Quality assurance and challenge of institutional mandates in Zimbabwe: Part Two

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THE then ZIMCHE chief executive officer, Professor Emmanuel Ngara, said in an interview that most universities were not observing their mandates after giving a presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology Development on the establishment of the Marondera University of Agricultural Science Bill.
This is what he is quoted saying:
“We are working hard on that (that universities observe their mandates) but the reason the universities gave us was that because of the economic conditions they were doing that (disregarding their mandates) to raise money. We are saying they should go back to their mandates and we have produced a performance indicator to measure the performance of the university so that they go back to their mandates.”
Professor Ngara said while the university had to survive in light of low budgetary support from Treasury, they also had to carry out the purposes they were established for them to help in the development of the country. This was said against the background where Government had established the National University of Science and Technology, the Chinhoyi University of Technology, the Bindura University of Science Education and the Harare Institute of Technology as institutions of higher learning with a bias towards science and technology development.
But most of these institutions have been accused of concentrating on areas that do not form part of their mandates, resulting in the country failing to produce expertise needed in certain fields.
Turning to the Marondera University of Agricultural Sciences Bill, Prof Ngara said they had also reiterated that the proposed law would ensure that the institution would not deviate from its mandate.
When one follows Prof Ngara’s logic, one cannot miss out its persuasive efficacy.
However, the observation that mandates are still taken for granted without technically aligning them to the enabling Acts remains.
While it is heartening to observe that professor Ngara is painfully aware of the need to align the enabling Act to the mandate, there is no evidence that such astute diligence obtained in the crafting of enabling statutes for the rest of universities as this paper will prove.
2014 ZIMCHE report on mandates: Analysis
Section 21 (1) of the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education Act (Chapter 25:27) requires every institution of higher education to prepare and submit to the council “…an annual report of its activities within six months after the 31st December each year; and a detailed assessment at such intervals as the Council may determine, of the steps it has taken towards the achievement of the aims and objectives for which it was established.”
In pursuit of this broad mandate, institutions of higher learning that fall under the auspices of ZIMCHE submit, each year, reports on their progress based on three areas: general information, self-evaluation and summary of challenges.
This paper simply samples a few universities to demonstrate the disharmony between mandates and enabling Acts and Charters. Examples are drawn of the consolidated analysis of the institutions’ submissions of 2014.
Below is a graph capturing all the universities as of 2014
This section is an evaluation of self-evaluations. Below is a summary of some critical observations made against each university.
Africa University
The university is a pan-African institution mandated to develop new leadership for Africa in various fields and disciplines. Sixty per cent of the students are supposed to be from outside Zimbabwe. Currently, the university has more local than international students. As at end of December 2014, student enrolment of 1 471 had 32 percent international students. Nonetheless, the university managed to achieve diversity in students’ composition as stipulated in its mandate, given these international students came from 26 African countries.
The academic and administrative staff of the university is from all over Africa. In its effort to foster a pan-African spirit, the university has introduced a bi-lingual language policy where students must have at least two international languages (for example, English and Portuguese or English and French) to graduate. English, Portuguese and French are taught in the University’s Language Centre.
Africa University also has a wide range of state-of-the-art buildings on campus. The university constructed a retreat centre during the period under review. The retreat centre is a set to provide accommodation and conference facilities for visitors to the university.
It also boasts a huge library adorned with an extensive range of e-books which can be accessed on campus or remotely, thus making research easier for both staff and students.
Among its major achievements for 2014 are:
l Second Prize of the Research and Innovation-Science and Engineering Technology (RIE-SET) University category for 2014 and
l Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) Business 2014 Awards for being the best human resources development contributing to Business-of-the-Year.
Bindura University of Science Education (BUSE)
Bindura University of Science Education is charged with the unique mandate of training science and mathematics educators. The exceptional mandate which is clearly echoed in the university’s name, gives impetus to the university to strive to advance knowledge and its practical application to social, economic, technological, cultural and scientific challenges. Intertwined with science education instruction is the charge to host the National Sports Academy. The National Sports Academy adopts, coaches and nurtures talent to improve the sporting culture in the country. The university also offers various courses in other disciplines such as commerce, social sciences and agriculture.
What is worrying, however, is that, since its inception in 2000, the university is still operating from the Public Service Training Centre, on a temporary basis. There is little progress on the construction of the Main Campus which is being built on a 159-hectare plot about two kilometres from the town centre along the Bindura-Mount Darwin Road. The university has also just completed the construction of a new state-of-the art block for the new Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at their Town Campus.
Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT)
The mandate areas of the university is:
l Engineering
l Technology
l Entrepreneurship
l Hospitality and Tourism
The university was on track in 2014 in terms of fulfilment of its mandate as evidenced by the following success areas.
The university posted several notable developments in 2014. One of them was the transformation of the Institute of Lifelong Learning into Communication Skills and Language Centre, Centre for Development Studies and Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Living Heritage as well as the School of Wildlife, Ecology and Conservation which also became operational in 2014.
It is also heartening to note that the university is moving towards increasing the number of graduate programmes. In 2014, the university invested US$140 000 in studentships for MPhil and DPhil studies. This development has been complemented by a parallel staff development scheme. The university invested US$122 000 in staff development initiatives. This is an indicator of the university’s commitment to continuously grow the profile of its staff.
And in pursuit of the university’s policy for raising the profile of female academics, the university launched the ‘Women PhD Holder Research Fund’ during the year. The object of this Fund is to promote research by female academics in order for them to grow and attain higher qualifications to match their counterparts. Each female PhD holder in the academic field was allocated US$10 000 as research ‘pump-priming’ funds.
There is clear evidence that the University is getting stronger by the day as evidenced by the funds committed to such noble initiatives.

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