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|An Evaluation of SERTEC and the Quality Promotion Unit
|Jairam Reddy, Narend Baijnath, John Brennan, Magda Fourie, Ethney Genis,
According to higher education policy and legislation, the Council on Higher Education is responsible for quality assurance in the higher education sector. For this purpose, the CHE is required to establish the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC). The functions of the HEQC as outlined in the Higher Education Act include the promotion of quality in higher education, the auditing of quality assurance mechanisms of higher education institutions, and the accrediting of programmes of higher education. In addition, the Act specifies that the CHE and the HEQC must comply with the stipulations of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) Act which makes provision for Education and Training Quality Assurance bodies.
The current arrangements for external quality assurance of South African higher education are as follows:
- Since 1988, the Certification Council for Technikon Education (SERTEC) as a statutory body for the technikon sector has been engaged in programme accreditation and recently in the auditing of certain institutional aspects as well.
- The Quality Promotion Unit (QPU) of the South African Universities Vice-Chancellors Association (SAUVCA), established in 1996, was engaged in institutional audits of universities until January 1999 when its activities were terminated.
- Professional associations are involved in programme accreditation at both universities and technikons for those professional programmes where such associations exist. In the case of the technikons, this is done in co-operation with SERTEC.
A Task Team was appointed by the Sub-Committee of the interim HEQC to carry out an independent investigation of the work of these two bodies. The purpose of the evaluation was to:
- determine the best practices of both SERTEC and the QPU in quality assurance and its promotion for possible inclusion into the structure of the new HEQC
- identify areas of weakness in the practices of the two bodies and to recommend strategies to overcome these weaknesses in setting up the HEQC
- highlight issues pertinent to quality assurance and its promotion in the higher education sector which the work of the two bodies has identified
- identify elements from the current quality assurance processes in accordance with the overall purpose of quality assurance as being developed by the interim HEQC.
The Task Team has undertaken this investigation with the full knowledge that the South African higher education sector is in a state of transition, with many of the reforms proposed in the White Paper and Higher Education Act yet to be implemented. In particular, the determination of the shape and size of the sector and the introduction of new funding mechanisms will be crucial for the development of a meaningful quality assurance system.