional Education Programme Specialist, representing the Director and UNESCO representative of the Harare Regional Office.
The Permanent Secretary for Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development of Zimbabwe, Dr W. T. Mbizvo, presented a paper on the Role of Government in Quality Assurance in Higher Education.
During the Conference, the following issues and suggestions were raised:
- Participants expressed appreciation to ZIMCHE for having taken the initiative to convene the first Sub-Regional Conference on Quality Assurance in Higher Education.
- Participants acknowledged with great appreciation the participation of the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development of Zimbabwe.
- Universities are agents of development and therefore university education must be the anchor of a broad-based development strategy which should lead to the retention and expansion of values that support the construction of cohesive societies. In other words university qualifications must meet international standards while at the same time be firmly rooted in the local cultural values.
- It was important for public higher education institutions to be adequately funded and at the same time higher education institutions need to be accountable, financially and in other respects to the State, parents and students, and to the general public.
- At forthcoming conferences, presentations from private higher education institutions should be included in order for us to benefit from views of that sector.
- There was a need for self-introspection by Quality Assurance Agencies so that they reflect and remain focused on their mandates.
- University education should produce relevantly qualified people for the world of work and for national development.
- The process of establishing national qualifications frameworks needed to be speeded up in order to enhance quality assurance endeavours.
- Some Acts governing higher education institutions require statutory revision to align them with changing national needs and objectives as per requirement of national quality assurance agencies.
The following resolutions were made at the conference:
- The holding of such a conference should be a periodic event (annually or bi-annually), convened in rotation among the SADC countries. Botswana made a provisional offer to host the second Sub-Regional Conference subject to approval by the Botswana Qualification Authority Council.
- The process of setting up of a Sub-Regional Network of Higher Education Quality Assurance Agencies in the Southern African region, which should work in close collaboration with AfriQAN, should be started. A task team comprising Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe was appointed to work on the terms of references which will be presented at the second conference. Namibia volunteered to host the first meeting of the task force. A request for funding for the task team activities would be sent to UNESCO.
- A website for such a Network with contact details of national Quality Assurance Agencies in the Southern African region as well as peer reviewers and other experts, should be created.
- Quality assurance personnel, at institutional, national and regional level, should be trained. The Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) agreed to provide such training.
- Recommendation should be made to the Southern Africa Regional Universities Association (SARUA) to include quality assurance as one of its programmes as a way of harnessing funds from development partners such as DAAD, the German Academic Exchanges Services.
- A recommendation should be made to SADC ministers responsible for Higher Education to provide adequate funding and resources to higher education to provide adequate funding and resources to the higher education sector, particularly to quality assurance agencies in order to ensure quality higher education provision, vital for the regions economic growth and sustainable development.
- ZIMCHE to continue spearheading follow-ups on the resolutions with the assistance of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. The next follow-up meeting was to take place in Namibia at a date to be advised.
After the closing of the conference, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) of Namibia and the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZIMCHE) to promote collaboration between the two agencies.