Regional Quality Assurance System
The Quality Assurance system that IUCEA has developed for East African higher education in collaboration with the commissions/councils for higher/university education in the EAC Partner States has been adopted and mainstreamed into the national systems through the commissions/councils for higher/university education in the EAC Partner States and into quality assurance systems of higher education institutions. The implementation and sustainability of the regional quality assurance is guided by the policy framework – Principles and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Higher Education in East Africa, quality assurance tools that include the handbook for quality assurance and benchmarks for academic programmes, and quality culture that is evolving through training of quality assurance experts for higher education institutions.
(a) The Principles and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Higher Education in East Africa are meant to guide and harmonize quality assurance processes and practices in higher education in the EAC Partner States. They provide a common frame of reference that assists and guides higher education institutions and national commissions/councils for higher/university education in developing and practicing a common quality assurance culture, in line with the regional aspirations for a harmonized higher education system, and international developments and practices in quality assurance.
(b) The Handbook for Quality Assurance – Roadmap to Quality was developed in order to provide a common understanding of the concept of quality and quality assurance as applied to higher education, and to use common quality assurance approaches by facilitating the region to “talk the same language” in quality and quality assurance in higher education. The Handbook that contains common guidelines, procedures, and assessment tools in quality assurance is currently used as a guide for the national commissions/councils for higher/university education and higher education institutions in the EAC Partner States to achieve, improve, ensure, and assure the quality of higher education in their respective domains.
The Handbook for Quality Assurance is published in 5 volumes:
- Revised and combined volume 1 & volume 2 gives guidelines for internal and external programme assessment;
- Volume 3 consists of guidelines for self-assessment at institutional level;and
- Volume 4 provides guidelines for the implementation of a total quality assurance system
- Volume 5 covers principles, practices and management of external quality assurance in East Africa (link to the volume)
(c) Benchmarks for Academic Programmes : they provide a frame of reference for universities when developing and reviewing academic programmes and curricula in order to ensure that the programmes and curricula in the region are harmonized. The benchmarks are output based as guided by statements on learning outcomes, expected competencies and skills, and attitudes. Therefore, the benchmarks are also meant to inform the labour market and other stakeholders on what the graduates are able to do after completion of their studies. [So far some benchmarks have been developed for undergraduate programmes in Business related Studies , Computer Science, and Information Technology and are now in use by stakeholders. Other benchmarks for academic programmes will be developed and in the pipeline are benchmarks for Education, Engineering, Agriculture and Medicine programmes.
(d) Institutionalization of Quality Culture: In recognition of the need to strengthen institutional capacity in quality assurance on total quality management, IUCEA in collaboration with external stakeholders in Europe developed a “Guide for the Promotion of Quality Culture in East African Universities” through the project titled“AfriQ’Units – Sustainable Quality Culture and Capacity Building in Internal Quality Assurance in East African Universities”. The aim of the project was to embed quality culture and continuous implementation of self-assessment mechanisms within higher education institutions in East Africa, in order to enhance increased efficiency of their planning, administration and management of quality assurance systems. The guidelines and principles that were developed under the project have been mainstreamed into the regional Quality Assurance system for East Africa that IUCEA has developed in collaboration with the national commissions and councils for higher/university education. The guidelines and principles have also been disseminated for use in all IUCEA member institutions and in the national commissions and councils for higher/university education.
(e) Capacity Building as a Strategy to Promote Quality Culture: In order to ensure that higher education institutions and the national commissions/councils for higher/university education have the capacity to undertake quality assurance functions in a sustainable manner based on the regional quality assurance system, since 2008, IUCEA in collaboration with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the German Rectors Conference (HRK) has been carrying out human resource capacity building through training of quality assurance coordinators in higher education institutions and the national commissions/councils for higher/university education. The training programmes are aimed at providing basic knowledge and hands-on skills to staff in higher education institutions and the national commissions/councils for higher/university education in the EAC Partner States, on the implementation of the regional quality assurance system. Furthermore, the training programmes are intended to enable the participants to play a leading role in their respective institutions in developing strategic and action plans in quality assurance, including formulation of relevant quality assurance policies and conducting in-house training of staff on the quality assurance aspects as described in the IUCEA Quality Assurance Handbook.
So far, more than 70 quality assurance coordinators have been trained in three cohorts of 2007/2008, 2009/2010 and 2012/2013. The capacity building process also involved training of peer reviewers for external programme evaluation. In that regard, so far more than 80 peer review experts have been trained and have participated in the evaluation of more than 60 academic programmes in all the EAC Partner States.
In order to make the capacity building initiative structured and sustainable, IUCEA has developed training modules for that purpose that will be used by trainers and trainees in East Africa at regional and national levels, and in higher education institutions. The capacity building initiative has been embedded in the long-term plans of IUCEA strategies and activities. Furthermore, IUCEA has developed a regional pool of quality assurance experts from the previously trained staff from the national commissions/councils for higher/university education and the higher education institutions. These are now facilitating the quality assurance capacity building process for the region.
(f) East African Higher Education Quality Assurance Network: One of the sustainability strategies of the regional quality assurance system in East Africa was the establishment of an East African Higher Education Quality Assurance Network, which was formed in 2011. The aim of the Network is to provide an avenue for continuous sharing of experiences and networking among quality assurance practitioners in East Africa, and as a platform for lifelong learning through capacity building on current global trends in quality assurance and higher education management systems in general, including new trends in curriculum development. Another objective of the network is to strengthen collaboration and networking among stakeholders involved in quality assurance in East Africa, and to discuss policy issues concerning quality assurance in the East African Higher Education systems and their impact on the practice of quality assurance, and to learn from best practices within and outside East Africa. Currently, the Network has more than 150 members from all the EAC Partner States, who meet annually in a forum where they share experiences in quality assurance practices in their institutions, and undergo training on topical subjects as stated above.