CHE NEWSLETTER – QUALITY MATTERS Volume 1, Issue No.5 – March 2017

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March, 2017
 
QUALITY MATTERS
Latest news
 

From the desk of the Chief Executive Officer

Prof. Narend Baijnath

It is my pleasure to invite all stakeholders to read the first issue of Quality Matters for the 2017 calendar year.  This particular issue of the official newsletter of the CHE is of great significance to the organisation because it comes at the end of the 2016/17 financial year during which it undertook a strategic review process, and also began developing an approach that will enable it to fulfil the mandate of auditing the quality assurance mechanisms of higher education institutions. The 2015 to 2020 strategic plan was revised and the projects and other activities planned for the next financial year, as reflected in the 2017/18 annual performance plan (APP), are premised on the revised strategic plan. The contents of the articles in this specific issue of the newsletter give hints about the strategic direction which the organisation has consciously selected to follow.

Going forward, the programme accreditation processes will be made sharper to ensure that there are no loopholes that can be exploited by those who might be willing to sacrifice quality at the altar of convenience. The article on increasing site visits to institutions elaborates on one of the ways we intend to inject more rigour in the accreditation processes.

One of the areas prioritised in the revised strategic plan is that of participating in international initiatives that have the potential to influence developments in the quality assurance system here at home. The article on the Harmonisation of African Higher Education Quality Assurance and Accreditation (HAQAA) Initiative, as well as the one on lessons learnt from a trip to Germany, speak to this strategic intent.

The improvement of teaching and learning in higher education has always occupied centre stage in the activities of the CHE. The latest of its interventions in this area at a system level has been the Quality Enhancement Project (QEP). An update on the QEP is provided in an article in this issue of the newsletter. The same article also informs the readers about the plans to continue with the development of, and later piloting an approach for institutional quality reviews.

As the number of qualification standards developed by the CHE increases, it is important to make sure that stakeholders understand the rationale and processes behind them. The article on standard development provides the necessary insights into this matter; while the one on the review of the doctoral studies gives a perspective on how the standards developed can add value in assessing the quality of qualification programmes even at the level of the highest qualification.

Articulation is one of the central tenets of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) recently published a national articulation policy for the post-school education and training (PSET) system. One article in this issue of the newsletter provides a high-level synopsis of the policy, focusing on its implications to the work of the Quality Councils (QCs) in general, and the CHE in particular.

At the CHE, we cherish the close ties that we have with the Department of Higher education and Training (DHET) and higher education institutions as our key stakeholders. Opportunities to collaborate with them on projects are seized enthusiastically. The article on developing a national regulatory framework for increasing the output of professional and technical graduatesintroduces to the readers one the key projects on which the CHE and the DHET are working together. Readers might also find the article on the strides made by one of the small private higher education institutions in the area of assessment, quite interesting.  

Readers will also find in this issue of the newsletter information about colleagues who have just joined the CHE; and also, for the first time, there is an article that informs stakeholders that the CHE is not part of the governance and resource management malaise that, the media would have us believe,  characterise a significant number of other public agencies.  This, in my view, is a necessary and timely reassurance to our stakeholders.

I trust stakeholders will enjoy reading this issue of the newsletter. As always, they should feel free to provide feedback on the article(s) of their interest.

All the best!

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'Seeing is believing': the CHE increases site visits to instutions

Prof Kethamonie Naidoo

Site visits by panels of peer evaluators have proven to provide more valid and reliable information about the quality of programmes than paper-based evaluations. The Programme Accreditation Directorate has increased the number of site visits undertaken and in 2016, a total of 116 sites were visited. These included sites of both private and public higher education institutions and learning support centres. Unfortunately site visits cannot be conducted for each of the more than 600 applications for accreditation that we receive per annum; but the aim is to visit institutions at least every five to seven years and to use the most recent site visit report for information about quality concerns that need to be followed up on for subsequent applications. The panels that conduct the site visits report on institutional and programme level as well as site quality in terms of the HEQC’s Criteria for Programme Accreditation.

Site visits are conducted on recommendation of the Accreditation Committee or the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC) to confirm the quality of the programme for purposes of registration by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), or as a consequence of serious complaints received about the quality of the programmes offered. They are also conducted where the HEQC has set a condition to the accreditation of programme that a site visit should be conducted either prior or subsequent to the offering of the programme to confirm that quality arrangements are in place. Information from various sources is triangulated and the site visit panels are required to verify that the quality arrangements are in place. The primary source of information is the commitments that institutions make in their applications for accreditation.  Other sources of information are the reports on the previous applications for accreditation, HEQCIS, HEMIS and HEQSF data submitted, as well as complaints received. The Directorate liaises with the institutions about the schedule for the visits and unfortunately this sometimes results in “wet paint” improvements that lapse as soon as the panel exits the gates of the institutions visited.

The peer panel reports have revealed excellent quality in some institutions and alarmingly unacceptable quality in others. The age and size of the institution is no indication of quality as some very large well-established providers offer programmes of very poor quality whilst other small niche market institutions offer programmes of exceptional quality. The adage of “don’t judge a book by its cover” applies to higher education institutions as well. Magnificent buildings and marketing campaigns are also not reliable indicators of the quality of the programme provision by institutions. In the past year, the HEQC has withdrawn the accreditation of a significant number of programmes, and in some cases, all of the programmes offered by a few well-established large private higher education institutions and the DHET has withdrawn the registration of these institutions as well, for a variety of reasons. The HEQC has remained steadfast in its resolve to protect students against poor quality programme provision and is committed to carrying out its mandate to quality assure programmes.

One of the most important concerns of quality provision of programmes relates to the poor design of curricula, and the unacceptably low level and standards of programmes. In some instances these are not aligned with the NQF level descriptors; and the cognitive demands and volume of the learning contents and learning materials, as well as the assessments could, in the worst-case scenario, be compared to a Grade 7 programme. Staffing is another serious concern as modules are often taught by lecturers who are not qualified in the subject area and do not have a minimum of one qualification above the level of the programme they are teaching in. Infrastructure such as computer facilities, libraries and ablution facilities were found by panels to be unacceptable at some institutions. Employing an adequate number of well-qualified teaching staff and spending money on infrastructure and offering programmes at an appropriate level to the qualification demands enhances the reputation of the brand of a higher education provider.

As access for higher education increases annually, more new private higher education institutions are entering the higher education sector, and more providers generally are offering programmes in the distance mode of provision. This requires a different teaching and learning strategy to offering in the contact mode of provision, not only in terms of the design of the teaching and learning material, and the mediation of the learning experience and assessment strategies but also importantly in terms of the academic support of students. Given that a large number of students have come from educationally disadvantaged school backgrounds, the academic support required is central to academic success for such students.

It is clear that site visits are adding immense value to the process of programme evaluation, and the Directorate intends to increase the number of such visits conducted in a year. It is important that institutions match the good paper applications with what they really have and do on the ground at the sites of delivery. It is not the certificate that graduates hold in their hands that will get the graduates jobs but the competencies they acquire through their learning experiences in programmes of high quality that will!

Further information on the matters discussed in this article can be obtained by writing to: Naidoo.K@che.ac.za

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Making The HAQAA initiative: 'vivat crescat floreat'

Prof Narend Baijnath

The Harmonisation of African Higher Education Quality Assurance and Accreditation (HAQAA) Initiative is a programme under the European Union (EU) and African Union (AU) Strategic Partnership. Its main goal is to support the development of a harmonised higher education quality assurance and accreditation system at institutional, national, regional and continental levels in Africa. The first phase of the initiative is planned to run for three years, and its intended outcomes are the strengthening of intra-African collaboration on matters pertaining to higher education programmes, and the creation of a revitalised, distinctive, attractive and globally competitive African higher education system. The CEO was invited onto the advisory board and participates participated with Council support.

In terms of implementation, and by agreement, the initiative is being spearheaded by institutions and high profile individuals selected from the Ministries of Education/Higher Education in strategic countries in Europe and Africa. At this stage, the key institutions that are championing various aspects of the initiative are the University of Barcelona, European University Association (EUA), Association of African Universities (AAU), the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Together, these key institutions and selected individuals form an implementation consortium.

Under the advice of the implementing consortium, an Advisory Board was established to drive the HAQAA Initiative. The membership of the Board comprises prominent individuals from key networks and associations across the five regions of Africa. The following are the current members of the Board:

  • Prof. Narend Baijnath, Chief Executive Officer of the Council for Higher Education (CHE), South Africa;
  • Dr. Tariq Alsindi, General Secretary of the Arab Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ANQAHE), Bahrain;
  • Abdou Lahate Cisse, Authorite National d’Assurance Qualite de l’Enseignement Superieur (ANAQ-Sup), Senegal;
  • Piyushi Kotecha, Chief Executive Officer of the Southern African Regional Universities Association (SARUA), South Africa;
  • Prof. Alexander L Yambabaje, General Secretary of the Inter University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), Uganda;
  • Prof. Chiedu Felix Mafiana, President of the African Network for Quality Assurance (AfriQAN), National University Commission, Nigeria;
  • Prof. Bertrand Mbatchi, Secretaire General of the Conseil Africain et Malgache pour l’Enseignement Superieur (CAMES), Burkina Faso;
  • Prof Ana Marie Nhampule; President of the Mozambique National Council on Quality Assurance in Higher Education (CNAQ), Mozambique;
  • Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, Secretary General of the Association of West African Universities (AWAU), Nigeria;
  • Prof. Sultan T. Abu-Orabi, Secretary General of the Association of Arab Universities (AArU), Jordan; and
  • Dr. Achim Hopbach; Director of the Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation

Two of the priority projects of the HAQAA Initiative are the establishment of a continental Accreditation Agency for higher education, and the development of the Pan-African Quality Assurance and Accreditation Framework (PAQAF).  The continental Accreditation Agency and PAQAF are expected to support the development and entrenchment of quality cultures in institutions; development of compatible accreditation mechanisms; building capacity amongst quality assurance and accreditation bodies; and establishing shared degree programmes, common teaching and learning methods, credits and assessment tools and joint agreement between universities.

Other key projects under the HAQAA Initiative are the Europe-Africa Quality Assurance Connect Project, and the Erasmus Mundus Project. The former seeks to integrate the objectives of and synergies between HAQAA and the ‘Tuning Africa Harmonisation Initiative’ that preceded the HAQAA initiative. The Erasmus Mundus Project seeks to provide guidance and support to students from the African continent studying, or intending to study in Europe.  It also offers exchange programmes with students starting their programmes in Africa and allows them to go and complete them overseas.

The Council on Higher Education (CHE), South Africa, is participating in the HAQAA Initiative as an organisation. The CHE is part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) chapter of the HAQAA initiative which is currently engaged with the development of a Southern African regional policy for credit accumulation and transfer (CAT). On 1 to 3 March 2017, the CHE will be hosting the SADC team that is developing the regional CAT policy. By participating in these initiatives, the CHE is demonstrating that it is a progressive and outward looking organisation that is ready to play a constructive role in the development of quality assurance systems on the Continent. Moreover, it is anticipated that the development of harmonised QA systems on the Continent will have obvious benefits for student mobility, cross border delivery, and common standards and rigour in higher education in the region and on the Continent.

Funding for the activities under the HAQAA Initiative is provided either directly from the EU, or through institutions that are members of the consortium, such as DAAD. Thus, the CHE’s participation in the HAQAA Initiative comes at no financial cost to the CHE.

Judging by the range and significance of the activities that are planned or are already being implemented, it is clear that the HAQAA Initiative is likely to prove to be a game changer on the continent in as far as quality assurance in higher education is concerned. It is therefore of value to the CHE to be participating in this initiative.  At this stage, all that one can wish for is for this initiative to be successful where others previously have failed. This wish is best expressed by the powerful Latin phrase: ‘vivat crescat floreat’ whose English translation is ‘may it live, grow and flourish’. Hence, the perfect way to end this article is by saying ‘The HAQAA Initiative: vivat crescat floreat!’

Further information on the matters discussed in this article can be obtained by writing to: Baijnath.N@che.ac.za

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 An up-date on the Quality Enhancement Project (QEP)

Prof Diane Grayson

The feedback part of Phase 1 of the Quality Enhancement Project (QEP) is nearly over. The focus areas for Phase 1 were: enhancing academics as teachers, enhancing student support and development, enhancing the learning environment and enhancing course and programme enrolment management. In 2014 institutions had submitted baseline reports in which they reflected on what they were doing in each of the four focus areas for Phase 1, what was working and how they knew, what was not working and what they thought could be the reasons and what challenges remained. In late 2015 and early 2016, institutions submitted reports in which they indicated what improvements they were making or planning to make in each focus area.

During 2016 and early 2017, 22 one-day individual institutional feedback visits were carried out by the Director: Institutional Audits and two peer reviewers for each institution. The purpose of the visits was to discuss with senior management and key role players working in each of the focus areas the journey they are on towards improvement, using an appreciative inquiry framework in which the institution’s strengths serve as the point of departure for discussion. At the end of each visit, institutions expressed to the panel how much they appreciated being appreciated, and how, far from glossing over challenges, the approach gave them the freedom to be open about not only where they are improving but also where there is more work to be done. The panel felt the same way. Appreciative inquiry is a powerful tool for bringing about positive change in a non-threatening way. It holds out particular value at this moment in our history when higher education institutions are feeling beleaguered. The peer reviewer reports are currently being harmonised and finalised.

After more than a year of discussion and debate about what the focus areas for Phase 2 should be, the focus area document has been finalised and approved by the HEQC. There will be only one focus area, curriculum, with four sections: curriculum renewal and transformation, diversity and inclusivity, curriculum development capacity and quality, and participation in curriculum design and development.

Phase 2 will only last for one year. The focus area document can be downloaded here: http://www.che.ac.za/sites/default/files/Focus%20area%20QEP%20phase%202%20FINAL.PDF

During the course of 2017 the CHE will be developing the approach for the third quality assurance cycle in which, as in the first cycle, the focus will be on individual institutional quality arrangements through a process of Institutional Quality Reviews.

Further information on the matters discussed in this article can be obtained by writing to: Grayson.D@che.ac.za

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Qualification standards development: policy and process

Ms Olivia Mokgatle

Policy mandate

In terms of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Act, 67 of 2008, the Council on Higher Education (CHE) is the Quality Council (QC) responsible for quality assurance of higher education qualifications. Part of the implementation of the Higher Education Qualifications Sub-Framework (HEQSF) is the development of qualification standards. Standards development is aligned with the nested approach incorporated in the HEQSF. In this approach, the outer layer providing the context for qualification standards are the NQF level descriptors developed by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) in consultation with the relevant QCs.

The development of qualification standards for higher education therefore needs to take the NQF level descriptors, as the outer layer in the nested approach, into account. A secondary layer for the context in which qualification standards are developed is the HEQSF. This framework specifies the types of qualification that may be awarded and, in some cases, the allowable variants of the qualification type. An example of variants is the distinction, in the Bachelor’s degree type, between the ‘general’ and ‘professionally-oriented’.

The HEQSF also specifies the purpose and characteristics of each qualification type. However, as indicated in the Framework for Qualification Standards in Higher Education (FQSHE)(CHE, 2013), neither NQF level descriptors nor the HEQSF is intended to address, or make explicit, the relationship between generic qualification-type purpose and the specific characteristics of that qualification type in a particular field of study. One of the main tasks of standards development is to reconcile the broad, generic description of a qualification type and the particular characteristics of qualifications awarded in diverse fields of study and disciplines, as defined by various descriptors and qualifiers.

The FQSHE describes a qualification standard as a generic statement of the learning domains, the level of achievement and the graduate attributes that characterise, and are required for the award of the qualification. They set out expectations about standards of qualifications in a range of fields of study, describing what gives a discipline its distinctiveness. Qualification standards provide both compliance benchmarks and developmental indicators for qualification types as awarded in particular fields of study or disciplines.

Their role is to provide benchmarks, agreed on by academic experts, to inform and guide the design, approval and, where required, the improvement of programmes leading to the award of qualifications … Standards development is a necessary aspect of implementation of the HEQSF. One of its aims is to enhance public perceptions of consistency between similar qualifications offered by different institutions and in different fields of study. The standard states what a programme leading to the qualification type intends to achieve and how we can establish that it has been achieved. This would assure a nationally agreed and internationally comparable fitness for purpose. Standards aim to provide institutions with benchmarks for qualifications that may be used for internal quality assurance as well as external comparison.

(FQSHE, p. 6, #1.2)

Development Process

The CHE Standards development process is underpinned by the fundamental principles of inclusivity, transparency of process and consensus. The development process therefore, aims to capture the breadth and diversity of stakeholders affected the CHE mandate. The CHE uses a combination of smaller reference working groups, and wider stakeholder consultations throughout the development process to give effect to these fundamental principles.

The development of qualification standards is guided by the principles, protocols and methodology that are outlined in the FQSHE. The focus of a standards statement is the relationship between the purpose of the qualification, the attributes of a graduate that manifest the purpose, and the contexts and conditions for assessment of those attributes. A standard establishes a threshold. However, on the grounds that a standard also plays a developmental role, the statement may include, as appropriate, elaboration of terms specific to the statement, guidelines for achievement of the graduate attributes, and recommendations for above-threshold practice.

The initial drafting of a standards statement is the work of a small group of academic experts and/or processionals in the field of study, convened by the CHE. Members of the Standards Development Working Group participate in their individual capacity, not as representatives of any institutions or organisations. The Group normally meets on a number of occasions during the development process to produce a draft working document for wider consultation. This draft document becomes the basis for continual consultation at key stages of the development process, during this period, the standard statement under goes a number of iterations and revisions.  This is to ensure that the draft standard statement is cognisant of both academic and professional interests. Once it has been endorsed, in revised form, by the Group, it is sent out for public comment.

The public comment stage ensures that the broader community has an opportunity to review the content of a standard prior to its approval. Draft standards are made available on the CHE website for public comment for a period of 30 days. All comments from the public are considered in detail by the relevant standards development reference group, if necessary, further drafting is undertaken to accommodate comments. Contributions from anyone with an interest in the quality of higher education provision in South Africa are welcome, including: academic and support staff involved in the design, delivery and review of academic programmes; professional, statutory and regulatory bodies; employers; students and the general public.

This long iterative process takes 18-24 months to complete. Once the standard has been approved by the CHE Council, it is sent to SAQA for registration and publication. The CHE has to date completed 5 qualification standards, and 4 more are at various stages of development.

Further information on the matters discussed in this article can be obtained by writing to: Mokgatle.O@che.ac.za

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National review of the quality of doctoral programmes offered by South African universities

Dr Siyanda Makaula

The proposal for the national review of doctoral studies arose from several meetings between the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and the National Research Foundation (NRF). In fulfilling its mandate of human capital development, the NRF has several funding instruments that support the doctoral studies.  However, in making these investments, the NRF needs to be assured that doctoral qualifications offered by South African public universities meet appropriate national quality standards.  As the statutory body responsible for the quality assurance of higher education, the CHE will therefore undertake a national review of doctoral studies in South Africa. Both, the NRF and CHE suggested that, while there was a need to increase the number of doctoral candidates and graduates nationally, the emphasis ought to be placed primarily on quality assurance at this level of post-graduate study.

The quality of the doctoral qualification is of critical importance, not only to the NRF and the CHE, but also to the public, the awarding institutions and their students. It is critical for the international comparability, competitiveness and mobility; the preparation of future researchers and their likely research output; and the development of national capacity to respond, through research, appropriately and innovatively, to the various demands of globalisation, localisation and transformation.

A national benchmark for the doctoral qualification would be used by higher education institutions to inform and guide their delivery and quality assurance of their respective doctoral programmes, and by students and the public alike as a threshold against which each programme can be evaluated. The CHE undertook to conduct a preliminary exploration of the feasibility and possible purpose, scope, procedure and intended outcomes of such a review.

The CHE launched the National Reviews of Doctoral Studies with a Stakeholder Consultative Forum that was held at the NRF Corporate Offices on 2nd of February 2017. In attendance were delegates from universities and other interested parties.  The purpose, scope, intended outcomes and provisional timeline of the project were outlined. Dr Ahmed Bawa, the CEO of Universities South Africa (USAf) and facilitator of the forum, noted that the DHET, Universities, DST & NRF and other funding agencies were making huge investments into doctoral research education.  He further noted that production of doctoral graduates is an important element in the shift towards knowledge economies and that in order to address nation building challenges and inequalities of the past, societies need intellectuals hence doctoral education may be directly linked to the general progress of a nation. He pointed out that the national review would help address the question of the extent to which doctoral education was worth the huge investments that the NRF and others are making.

Important issues were raised by other speakers at the forum who included Prof Narend Baijnath, CEO of the CHE; Dr Molapo Qobela, CEO of the NRF; Ms Olivia Mokgatle, Director of National standards and Review at the CHE; and Prof Susan van Schalkwyk, Director at the Centre for Health Professions Education, University of Stellenbosch. The latter reflected on the nature of the relationship between supervisor(s) and student(s) during doctoral supervision; the role of doctoral examination in relation to issues of quality assurance and the tendency to focus largely on outputs and publications on during doctoral education as opposed to focussing conceptual learning.  She noted that the dominant discourse in higher education circles is balancing transformation objectives and quality assurance and that in some instances massification of doctorates (pile up of doctoral students) impacts negatively on the quality of supervision.

The review will include all doctoral programmes (doctorates in the different fields and disciplines of study) and it will also take into account the two variants of the doctorate qualification, the general and professional doctorates. While the main focus will be doctoral programmes offered exclusively by South African universities, it will consider joint programmes offered by South African universities in conjunction with foreign institutions.

Further information on the matters discussed in this article can be obtained by writing to: Makaula.S@che.ac.za

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A study tour to Germany offers good take-home lessons

Prof Narend Baijnath

The CEO was part of a delegation from southern Africa that undertook a study tour to Germany from the 13th to 19th of November 2016. The study tour was organised Embassy of Germany in South Africa and funded by the German Foreign Office. Its objective was to provide the visiting delegation an opportunity to explore the German higher education and student funding system. Others who were part of the delegation included a member of the Heher Commission, Professor Adam Habib from Universities South Africa (USAf), the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training, Ms Connie September; as well as senior officials from Malawi, Uganda and Kenya.

The programme for the study tour provided a range of insightful and informative presentations by a number of key institutions which included: FIBS (Forschungsinstitut für Bildungs- und Soziolokonomie); the European School of Management and Technology; the Federal Ministry of Education and Research; the German Research Association and the German Rectors’ Conference. Each meeting with officials from the aforementioned institutions provided the delegation with an in-depth understanding of the German higher education system, with a special focus on the way in which the university system is structured and financed, and the underlining principles and values that have shaped and sustained higher education in Germany.

The study tour afforded participants the opportunity to not only engage with high level officials from the German government and higher education sector, but also distil valuable lessons from the operations and policies of Germany’s tertiary education system. Some of the key conclusions that were drawn from the German experience were: firstly, a country’s context, history, culture, politics and values are all interwoven and are significant factors to be considered when creating a sustainable higher education and funding system; secondly, it is key for all forms of education and qualifications to be valued and respected regardless of whether they are obtained from prestigious universities or from technical and vocational colleges (it is clearly possible for a technological qualification to be as or more prestigious than a general academic one); thirdly, the streaming of funding in different categories on a bidding basis allows the system to achieve diverse objectives with dedicated and predictable funding on the medium to long term;  and lastly, the importance and benefit of having a citizenry and government that understand, advocate, develop policy and make funding decisions on the premise that  higher education is a public good.

Given the current student funding crisis within South Africa’s higher education sector, the study tour was a valuable and worthwhile experience. The learning from the study tour has been fed into the work of the CHE Task Team on a Regulatory Framework for University Fee Structures. The tour generally provided a lot of food for thought regarding perspectives on improving funding and growth of the post-school education and training (PSET) sector. 

The CEO would like to express his appreciation to the German Foreign Office for funding the trip; and to the Embassy of Germany in South Africa for inviting him to be part of the delegation and facilitating his participation.

Further information on the matters discussed in this article can be obtained by writing to: Baijnath.N@che.ac.za

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The PSET system shall articulate: 'no more silos and no more dead ends'

Dr Amani Saidi

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) published the long-awaited policy on articulation for the post-school education and training (PSET) system in the Government Gazette No. 40545 of 13 January 2017.  The policy makes a clarion call to all institutions, bodies and individuals that are part of the PSET system, to ensure that linkages between the different parts of the system are strengthened and barriers are eliminated so that there should be no silos and no dead ends. If a student completes courses at one institution and has acquired the relevant knowledge and skills at the necessary levels, these ought to be recognised by other institutions as well.

The NQFpedia defines articulation as the ‘process of forming possibilities of connection between qualifications and/or part-qualifications to allow for the vertical, lateral and diagonal movement of learners through the formal education and training system and its linkages with the world of work’.

The National Qualifications Framework Act 67 of 2008 describes the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) as ‘a comprehensive system ……… for the classification, registration, publication and articulation of quality-assured national qualifications.’ It is therefore clear that one of the underlying intentions of the NQF is to enable articulation which, together with the recognition of prior learning (RPL) and credit accumulation and transfer (CAT), provide mechanisms for the realisation of the second objective of the NQF, namely:  to facilitate access to, and mobility and progression within education, training and career paths.

The process that led to the release of the articulation policy for the PSET system in January 2017 was an arduous one, because of the need to ensure that the policy is premised on sound conceptual thinking, and that at the same time it is a product of extensive consultation. It all began in 2012 with the Minister requesting the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) to advise him on articulation policy, and subsequently the appointment of the Ministerial Committee on Articulation Policy in 2013. It is evident that the final policy has made good use of the ideas from the report of the Ministerial Committee, as well as those from the advice that SAQA submitted to the Minister.

Nine principles anchor the policy. The first one is that articulation is both systematic and specific, where the former is based on legislation, national policies and similar instruments; while the latter is based on formal and informal agreements between and among institutions. The other principles are that articulation promotes meeting the needs of the economy; addresses lifelong learning; ensures redress, equity and inclusiveness; ensures portability of programmes; ensures accessibility; and promotes value of learning outcomes achieved through different routes. The remaining two principles state that articulation ought to be done by design; and that it should include credible and fair procedures and practices to validate learning.

The policy assigns responsibilities to different role players in the PSET landscape to ensure that articulation is facilitated and barriers to it are overcome. To Quality Councils (QCs) such the CHE, the first responsibility is to use the national policy to frame policies that provide more details and address specific and/or unique issues pertaining to their respective qualifications sub-frameworks. This means that the CHE, for instance, has to come up with an articulation policy for the higher education sector. The QCs are also expected to assist institutions to develop and implement institutional articulation policies; and see to it that these are aligned to the other policies within the NQF policy suite. Other responsibilities assigned to the QCs include to review all current qualifications on their respective sub-frameworks to ensure that they contain clear articulation routes; ensure that all new qualifications and part-qualifications submitted to SAQA for registration contain clear articulation routes and statements elaborating articulation in clear and practical ways; and identify and eliminate dead-ends for learners as they occur.

In what might be considered as good anticipation of what the policy was going to expect of the QCs, the CHE already included the development of an articulation policy for the higher education sector as one of its projects in the annual performance plan (APP) for the 2017/18 financial year.  According to the APP the project should start in April 2017, but now it seems more likely that the starting date might be delayed because of budgetary constraints. The policy development process normally starts with a ‘scoping workshop’, and the holding of such a workshop requires funds.

Further information on the matters discussed in this article can be obtained by writing to: Saidi.A@che.ac.za

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Developing a national regulatory framework for increasing output of professional and technical graduates

Dr Engela van Staden

Increasing the output of qualified graduates in the professions and technical occupations to meet the needs of society and the economy is a key national priority. The Department of Higher Education (DHET) and Training, in collaboration with the Council on Higher Education (CHE), and funded by the Dialogue Facility of the European Union, has initiated a process to develop and to enhance interaction, coordination and collaboration between relevant stakeholders to produce more quality professional graduates. Maximising the complementarity of these roles for the PSET system requires the building and maintenance of relationships based on collaboration, cooperation, communication, collaborative planning and funding, and the recognition of the importance of each role player’s contribution to improving and enhancing the quality of higher and further education. It is against this background that a process has been initiated to conceptualise and develop a national regulatory framework through which the interaction, coordination and collaboration between professional bodies, the CHE/QCTO, industry, SETAs, provincial and national government departments, and higher/further education institutions can be enhanced.

The project was launched in November 2015 and the Steering Committee – represented by DHET, the CHE, the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO), Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges, Professional Councils (PCs), provincial and national departments of government, Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) and industry -   met for the first time on 20 January 2017 at the CHE. The role of the steering committee (SC) is to guide and support the development of a credible, robust and effective framework for interaction, coordination and collaboration between stakeholders, with the aim of increasing the output of qualified graduates in the professions and technical occupations through planning, funding and quality parameters.

The specific objective of the project is the conceptualisation and development of a draft national regulatory framework through which the interaction, coordination and collaboration between professional bodies, the CHE/QCTO, industry, SETAs, provincial and national government departments, and higher / further education institutions can be enhanced; and which could be used to galvanise multiple stakeholders to give ongoing attention to identified imperatives for action. At the first SC meeting, the appointed researcher presented a background study on the socio-economic and political landscape of higher/ further education within both a South African and international context and the complexity of the associated roles and responsibilities of government, higher education institutions, colleges, QCs, industry, SETAs and professional councils in addressing skills shortages and teaching development goals.

It is envisaged that the final proposed national framework will be supported through a strategic partnership between DHET, the CHE and experts from organisations from the EU. The essential components of such a partnership will be to engage in dialogue leading to common objectives; seamless decision-making, coherent regulatory prescripts, and decisive action on matters of intersecting responsibility and concern.

The SC will assist the DHET and the CHE to conceptualise a series of stakeholder engagements and workshops. An international colloquium is scheduled to take place in May 2017 in Johannesburg. 

Further information on the matters discussed in this article can be obtained by writing to: vanstaden.e@dhet.gov.za

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Aros, a private higher education institution, makes strides to improve assessment

Ms Jeanette du Plessis

The Management of Aros, has decided that it is time to relook, renew and improve the institution’s assessment and moderation practices in order to empower students to develop and become best teachers. All lecturers in the institution attended a week-long moderators’ course. Not only did the lecturers gain personal growth and knowledge, but a brand new moderation plan also came to light! The institution is making the moderation process continuous where the assessor and moderator support each other constantly, believing that it takes two to tango. This is indeed a wonderful improvement in the institution’s current practices.

Can assessment be made even easier? The institution believes so! Through the development of interactive online study guides, Aros students can make use of multimedia, search functions and other resources, make electronic notes and give direct feedback and answers to the lectures. This instant two-way channel has helped to improve continuous assessment practices, which contribute to improving the quality of teaching and learning.

Further information on the matters discussed in this article can be obtained by writing to: jeanetteduplessis@aros.co.za

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Do not paint all public entities with the same brush

Mr Thulaganyo Mothusi

At a time when some public entities are in the public eye for all the wrong reasons, it is tempting to generalise and view all public agencies as being characterised by the alleged mismanagement of financial resources, dodgy deals and collapse of governance. It is therefore important to assure internal and external stakeholders that things are different at the CHE. We can safely say, without any fear of contradiction, that, in line with the requirements of the Public Financial Management Act (PFMA) 1 of 1999, as amended, the CHE strives to maintain an effective, efficient and transparent systems of financial and risk management and internal control; a system of internal audit under the control and direction of a Risk and Audit Committee (ARC); an supply chain management system which is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective; and a system for properly evaluating major capital projects prior to final decisions being taken on such projects. 

The Finance and Supply Chain Management function within the CHE provides support to all programmes to enable them achieve the strategic objectives by ensuring adherence to and compliance with the requirements of the PFMA, relevant Treasury regulations and other relevant laws. During the last six months we managed to review and develop 12 Finance and Supply Chain Management policies, frameworks, procedures and guidelines for implementation. These are: Acceptance levels of Materiality & Significance; Audit and Risk Committee Charter; Budget Bid Guidelines and Procedures; Delegation of authority; Financial Misconduct Policy; Materiality and significance framework; Procedures for reassessment of useful life’s and residual values; Supply chain management policy; Supply chain management procedures; Terms of reference for BAC; Disposal & write off policy; and Procedures to dispose of fixed assets. All eligible suppliers and third parties have been paid, on average, within 30 days from the date of receiving invoices and/or relevant supporting documentation.

In August 2016, our dutiful colleague, Ms Pulane Kakumbi resigned. Fortunately, we managed to complete the recruitment process speedily, and Mr Future Gumede joined us as Ms Kakumbi’s replacement.  However, no sooner had Mr Gumede started than we got informed by the SCM Manager, Ms Thobeka Moraka that she would be terminating her service with CHE. Ms Moraka has since left the CHE at the end of February 2017 and the process of finding her replacement is already underway.

The Finance and SCM team wants to reclaim its clean audit trophy in the audit year 2016/2017. Therefore it is currently conducting asset verification because assets are material items that contribute to determining the outcome of the audit report.  Also, a year-end financial statement close process has been developed as a checklist for preparing accurate financial statements that are compliant to the applicable prescripts.  Halala Clean Audit report for the year 2016/2017 Halala!  Please bring back what belongs to us: our trophy!

Further information on the matters discussed in this article can be obtained by writing to: cfo@che.ac.za

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Just Landed at the CHE

Ms Vuyokazi Matsam

The CHE is pleased to announce the appointment Mr Future Gumede as a Supply Chain Officer in the Corporate Services directorate

He started during the first quarter of 2017 calendar year.

The entire CHE extends heartfelt welcome to him and wishes him a fulfilling career at the CHE.

More information can be obtained from: Matsam.V@che.ac.za

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