An exploration of the ‘African (Union Commission’s) perspective’ of quality and quality assurance in higher education: Latent voices in the African Quality Rating Mechanism (AQRM)
Quality assurance of African higher education is at the top of the region’s development agenda. Prompted by the imperative to enhance the quality of higher education, the Africa Union Commission is implementing the African Quality Rating Mechanism (AQRM). The AQRM is a continental tool that affords higher education institutions an opportunity to conduct self-assessment and compare their performance against similar institutions based on a set of common criteria. The mechanism is envisaged to engender institutional cultures of quality and enhance the quality of African higher education. However, a dearth of knowledge exists about the latent notions of quality in higher education that the AQRM aims to assure and the implicit institutional-level quality assurance practices in the AQRM. Therefore, this interpretivist article, based on a review of the AQRM survey questionnaire, answered the following research question: What notions of quality in higher education and the institutional-level quality assurance practices are inherent in the quality standards of the AQRM survey questionnaire? The findings revealed that quality as fitness for purpose and exceptional are the notions of quality in higher education in the AQRM. Nevertheless, fitness for purpose is the dominant notion of quality and this symbolises an imperative to re-direct higher education to serve social and economic ends. Distinguished (excellent) teacher awards, applied research excellence awards, staff professional development, tracer studies, external examination, and the involvement of key external stakeholders in programme development are the latent institutional-level quality assurance practices in the AQRM. These quality assurance practices are in sync with the notions of quality and aim at bridging the gap between the academy and the labour market. Methodologically, the AQRM survey questionnaire is devoid of benchmarks to inform the rating, and quality assurance practices such as student evaluation of teaching, peer observation of teaching and moderation of examination items are unnoticeable in the survey questionnaire.
Received: 28 December 2018
Accepted: 19 April 2019
Published online: 29 May 2019
African Union Commission. Second Decade of Education for Africa (2006-2015) Plan. Addis Ababa: African Union Commission, 2006.
_____. Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want. Addis Ababa: African Union Commission, September 2015.
_____. African Quality Rating Mechanism (AQRM) survey questionnaire. Addis Ababa: African Union, 2014.
_____. Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016-2025. Addis Ababa: African Union Commission, 2016.
Astin, Alexander W. “When does a college deserve to be called ‘high quality’?” Current Issues in Higher Education 2, no.1 (1980), 1-9.
Bloom, David, Canning David, Chan Kevin, and Luca Dara Lee. “Higher education and economic growth in Africa.” International Journal of African Higher Education 1, no.1 (2014): 23-57. https://doi.org/10.6017/ijahe.v1i1.5643.
Chism, Nancy Van Note. “Teaching awards: What do they award?” The Journal of Higher Education 77, no. 4 (2006): 589-617.
Gunn, Vicky, and Fisk Anna. “Considering teaching excellence in higher education: 2007-2013: A literature review since the CHERI report 2007.” Higher Education Academy (2013).
Hahn, Karola, and Damtew Teferra. “Tuning as instrument of systematic higher education reform and quality enhancement: The African experience.” Tuning Journal for Higher Education 1, no. 1 (2013): 127-63. http://dx.doi.org/10.18543/tjhe-1(1)-2013pp127-163.
Harvey, Lee, and Green Diana. “Defining quality.” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 18, no.1 (1993): 9–34.
Harvey, Lee, and Peter Knight. Transforming higher education. Buckingham, UK: SRHE and Open University Press, 1996.
Hsieh, Hsiu-Fang, and Shannon Sarah. “Three approaches to qualitative content analysis.” Qualitative Health Research 15, no. 9 (2015): 1277-1288. https://doi.org/10.1177/1049732305276687.
Idrus, Nirwan, “Transforming quality for development.” Quality in Higher Education 9, no. 2 (2003): 141-150.
“Information Technology should be used to tap knowledge from greatest Universities to bring learning to all, Kofi Annan says. “United Nations Information Service. Published August 2, 2000. https://www.un.org/press/en/2000/20000802.sgsm7502.doc.html.
Jungblut, Jens, Martina Vukasovic, and Bjorn Stensaker. “Student perspectives on quality in higher education.” European Journal of Higher Education (2015). Accessed February 12, 2018. http://dx.do1.org/10.1080/21568235.2014.998693.
Krippendorff, Klaus. Content analysis: An introduction to its methodology (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2004.
Malcolm, Gillis (1999) cited in World Bank. Higher education in developing countries: Peril and promise. Washington, DC: The World Bank, 2000.
Mhlanga, Ephraim. “Quality assurance in higher education in southern Africa: The case of the universities of Witwatersrand, Zimbabwe and Botswana.” PhD thesis, University of Witwatersrand, 2008.
Muhamedbhai, Goolam. “Towards an African Higher Education and Research Space (AHEARS): A summary report.” Association for the Development of Education in Africa, 2013.
Nabaho, Lazarus, Jessica Aguti, and Joseph Oonyu. “Assuring the quality of teaching at Makerere University in Uganda: Practices and experiences of academics and students.” Alternation 23, no.1 (2016): 40-61.
_____. “Making sense of an elusive concept: Academics’ perspectives of quality in higher education.” Higher Learning Research Communications 7, no. 2 (2017). https://doi.org/10.18870/hlrc.v7i2.383.
Nabaho, Lazarus. “Developing generic competences in life sciences: The untold story of the Makerere University College of Health Sciences in Uganda.” Tuning Journal for Higher Education 4, no. 2 (2017). http://dx.doi.org/10.18543/tjhe-4(2)-2017pp389-406.
Oyewole, Olusola. “The African quality rating mechanisms: The process, prospects and risks.” Paper presented at the Fourth International Conference on Quality Assurance in Higher Education in Africa and Capacity Building (Training) Workshop, Bamako, October 5-10, 2010. http://ifgu.auf.org/media/document/ KEYNOTE_Oye_AQRM_ProcessProspect_and_Risks_2.pdf.
Shabani, Juma. “Quality regimes in Africa: The reality and the aspirations.” Chronicles of Higher Education 4 (May 2013):1-3. http://www.inhea.org/wpcontent/uploads/2016/02/Quality-Regimes-in-Africa-For-posting.pdf.
Shabani, Juma, Peter Okebukola, and Oyewole Olusola. “Quality assurance in Africa: Towards a continental higher education and research space.” International Journal of African Higher Education 1, no.1 (2014): 139-171. https://doi.org/10.6017/ijahe.v1i1.5646.
Okebukola, Peter A. “Emerging regional developments and forecast for quality in Higher education in Africa” (Paper presented at the 2014 CHEA International Quality GROUP Annual Conference, Washington DC, USA, January 29-30. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.638.4444&rep=rep1&type=pdf.
Westerheijden, Don F., Bjorn Stensaker, and Maria Joao Rosa. Introduction to quality assurance in higher education. Trends in regulation, translation and transformation, edited by Don F. Westerheijden, Bjorn Stensaker, and Maria Joao Rosa, 1-11. Dordrecht: Springer, 2007.
Woldegiyorgis, Emnet. “Conceptualizing harmonization of higher education systems: The application of regional integration theories on higher education studies.” Higher Education Studies 3, no. 2 (2013). Accessed February 14, 2019. https://doi.org/10.5539/hes.v3n2p12.
World Bank. Constructing knowledge societies: New challenges for tertiary education. Washington, DC: World Bank, 2002.
Authors are required to sign and submit a copyright transfer agreement after acceptance but before publication of their manuscript. To that effect, they receive, from the Managing Editor of Tuning Journal for Higher Education, a standard copyright assignment form designed along the following lines:
The author who signs the copyright transfer agreement must be the sole creator of the work or legally acting on behalf of and with the full agreement of all the contributing authors.
2. Copyright and Code of conduct:
a) Authors warrant that their work is original; has not been previously copyrighted or published in any form; is not under consideration for publication elsewhere; its submission and publication do not violate TJHE Ethical Guidelines for Publication and any codes (of conduct), privacy and confidentiality agreements, laws or any rights of any third party; and no publication payment by the Publisher (University of Deusto) is required.
b) Authors are solely liable for the consequences that may arise from third parties’ complaints about the submitted manuscript and its publication in Tuning Journal for Higher Education (TJHE).
c) Authors grant to the Publisher the worldwide, sub-licensable, and royalty-free right to exploit the work in all forms and media of expression, now known or developed in the future, for educational and scholarly purposes.
d) Authors retain the right to archive, present, display, distribute, develop, and republish their work (publisher's version) to progress their scientific career provided the original publication source (Tuning Journal) is acknowledged properly and in a way that does not suggest the Publisher endorses them or their use of the wortk.
e) Authors warrant that no permissions or licences of any kind will be granted that might infringe the rights granted to the Publisher.
Tuning Journal for Higher Education is an Open Access publication. Its content is free for full and immediate access, reading, search, download, distribution and reuse in any medium or format only for non-commercial purposes and in compliance with any applicable copyright legislation, without prior permission from the Publisher or the author(s). In any case, proper acknowledgement of the original publication source must be made and any changes to the original work must be indicated clearly and in a manner that does not suggest the author’s and or Publisher’s endorsement whatsoever. Any other use of its content in any medium or format, now known or developed in the future, requires prior written permission of the copyright holder.