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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 7 Giving Practical Effect to Policy


Chapter 7 Giving Practical Ef fect to Policy Introduction Quality assurance ef forts in the three institutions are concentrated on four core areas of academic activity: course development, teaching and learning, student assessment procedures, and research and publications. The data collected on these four areas points to interesting patterns which will be the main subject of discussion in this chapter. The first pattern that emerges is that although there are significant dif ferences concerning the rigour and ef fectiveness of quality assurance practices, the approaches and strategies used are similar across the three institutions. The second pattern is the considerable variation of institutional commitment in the provi- sion of resources and support to quality assurance. This has an obvious ef fect on the ef fectiveness of the quality assurance systems implemented in the universities. The third is that the form and content of contestation of quality assurance revolves around several issues, but have in common concerns with the negative ef fects of the lack of ownership, participa- tion and consultation on quality assurance practice. The chapter argues that too much emphasis on standardisation of approaches and strategies without taking into consideration the peculiarities of each institution (social, economic and academic traditions and specificities) and their unique geo-political locations militates against the ef fectiveness of their quality assurance practices. 236 Chapter 7 Quality assuring academic programmes One of the most crucial elements determining the quality of student learn- ing is the quality of the academic programmes that students go through. In...

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