The critical role played by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) in the country’s development was once again emphasised last week, when the quality assurance body awarded certificates of registration to six private higher education institutions in Windhoek.
The NCHE also awarded certificates for a range of University of Namibia (UNAM) and Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) courses.
The private institutions that received certificates of registration include African Leadership Institute, Lingua Consultancy Services, Monotronic Success College, St. Charles Lwanga Major Seminary, Philippi Trust Namibia and the Namibia Evangelical Theological Seminary.
The NCHE was established by an Act of Parliament in 2003, to promote a coordinated higher education system, enhance student access to higher education and ensure quality higher education.
In his opening remarks at last week’s auspicious event, Higher Education, Training and Innovation Permanent Secretary Dr Alfred Adriaan van Kent said institutions of higher education are responsible for providing the requisite human capital for Namibia, in line with the National Human Resources Plan.
“What is critical is that we make sure that we develop systems that will ensure that the main areas of training will be on the skills and expertise required by the labour market,” Dr Van Kent said.
“Aligning human resources development to labour market demands will ensure that there is a reduction in the number of youth that are not accommodated by the labour market.
“We should further note that there is a need to develop skills that will facilitate transforming our economy into an economy that is driven by the application of knowledge and skills, for the benefit of our society.
“This could be through analysing our natural endowments and identifying the potential of product and service development, as well as where we can add value in terms of these materials.”
Dr Van Kent said it was mandatory for higher education service providers to register with the NCHE before starting their operations to ensure quality programmes.
“Through this registration process, the National Council for Higher Education will ensure that the standard of education is not inferior to that of programmes offered by existing public and private higher education institutions.
“In addition, the ministry wants to ensure that an institution that wishes to deliver higher education programmes has the capacity to deliver the intended programmes, in terms of facilities, teachers and financial resources.
“The main objective of this action or process is to protect the integrity of our higher education system and the interest of the public and prospective students.
“I wish to appeal to all other private providers of higher education to register with the NCHE. The government believes that the quest for improving the quality of higher education is not the responsibility of government alone, but it should be a social contract with all stakeholders.
Registered and accredited
“I also wish to appeal to parents and the public at large to contact the Namibia Qualifications Authority and the National Council for Higher Education, to establish whether an institution is registered or accredited, before enrolling any child at such a private higher education institution,” Dr Van Kent added.
Harambee Prosperity Plan in perspective
In her keynote address, Higher Education, Training and Innovation Minister Dr Itah Kandjii-Murangi said the handing over of the registration certificates to the six private higher education institutions and the programme accreditation to NUST and UNAM, are evidence that local higher education institutions have adopted quality assurance systems to ensure the achievement of quality outputs.
“The realisation of the objectives of Vision 2030, the National Development Plans and the Harambee Prosperity Plan hinges on robust and relevant higher education that can provide high-level and quality human capital, which is required to manage and grow the economy.
“This can only be achieved if higher education provision is aligned with the country’s economic and social development needs. There is no doubt that globally, countries that have witnessed greater economic growth and developmental returns are those that have well-managed and quality higher education provision,” Dr Kandjii-Murangi said.
She added that higher education therefore plays a significant role in any country’s capacity building, for the realisation of development goals.
“Quality assurance in higher education has become not only an institutional issue, but also a global one. Higher education institutions, both public, as well as private, throughout the world today are paying special attention to designing and implementing new quality assurance mechanisms and systems, to ensure that students receive high quality and relevant education and that degrees are widely recognised.
“Such recognition is seen to be essential, not only by national governments and employers, but also by other universities and employers internationally,” the minister said.
Dr Kandjii-Murangi added that quality assurance systems aim to provide the appropriate evidence, to substantiate claims made about quality, to enable key stakeholders – namely students, parents, industry and the government of the day – to have confidence in the higher education system.
Producing critical thinkers
“Private higher education institutions have to meet certain quality assurance standards, in order to be recognised as quality private education providers of choice. Academic programmes have to meet certain standards, in order to produce critical thinkers who will live and work and create work in years to come.”
She said external quality assurance systems would ensure that the standard of education provided by the private higher education institutions is not inferior to the standard of higher education provided by public higher education institutions, and vice versa.
“And I can confidently say that I have observed that the higher education institutions in our country value these systems and there is a feeling of ownership, and higher education institutions adhere to these quality assurance systems and know that they are the custodians of quality.
“They understand that the primary responsibility to uphold the quality of their programmes is within themselves,” Kandjii-Murangi said.
The minister, however, expressed her concern over the challenges faced by vocational education and training.
“This has led to the widening gap between the supply and demand for skilled manpower across various industries.
“This shortage of skills has translated directly into the unemployment of graduates, who successfully complete their studies, and thereafter are forced to be retrained, in order to become marketable and employable,” Dr Kandjii-Murangi said.
She said this calls for higher education institutions to “regularly research, consult and interrogate various industries, before developing new academic programmes, in order to remain relevant”.
“Vocational education and training should be considered to be an important aspect of education and development, to make students opt for a job or to create jobs for themselves.
“In our country, more still needs to be done to show the masses of our country – young and old – the importance of vocational education and training in communities, regions and the nation at large.
“His Excellency, President Hage Geingob, has through the short-term targeted Harambee Prosperity Plan, with its nine Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) targets, is calling for TVET stakeholders to accelerate the sector’s transformation and expansion.
“I therefore am requesting the higher education institutions to educate and introduce students to vocational education and training programmes that are in demand in the market,” Dr Kandjii-Murangi said.
She congratulated the newly certified private higher education institutions, while wishing them well in their future endeavours.
“May your future endeavours be productive and fruitful, as you continue to expand the skills and knowledge horizons of your students. Allow me to further wish UNAM and NUST well in what the two institutions have achieved today. I trust that more academic programmes would be accredited.
“I understand that some programmes at both universities were accredited with conditions, and that improvement plans have been agreed upon to work on the recommendations over a certain period of time.
“My appeal to both institutions is to take those recommendations seriously and finish the outstanding work within record time and provide unquestionable quality programmes.”
Quality academic programmes
NCHE Chairman Dr Kalumbi Shangula thanked the minister for giving the audience “an excellent coverage of quality assurance in the higher education sector”.
“This serves as an encouragement to all higher education institutions to develop and maintain excellent internal quality assurance policies, procedures and mechanisms, in order to ensure the quality of their academic programmes.
“It is also an encouragement to all external quality assurance agencies or bodies to work together, in order to harmonise their criteria, to make it easier for the higher education institutions to comply with them.
“We all strive for a common goal, namely quality programmes, quality outputs and an overall quality education system in Namibia.
“Furthermore, we are grateful to the two public higher education institutions, for demonstrating their positive support and cooperation during the accreditation process. This shows that they have taken full responsibility for ensuring the quality of their academic programmes,” Dr Shangula said.
He also implored the private higher institutions that were registered to maintain the standards set.
“Quality insurance is a continuous process. Keep moving on improving your systems, your processes and procedures,” Dr Shangula said
NCHE vision and mission
Its vision is to be a leader in coordinating higher education, in pursuit of a knowledge-based society, while its mission is to ensure a coordinated and excellent higher education system, through equitable access and quality service delivery.
The core values of the NCHE are integrity, professionalism, accountability, justice, commitment and teamwork. The focus in the accreditation of new programmes is on evaluation of their capacity or potential to meet the NCHE’s quality requirements within a specified period of time.
Consequently, the evaluation focuses on the quality of the policies, strategies, procedures, curriculum, etc. that have been developed for the new programme. In the case of existing programmes, the focus is more on evaluation of implementation aspects and the achieved learning outcomes.
The below programmes were accredited at UNAM and NUST
In terms of UNAM, the Bachelor of Pharmacy (Hons) Level 8, the Bachelor of Economics (Hons) Level 8, the Bachelor of Science in Chemistry (Hons) Level 8 and the Bachelor of Science in Metallurgical Engineering (Hons) Level 8.
In terms of NUST, the Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics and Statistics Level 7, the Bachelor of Science in Applied Statistics Level 8, the Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics Level 8, the Bachelor of Biochemical Sciences Level 8, the Bachelor Journalism and Communication Technology Level 7, the Bachelor of Journalism and Communication Level 8, the Bachelor of Environmental Health Sciences Level 8 and the Bachelor of Office Management and Technology Level 7.
Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation Dr Itah Kandjii-Murangi handing over one of the certificates of programmes accredited at NUST to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Research Dr Andreas Niikondo.
Professor Osmund Mwandemele, Pro-Vice Chancellor Academic Affairs, receiving one of certificates for the UNAM programmes accredited.
Dr Kalumbi Shangula, NCHE Chairman and Assistant Pro Vice-Chancellor at the Faculty of Health Sciences at UNAM giving a vote of thanks.