Assoc. Prof. Peter Neema-Abooki & Eric Gitta
East African school of Higher Education Studies and Development (EASHESD)
In the face of massification and globalisation, the quality of higher education is so severely threatened that everyone now appears to accept that quality assurance is part and parcel of modern higher education. Issues of accountability, authority and responsibility are paramount when responding, not only to industry bodies but also to the transnational provision of higher education, and to the use of market mechanisms. As higher education institutions control their own systems and processes, the question of the three ‘Ts’ “truth,” “transparency” and “trust” should be renewed. This chapter renders a description of quality, quality assurance and its relevance, and highlights the areas which are vital for successful quality provision and learning environments if higher education is to increase public confidence and understanding of its achievements in all programmes and projects. Ultimately, the paper observes that it is not easily possible and desirable to have a single quality assurance frame work that fits all provisions since quality assurance is broad and in addition requires ethical management, time, capacity, and finances.
Key words: Higher Education, Quality Assurance, Scope
Introduction and background
Quality has always been a tenet that society has strived for since ancient human civilization (Mooney, 2013). According to Quevauviller (2009), the concept of quality can derive back as far as specifications for buildings in ancient Greece as well as building the pyramids in Egypt. . Goods would be inspected by other guild masters to ensure that a standard of quality was maintained by members within the guild. As the world changed, the Industrial Revolution started the modern ideology of quality assurance borrowing the methods prescribed by Frederick Winslow Taylor, a scientific management theorists, whose ideas pushed the methods of efficiency and productivity in manufacturing (Yanli, 2016). The immediate foregoing author asserts that these methods included training employees rather than having them train themselves, implementing and enforcing stringent documentation and protocol based on scientific study, and dispersing work equally among workers and managers.
To date, the means by which business/service providers differentiate themselves from their competitors is through quality maintenance which has remained the most important attribute that creates value about the product/service for the receiver (Baird, 2013). Accordingly, winning companies are those that meet quality standards and for whom customer services is an obsession in every single market in which they operate (Harvey, 2002). Therefore relative terms such as “better”, “superior”, “acceptable” are applied to judge quality; and that since businesses are leaders in quality assurance, non-business organisations such as higher educational institutions are here to benefit from the important lessons learnt by business (Baird, 2013). The truism heretofore is that quality is an inexhaustibly on-going programme and project in an institution of higher learning just as in any other public-sector organisation.
Quality institutions succeed because they are truthful, and there is transparency in verifying that truth; together, this breed’s trust as a one value central to any institution and anyone involved (Rosengard & Karen, 2015). So when information reflects badly on a college or a university, there is often an effort to bury that truth, lest parents or new students learn of it; and – note that if they lose the trust of the customers and the public – their faculties, officials, students, and sometimes their jobs are at risk.
Adjacently, Baver (2011) believed that at the heart of all quality assurance activities are the twin purposes of accountability and enhancement; and that when taken together, these create trust in the higher education institution’s performance. Yet Middlehurst (2013) realized that a successfully implemented quality assurance system will provide information to assure the higher education institution and the public of the quality of the institution’s activities (accountability) as well as provide advice and recommendations on how it might improve what it is doing (enhancement).
Still, engagement with quality assurance processes allows higher education systems to demonstrate quality and increase transparency, thus helping to build mutual trust and better recognition of their qualifications, programmes and other provisions (Kimula, Yonezawa & Ohmori, 2014). So quality assurance and quality enhancement are thus inter-related. They can support the development of a quality culture that is embraced by all: from the students and academic staff to the institutional leadership and management. For, it is vastly better that institutions of higher learning, rather than outsiders, control their own systems and processes through proper mechanisms (Vasconcellos, 2010).
In amity with the suggestion of Watty (2008) that the dimension of quality as perfection can be removed, since higher education does not aim to produce defect-free graduates, William, Lao & Materu (2010) hold that “fitness for purpose” and “transformation” seem to be the two most appropriate definitions of quality. The stance of the trio was a result of a small-scale research with a sample of senior managers in higher education institutions. However, Harvey and Green (2005) identify five categories or ways of thinking about quality. As cited in Watty (2003), key aspects of each of these categories can be summarised as follows:
About the Authors
Assoc. Prof. Peter Neema-Abooki holds academic credentials in philosophical and theological disciplines besides a Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE); a Masters and a Doctor of Philosophy: both degrees in Educational Management. He is an Associate Professor of Higher Education, including Educational Management and Administration, Human Resource Management in Education, Educational Policy and Planning, and Educational Foundations and Curriculum Studies. He is the Founding Dean, EASHESD, at Makerere University, and co-Editor for Contemporary Issues in Higher Education Management. Earlier, he lectured in Educational Foundations, Educational Administration, and Educational Planning and Management at Kampala University, Kisubi Brothers’ Centre for Uganda Martyrs University, and Kyambogo University. He doubles as External Examiner in several Public and Private Universities, nationally and internationally. Besides being a Reviewer at several International Fora, the Associate Professor has presented academic papers and delivered Key-note addresses at several International Conferences and Summits. The scholarly research of his delves into issues encompassing, but not limited to, managerial disciplines with specific focus on Quality Assurance (QA). He is Editor-In-Chief of International Journal of Progressive and Alternative Education, and a Member of several International Technical Committees. Neema-Abooki may be contacted at +2567724123184, +256704169214, +250781293741; and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Eric Gitta is currently a PhD candidate at the East African School of Higher Education Studies and Development (EASHESD), College of Education and External Studies (CEES), Makerere University. He completed a Masters of Science in Human Resource Management in Education from the same University. He also has a Bachelor of Arts Degree with Education, a Certificate in Administrative Law and a Postgraduate Certificate in Monitoring and Evaluation, all from Makerere University, Uganda. He is now working as an Education Officer with Ministry of Education and Sports, Government of the Republic of Uganda. Contacts: +256772054509, +256704155381. E-mail: email@example.com