The Need for a QA Handbook
The DAAD support and collaboration with IUCEA has also seen in the introduction of a Handbook that is the guiding tool to putting in place comparable QA processes in universities in East Africa. The Handbook is based on worldwide experience as well as on developments in the region related to good QA practices. The most important materials that have been taken into account in preparing the Handbook are the documents developed by the national higher education regulatory agencies in the three founder members of the East African Community, namely the Handbook on Processes, Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance prepared by CHE in Kenya, the Quality Assurance Framework for Uganda Universities used by NCHE in Uganda, and the Quality Assurance and Accreditation System for Institutions and Programmes of Higher Education used by TCU in Tanzania. Despite each of the three documents having a specific national outlook, all of them have a lot in common with respect to universal quality aspects.
The development of the handbook was a consultative process involving an expert appointed by DAAD, IUCEA, European partners and East African Experts, Regulatory Agencies, participating universities, academics and stakeholders.
Consequently, the handbook titled A Road Map to Quality: Handbook for Quality Assurance in Higher Education was developed into the following four chapters:
Volume 1: Guidelines for Self- assessment at program level aims at the faculty/ department to learn more about the quality of the programs by means of an effective self assessment.
Volume 2: Guidelines for external assessment at program level explains the procedures and processes for an external assessment at program level. The specific target group is the external expert team, but also the faculty/department to be assessed.
Volume 3: Guidelines for Self-assessment at institutional level aims especially at the central management of an institution and offers an instrument to discover more about the quality of the institution
Volume 4: The implementation of a Quality Assurance system aims at quality assurance of all levels of an institution
Volume 1 and 2 have been published and distributed to all IUCEA member universities. The copyright of the handbook is jointly owned by IUCEA and DAAD.
Pilot Self-Assessment Supported Programme
During the IUCEA-DAAD Regional Workshop in Dar-es-Salaam in December 2006 it was decided to integrate self-assessment and external quality assessment at programme level in the project. The aim was to use the assessment a pilot process of evaluating the efficacy of the Handbook instruments and to let universities get experience in using the Handbook. A total of 22 universities participated and 26 programmes have undergone the pilot self-assessment. The programmes are as follows: 14 in Business and Administration, 5 in Information Technology, 7 in Agriculture and other related fields including Wildlife Conservation and Environmental Engineering, and one in Civil Engineering. Each university was required to constitute a self-assessment committee and appoint a chairperson of the committee who would co-ordinate and monitor the progress of the self-assessment objectives. The self-assessment process focused on the following aspects among others with respect to the programmes and the self-assessment reports:
- Does the report provide adequate information to the external assessors?
- Does the report guarantee sufficient questions during the site visits?
- Is it critical and analytical?
- Are the perceptions of the Department / Faculty good on the quality of the programme?
- Does the report identify plans to improve quality?
- Has the Department/Faculty articulated how to deal with issues raised?
In July 2008 a regional workshop was organized in order to get feedback from the self-assessment process by evaluating the draft self-assessment reports that were already available at that time. The initial feedback from Universities provided insights into how self-assessment is done and the peculiarities of the universities in the region regarding the overall QA culture at the institutions. Moreover, this self-assessment process was not only very beneficial to the participating universities but also to the IUCEA in accumulating capacity in the region.
Challenges to the implementation of QA processes in East Africa
- The Self-evaluation process has indicated some challenges that may need to be addressed at the level of universities, regulatory agencies and the IUCEA:
- Lack of adequate human capacity to effectively instill quality assurance into the academic system
- Lack of infrastructure development – The expansion of student numbers has overwhelmed the infrastructure and has therefore jeopardized QA.
- Inadequate funding by governments of academic programmes including quality assurance systems. This is a great challenge that will at some point be surmounted with the development of QA culture at the universities and at national level.