The Higher Education Authority’s (HEA) Director General, Professor Stephen Simukanga, has stated that the Authority is responding to the global movement in the quality assurance of higher education by holding validation meetings for the Zambia Standards & Guidelines for Quality Assurance (ZSG-QA) in Higher Education.
Professor Simukanga said this yesterday when he gave his opening remarks during the official opening of the 2-day ZSG-QA Validation Meetings being held at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka.
“The objective of this validation meeting is to obtain feedback from you, the stakeholders, on the developed standards and guidelines in order to have a document that will be anchored on mutual trust between HEA and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs),” Professor Simukanga stated, adding that both negative and positive feedback were highly encouraged so that the final document would stand the test of time.
The ZSG-QA are intended to provide a common framework and shared understanding of quality assurance systems for teaching and learning among HEIs and other stakeholders. This means that the standards will be used for registration of HEIs, institutional audits, and in implementing and reviewing of Learning Programme (LP) curricular.
Professor Simukanga stated that the ZSG-QA will provide a basis for quality improvement in higher education through institutional audits and assessments, and LP accreditation.
“ZSG-QA will guide HEIs in the development and implementation of good internal quality assurance systems and practices,” he said, adding that the standards will further promote mutual trust among HEIs, thus, facilitating recognition and mobility of students and academic staff within the higher education sector.
Figure 2 Professor Simukanga giving his opening remarks.
Professor Simukanga stated that the Validation Meetings would centre discussions around core requirements which included, but were not limited to, vision, mission and strategy; financial resources; technological infrastructure; library services and resources; and, public communication.
When pointing out financial resources, Professor Simukanga stated the financial resources an institution needs to have, was among the major areas the meeting needed to validate.
“The question of how much money an institution should have is a going concern, and the general rule of thumb is this, does the institution have the resources to operate for a year without being dependant on fees paid by students?” he said.
The Director General further stated that technological infrastructure had become very important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted that this tied hand-in-hand with e-library services and the ability of students to access information.
“COVID-19 was very revealing, as even the ‘big universities’ were not ready to provide digital learning to all their students when the pandemic hit,” he said, adding, “it is, therefore, very important that we take technological infrastructure and library services, including e-library services, very seriously, in case we have another pandemic.”
Professor Simukanga further pointed out the importance of public communication as a quality assurance tool.
“Public communication is part of quality assurance as the community should know ‘us’ (HEIs) as this is the only way they will confirm to what standards ‘we’ (HEIs) are adhering, instead of just hearing about ‘us’ during graduation week,” the Director General said.
Figure 3 More participants pose of a 2nd socially distanced photo.
This was the first of two sets of 2-day Validation Meetings that have been scheduled by the Authority, with the second set of meetings being conducted on the Copperbelt next week.
The ZSG-QA Validation Meetings included participants from the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE), Zambia Qualifications Authority (ZAQA), and Vice-Chancellors of HEIs or their representatives.
Figure 4 A 3rd group of participants pose for a final socially distanced photo.
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Earlier this year, HEA hosted validation meetings with Vice-Chancellors for Classification of Academic Ranks and General Promotion Criteria, as the Authority develops more standard guidelines in order to ensure quality in higher education.