Theme: “Engaging with the national QAF: preparing & planning for a new phase in quality assurance”
RATIONALE FOR THE THEME:
About the National QAF
In his foreword of the QAF document, the former Chairperson of the Council on Higher Education (CHE), Prof Themba Mosia, states that, as with all other sectors, the higher education sector experienced a period of uncertainty because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Learning and teaching were severely affected, with many institutions having to resort to emergency remote teaching. The challenges that emerged focused the spotlight on the quality of provisioning and highlighted the importance of institutional quality assurance and capacity development.
To date, accreditation/reaccreditation, institutional audits, and reviews have been the main mechanisms through which the CHE has evaluated the South African higher education sector. On occasion, these mechanisms have been misconstrued as duplicative, bordering on ‘over quality assurance’ of the HE sector. HEIs might have inadvertently responded with compliance, and little or no authentic reflection on their quality assurance functions and activities.
The CHE has developed a framework that aims to address these challenges. It is aimed at an integrated view of the Internal Quality Assurance (IQA) performance, as the basis for a differentiated focus on engagements with institutions. 1Such engagement could relate to an institution’s capacity development initiatives and lines of inquiry for conducting its functions of institutional reviews, qualification accreditation, and national reviews. For many years the sector has viewed these as separate functions and integration of such activities at an institutional level is welcomed.
Further, related standards are currently being developed by the sector in collaboration with the CHE. These standards will create a frame for HEIs to reflect more critically on their practices. The six Higher Education Practice Standards (HEPS) currently under development are:
- Institutional Agency and Identity;
- Programme Process;
- Learning, Teaching, and Assessment;
- Learning Environments;
- Transitions to Higher Education;
- the Data value Chain.
While these themes are familiar to all in the sector, there is an opportunity to implement them in an integrated manner through reflective practice. Institutions should therefore have the capacity to translate the information generated by both IQA and EQA mechanisms into institutional knowledge for institutional planning, academic leadership, and innovation.
To this end, the Quality Forum will be used as an opportunity for HEIs to discuss the extent of planning to date, to share thoughts on institutional alignment of policies and practice with the national QAF, and to exchange ideas on institutional implementation thereof. The Forum will also be used as an opportunity for HEIs to identify areas of the national QAF that require clarity and to discuss needs and barriers to implementation.
The Quality Forum will focus on:
- Engagement on how well the QAF and its implementation is understood by HEIs (i.e., how do institutions understand what is expected, how it will link back to institutional practices and highlight the areas for clarity).
- Gauging institutional readiness, amongst peers (i.e., institutions sharing different approaches to implementation of or alignment with the QAF).
- Discussing where the greatest resource needs lie within institutions for effective implementation of the QAF and how to address such needs.
- Highlighting the benefits of and current barriers to implementation of the QAF in HEIs.