Accreditation standards for external quality assurance for ZIMCHE

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THE outgoing series focused on the need to harmonise higher education locally, regionally and internationally.
More shall be said about this and other quality assurance issues; but I thought everything should be prefixed with the controlling values of the entire quality assurance process. These values are enshrined in the quality assurance standards.
These are the constitution against which quality is benchmarked.
They are the quality assurance terms of reference for the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZIMCHE), the regulatory body.
The question of quality in higher education has become a priority in recent times the world over .
Many African countries are planning a robust quality assurance and accreditation system to address the public perception that educational quality is being compromised by the recent expanding enrolment.
To do so, each institution regional or continental body requires a set of benchmarks against which quality can be defined and measured.
This chapter provides a rationale for the establishment of ZIMCHE standards and proceeds to explain how these were arrived at.
A summarised version of the standards is presented before the full version in order to allow for a cursory glimpse of this conceptual set and allow for reflection before studying each standard in detail.
These standards have already been adopted and ratified by Council, hence, in effect, they form the final benchmarks against which institution and programme accreditation of universities in Zimbabwe are measured.
Interestingly, they also speak favourably to the HAQAA-initiated African Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ASG-QA).
Accreditation is the act of granting credit or recognition to an educational institution that maintains suitable standards. Accreditation is necessary to any person or institution in education that needs to prove that they meet a general standard of quality.
The Standards for Accreditation herein referred to as standards are an articulation by the ZIMCHE of what a college or university must do in order to deserve public trust. They also function as a framework for institutional development and self-evaluation.
Covering areas of institutional academic and administrative operations, the standards are largely qualitative, in keeping with their need to apply to a variety of institutions with different missions.
Unfortunately, when ZIMCHE started operating in 2009, it did not have a set of official standards to guide its operations. The search for these standards started in 2014 but the actual research to establish the ZIMCHE Standards took place in 2016.
As they say in Shona proverbial wisdom: “Kugara nhaka huona dzavamwe,” which literally means ‘learn from others’, perfecting quality can never be a singularly inside idea.
While it may be true to say quality is largely a local idea, its perfection is certainly a product of local and international consultation.
Our sense of aesthetics is largely determined by how we think the external world appreciates us.
When we choose a shirt, a dress or whatever combination of outfit, we are guided by the need to satisfy those we interact with.
We feel fulfilled if we are appreciated by the external other. The external other provides the much needed benchmark that confirms that what we do is valued.
After all, people live more for others than for themselves. Hence, while internal quality assurance processes are important, they are guaranteed by the external processes which provide validation.
To this end, external quality assurance in education in general can only be underscored.
Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education, being a new quality assurance kid on the block, approached the idea of standards guided by the Shona proverb above.
That is to say, the regulatory board was driven by the need not only to come up with standards that matched international best practices, but also to make sure that whatever standards they finally settled for also answered to Zimbabwe’s peculiar local needs.
This paper describes the methodology used to identify participants, the sample of participants, the consultation process, the consolidation process as well as the ultimate findings of the whole exercise.
Below is the final product of the standards research process.
The ZIMCHE standards in summary
– Standard 1 – Strategic Statements of the Institution
– Standard 2 – Governance and Leadership
– Standard 3 – Integrity
– Standard 4 – Planning
– Standard 5 – Internal and External Audit, Financial Reporting and Risk Management
– Standard 6 – Infrastructure, ICT & Library Resources
– Standard 7 – Research, Consultancy and Extension Services
– Standard 8 – Institutional Self-Assessment and Self-Evaluation
– Standard 9 – Student Support and Development Services
– Standard 10 – Professional Staff
– Standard 11 – Mode of Delivery
– Standard 12 – Assessment of Student Learning
– Standard 13 – Student Admissions and Retention
– Standard 14 – Academic Programmes
– Standard 15 – Programme Design and Administration
Accreditation is the act of granting credit or recognition to an educational institution that maintains suitable standards. Accreditation is necessary to any person or institution in education that needs to prove that they meet a general standard of quality.
The Standards for Accreditation herein referred to as Quality Assurance Standards for Higher Education are an articulation by the ZIMCHE of what a Higher Education Institution (HEI) must do in order to deserve public trust.
They also function as a framework for institutional development and self-evaluation.
Covering areas of institutional, academic and administrative operations, the standards are largely qualitative, in keeping with their need to apply to a variety of institutions with different mandates.

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