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Quality Assurance in Higher Education in Southern Africa

Challenges and Opportunities

Ephraim Mhlanga

This book attempts to explore the nature of quality assurance policies and practices in three universities in the Southern African region. It looks at how they were developed, the parties that were involved in the policy process, the implications of such processes for policy implementation, and institutional and contextual factors mediating quality assurance practices on the ground. The major aim of the book is to explore both enabling and constraining factors affecting quality enhancement in higher education in this region.
The book is based on a set of case studies undertaken at the three universities. Although they share a relatively common geographical location, the universities have different contextual environments and are at different stages of quality assurance development.


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Chapter 1 Introduction


Background to the study For some time now, higher education institutions in developed countries have had quality assurance systems and arrangements to improve the qual- ity of their teaching, research and direct community service activities. In recent years, quality assurance has also gained favour in universities in developing countries.1 Such developments have been motivated by the challenges developing universities face, many of which relate to changes that are taking place in the higher education market the world over, and to which these institutions have to adjust. Higher education in most developing countries is characterised by expansion amidst resource scarcity, increased competition, accountability to more stakeholders and the growing complexity of knowledge. At the same time, most developing countries have adopted policies that are in favour of mass higher education as a means of redressing past imbalances and providing national economies with the high-level skilled human resources required to enhance economic development. The average enrolment rate in higher education in Africa is still below six per cent, the lowest in the world. Low participation rates are inf luencing policies on expansion in most developing countries, especially in Africa. By 2000, India had 274 universities and 12,600 colleges enrolling a total of 8 million students, an 1 D. Lim (1999), Quality Assurance in Higher Education in Developing Countries. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, Vol. 24, No. 4, pp. 379–80. 2 Chapter 1 increase in tertiary enrolment of 26 per cent from 1995.2 In Zimbabwe, the University of Zimbabwe (UZ)...

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