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Selected case studies of African countries with higher education quality assurance agencies



December 2008

Higher education institutions have over the generations played

pivotal roles in the development of nations. In the twenty first

century, higher education has assumed even greater importance as

it generates knowledge the key driver of global economy and

development. Many countries have recognized the critical

importance of higher education and therefore invest great attention


and resources in it. One way to guarantee that higher education is sensitive to national situations and offers value-for-money education is to constantly and efficiently assure high standards in the provisions of the institutions that deliver higher education. To formally achieve this, a number of institutions have set up internal systems that ensure comprehensive training and best practices. Countries have set up national quality assurance agencies to coordinate the proper development of such institutions, to ensure high standards in the provision of higher education so that programmes are offered in conducive environments, using the best human and physical resources.

Over time, these issues have become central to higher education, and quality assurance has assumed prominence nationally and globally, in higher education. Different quality assurance practices have attracted attention all over the world. As students and staff move from one country and continent to another, the issues of transferability of grades and comparability of certificates have become major poseurs on the comparability of provisions and standards. Consequently, many countries have set up quality assurance agencies to ensure that quality is a key consideration in the offerings of higher education institutions. Out of fifty-three African countries, only seventeen have set up national quality assurance agencies, to date, and many depend on different levels of internal institutional quality assurance practices. As there is great emphasis in the 21 st century on qualitative higher education,


African countries should not be indifferent to the issues of quality and quality assurance.

Taking account of the fundamental and vital nature of quality assurance, it is pertinent that countries without national quality assurance agencies should have the opportunity to learn from others with such agencies. This publication documents the quality assurance model in three African countries - Nigeria, Ghana, and Tanzania. These countries have national quality assurance agencies with statutory responsibilities to coordinate the delivery of quality provisions in the higher education institutions in each of the countries. A description of these national models will be preceded by a review and definition of concepts of quality, types of quality assurance practices, the quality culture in African universities, harmonization of higher education in Africa, and quality assurance in cross-border education.

2.0 Concepts of Quality and Quality Assurance

Quality, as a concept, has been defined differently by different stakeholders. This is because it is multi-dimensional and mean different thing to different stakeholders. Also, different countries may tend to define these terms differently. This document adopts the following definitions of quality, quality assurance, accreditation, and licensing from Materu (2007):


“Quality technically refers to ―fitness for purpose‖. It encapsulates the concept of meeting commonly agreed precepts or standards. Such standards may be defined by law, an institution, a coordinating body or a professional society. In the diverse arena of higher education, fitness for purpose varies tremendously by field and programme. A broad range of factors affect quality in tertiary institutions including their vision and goals, the talent and expertise of the teaching staff, admission and assessment standards, the teaching and learning environment, the employability of its graduates (relevance to the labor market), the quality of the library and laboratories, management effectiveness, governance and leadership.

“Quality assurance is a planned and systematic review process of an institution or programme to determine whether or not acceptable standards of education, scholarship, and infrastructure are being met, maintained and enhanced. A tertiary institution is only as good as the quality of its teaching staffthey are the heart of the institution that produces its graduates, its research products, and its service to the institution, community, and nation.

Accreditation is a process of self-study and external quality review used in higher education to scrutinize an institution and/or its programmes for quality standards and need for quality improvement. The process is designed to determine whether or not


an institution has met or exceeded the published standards (set by an external body such as a government, national quality assurance agency, or a professional association) for accreditation, and whether it is achieving its mission and stated purpose. The process usually includes a self-evaluation, peer review and a site visit. Success results in the accreditation of a programme or an institution.

Audit is a process of review of an institution or programme to determine if its curriculum, staff, and infrastructure meet its stated aims and objectives. It is an evaluation of an institution or its programmes in relation to its own mission, goals, and stated standards. The assessors are looking primarily at the success of the institution in achieving its own goals. An audit focuses on accountability of institutions and programmes and usually involves a self-study, peer review and a site visit. Such an evaluation can be self-managed or conducted by external body. The key differences between an audit and accreditation is that that the latter focuses on standards external to the institution, usually national, and an assessment of the institution in terms of those standards. Audits focus on an institution‘s own standards and goals and its success in attaining them.

Licensing is a process for granting a new institution or programme permission to launch its activities. It is sometimes a phased process whereby an institution goes through various stages before been granted a full license. In Tanzania, for example, applications


to set up new institutions go through four licensing stages, each with specific requirements: letter of interim authority; certificate of provisional registration; certificate of full registration; and finally, certificate of accreditation‖.

2.1 Types of Quality Assurance

Quality is a multi-dimensional concept, with no commonly accepted definition but generally measuring the level of realization of set standards or targets. Quality has become an essential intrinsic factor in institutional processes, including those of higher education. The related concept of quality assurance has also become globally important in higher education discussions. More attention is being paid today to the issue of quality assurance in higher education than ever before. This is not surprising as stakeholders in higher education are now aware of the fundamental and global importance of quality and quality assurance in higher education. Stakeholders who are interested in quality assurance include

a) the students, who are the primary recipients of higher education and who the quality of training they get defines their potential performance in later life;

b) parents, who often pay for the studies of their wards and consequently demand vale-for-money education for them;



governments that demand accountability from their higher education institutions,

d) the employer who demands well trained graduates with competences to effectively operate in the 21st century,

e) the institutions themselves, cognizant of the keen competitiveness in the global higher educational system, and

f) the society that benefits or suffers the effect of good or poor quality education. Therefore, quality issues have taken the centre stage in global higher education.

Quality assurance can be either an external or internal process. External quality assurance refers to the review by an external agency (e.g. a national quality assurance agency) or body (e.g. a professional body), which evaluates the operations of a university (institutional) or of its programmes to ascertain the level of compliance with set minimum standards. External quality assurance is mainly carried out through the instrumentality of accreditation and involves, as indicated earlier, a self-study, peer review and a reporting system.

Internal quality assurance, on the other hand, refers to the internal policies and mechanisms of a university or programme for ensuring that it is fulfilling its purposes as well as the standards that apply to higher education in general or to the profession or discipline, in particular (IIEP, 2006).


Internal quality assurance is as old as higher education itself. Indeed, most universities from inception design and implement various internal activities to ensure that certain agreed standards of performance are being met. One of such is the external examination system. The system involves the assessment of student examinations for compliance with curriculum content and general professional or global standards. In very well established institutions, the internal examiner may be from another department in the university but in most cases is appointed from another university. The external examiner must be a senior academic staff, usually of the rank of professor and is appointed by academic Senate of the university on the recommendation of the Vice-Chancellor following advice from the Head of the affected Department and the relevant Dean of Faculty. Most institutions in Nigeria as well as in Sub-Sahara Africa with United Kingdom links at initial stages carry out external examinations. However, this system is facing some challenges. In many African universities, the student population in most programmes has increased tremendously, so that an external examiner is unable to cope with assessing all students‘ scripts and projects. Secondly, some universities are unable to fund the external examination system as the numbers of academic programmes and the required external examiners have increased significantly. There is also the self-assessment system in which the institution carries out an internal appraisal of its programmes to ascertain the level of achievement of its internally set objectives and standards. This system is distinct from the required pre-accreditation self-


assessment, which is externally mandated. Self assessment can be conducted at two levels, the programme and institutional levels, and is advisory to the administration of the level of permeation of quality in the operations and activities of the institution.

There is the practice, further in the process, in which a professor or a senior academic colleague will sit in classes to listen to a young lecturer and subsequently advise the young lecturer on style and demeanor in the classroom. This may also involve the professor designing, conducting and reporting research with a young academic with the objective of improving the capacity of the young academic to conduct and report research. This practice is referred to as mentoring. Mentoring may be at the individual or institutional level. At the individual level, the young academic staff or a newly appointed vice-chancellor may opt to be mentored by a senior academic or vice-chancellor, respectively who serves as a role model to the mentored. At the institutional level, a new university may elect to be mentored by an older and more experienced university in the development and operation of its structures. This is highly recommended for all new universities, to ensure they develop the form and essence of university culture and practice.

Student-lecturer assessment is another form of internal quality assurance in which students assess their course lecturers. While this is not often popular among lecturers, it has been used in many institutions to give the students a say in the quality of


curriculum delivery and to limit truancy and possible excesses of lecturers.

The quality of the students in a programme is an important basic determinant of programme or institutional quality. Consequently, universities are keen to admit the best quality of students. In most countries, student admission is conducted by individual universities using their internal systems. In Nigeria, as in some other countries, a Joint Admission and Matriculation Board conducts a general qualifying examination annually for all students wishing to be admitted into Nigerian universities in the year. Using the scores of the students, individual universities select and further conduct screening exercises to finally determine the students who are eventually admitted as freshmen. While the Nigerian case seems cumbersome, it largely settles the question of probity in the admission process recognizing the pressure on the university system which annually can only admit about 20 percent of the demand for placement.



Quality has been part of the university culture since the establishment of modern universities, even though quality assurance has only recently assumed greater importance worldwide. Universities had for long been distinguished by the quality of their products. With the establishment of quality


assurance agencies in many countries, universities began to feel that quality assurance was a kind of imposition from the government, even though the institutions had inherent systems of maintaining quality. In the effort to deepen and achieve the objectives of quality assurance, there is a need for the synchronization of the internal and the external quality assurance activities in the universities. This therefore calls for the evolution and institutionalization of the quality assurance culture in the universities. Quality culture is more than ―a mere set of rules and procedures which can be ‗mechanically‘ negotiated, agreed upon and implemented. Quality culture encompasses a more implicit consensus on what quality is and how it should be maintained and promoted‖ (Hunger and Skalbergs, 2007). The development of a quality assurance culture requires that students are placed at the centre of the quality assurance activities. This requires partnership and cooperation, sharing of experiences and team work with the aim to support the individual student as an autonomous scholar (Rizk and Al-Alusi, 2009).


developing a quality assurance culture in a university:








Self awareness/purpose

Self Criticism

In-built/internalised quality system

Quality ethos

Sense of ownership

Quality culture and internal quality process


Shift from episodic to continuous quality system

Shift from input to an alignment of processes to learning outcome

Building recognition through research and selectivity

Shift from being judgemental to developmental

Since quality has historically been part of the university culture,


perception of quality assurance as an externally imposed process.


institutional quality culture will:

create a positive






















increase cooperation and competitiveness;

facilitate change and ensure positive staff development;

encourage staff to take academic risks in enquiry and admit failure, when necessary;

engender student input and participation as equal partners;

comprehensive approach for institutional

provide a


involve multiple internal and external stakeholders; and

quality assurance will not need to be implemented from above.

More explicitly, Harvey (2007) had identified the following characteristics as indicative of a quality culture in a higher education institution:

There is academic ownership of quality.


There is a recognition by academics and administrators of the need for a system of quality monitoring to ensure accountability (and compliance where required) and to facilitate improvement. However, this should not be a ‗bureaucratic‘ system.

Quality culture is primarily about the behaviour of stakeholders rather than the operation of a quality system.

The quality system needs to have a clear purpose, which articulates with the quality culture.

A quality culture places students at the centre.

A quality culture is about partnership and co-operation, sharing of experiences and team working.

A quality culture is about supporting the individual as an autonomous scholar but not at the expense of the learning community; there is a symbiotic relationship between individual and community.

Leadership in a quality culture is inspirational rather than dictatorial. Leadership is at all levels in the institution and does not refer to just senior managers.

A quality culture welcomes external critical evaluation from a variety of sources including formal external evaluations, external peers acting as critical friends, and internal peer review and support.

At heart, a quality culture is about facilitating and encouraging reflexivity and praxis; self-reflection, developing improvement initiatives and implementing them.


Harvey (2007) and Gordon and Owen (2009) had identified the different cultures known in institutions as follows:

Responsive quality culture: This is governed primarily by external demands, takes a positive approach to opportunities and : This is governed primarily by external demands, takes a positive approach to opportunities and seeks and shares good practice. However, it tends to view quality-related activities and strategies as a solution to externally-driven problems or challenges and consequently lacks the sense of ownership or control

Reactive quality culture: This reacts to external demands and is driven primarily by compliance and accountability, seeks : This reacts to external demands and is driven primarily by compliance and accountability, seeks opportunities for reward, tends to delegate ‗quality‘ to a delineated space (e.g. quality office)

Regenerative quality culture: This is focused on internal development and has co-ordinated internal plans which include clear : This is focused on internal development and has co-ordinated internal plans which include clear goals. External initiatives are recognised but are secondary to a taken-for-granted commitment to continual improvement and organisational learning. It embodies the potential for the subversion of externally- driven initiatives.

Reproductive quality culture: This is focused on the : This is focused on the

reproducing the status quo, manipulates situations to minimize disruption from externally-driven quality initiatives in order to maintain the status quo. It has established norms, good internal practices and quality is an encoded and


unremarkable part of daily practice and professional conduct. It is resistant to reflections or re-conceptualisation of goals.








African countries have adopted various quality assurance mechanisms depending on their history and the evolution of the higher education system in each country. Of the fifty two countries in Africa, only seventeen have quality assurance agencies. In fact there could be fifty two national quality assurance agencies. With globalization and the experience from other regions of the world, there is a tacit need to harmonize the different quality assurance practices. Harmonization has been referred to as the synchronization and coordination of higher education provision in Africa (Woldetensae, 2009).


Goals of Harmonization

In a meeting of the Bureau of the Conference of Ministers of Education of the African Union in May, 2007, the goals of the harmonization process were set as follows:

1. Advocate and raise awareness of the potential and value of harmonization of higher education programmes;


2. Bridge the gap between disparate educational systems that exist as a result of colonial legacies by coordinating efforts of national accreditation bodies, and regional bodies to discuss and resolve their successes and challenges;

3. Provide an integrating platform for dialogue and action to develop strong regional harmonization initiatives that cohere into a continental process of harmonization;

4. Facilitate and promote mobility of African students, graduates, and academic staff across the continent;

5. Facilitate the development of effective quality assurance mechanisms; and

6. Ensure that African higher education institutions become an increasingly dynamic force in the international higher education arena (African Union 2007).

One of the goals, as indicated above, is to facilitate the development of effective quality mechanisms.



The recent transformational developments in information and communication technology (ICT) have aided the ―shrinking‖ of the world into a global village through its impact on all aspect of life, including the higher education systems. The advancements in ICT have made it possible for higher education institutions to reach out to various clienteles in other countries and cities without leaving their basic location. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has facilitated globalization by diminishing the limitations imposed by physical national boundaries. It has made the exchange of information less tedious across countries and the world has truly become a global village. Education, particularly higher education, has become one of the beneficiaries of globalization which enables academic exchange across borders without much restriction. Cross- border education is therefore education that is offered across national boundaries without much hindrance. Given these developments in the world, education is not restricted to the institutional campus in the country of its origin but can also be offered to prospective students in other countries either virtually or through the establishment of a campus of the institution in another country.

Definition Of Cross Border Education

Cross-border education refers to the movement of people,








services across national or regional jurisdictional borders. Cross-border education is a subset of internationalisation and can be part of development cooperation projects, academic exchange programmes and commercial initiatives (Knight, 2007). Cross-border education is characterized by the movement across national border of (a) students and teachers, (b) providing institutions, and (c) a wide range of curricula and programmes using variety of modes of delivery (Magagula, 2005). The type of providers ranges from the traditional universities, the corporate universities as well as the private providers.

5.1 Drivers of Cross Border Education

Universities, from their origin, have had international dimensions. Students and their teachers have always sought to exchange knowledge and ideas. Distinctively, the great interest in cross border education has been fueled by

a) Developments in technology. The development of technology, including information and communication technology (ICT) and the internet, has greatly influenced the development of cross-border education. Technology has been regarded as ‗the greatest force for change in higher education‘ (Green, Eckel and Barblan, 2002).

b) Globalization


Globalization is the major driving force in the cross- border education. ‘For some, globalization is a fairly neutral description of unstoppable reality; its definition points to the flow of ideas, capital, people, and goods around the world in the context of diminishing relevance of natural borders. For others, it implies the hegemony of the capitalist system, the domination of rich nations and corporations over poor and the loss of national identity and culture. Applied to higher education, globalization connotes similar possibilities and elicits comparable fears’ (Green, Eckel and Barblan, 2002)

Whatever view one holds, globalization is fact today and has come to stay. Globalization has been viewed as ‗the transfer, adaptation, and development of values, knowledge, technology and behavioural norms across countries and societies in different part of the world‘ (Cheng, 2002). The role of globalization in the facilitation of cross-border education is elicited through the exchange of ideas and the movement of staff and students. The implication for globalization to education includes ‗maximizing education relevance to global development and pooling up the best intellectual resources, support and initiatives from different parts of the world for teaching and research‘ (Cheng, 2002)



Limited National Access to Higher education Most African countries have limited access to higher education while in fact, there is an overwhelming demand for student placements in higher education institutions. For instance, in Nigeria, not more than twenty percent of candidates seeking placements in universities in Nigeria actually get admitted in any given year. This has given room for the interest in cross-border education as well as the mushrooming of dubious and illegal universities in the country. The limitation in access and high demand for places has also often led to over-enrolments in these institutions with concomitant implication for resources and quality. Cross border education is therefore a veritable source of relief to the problem of access.


Monitoring Cross Border Education for Quality.

As would be expected, guaranteeing the quality of cross border education is a major challenge for African nations. Some countries have in fact given up and are therefore havens for low quality cross border education providers. UNESCO and OECD have developed adaptable guidelines for cross-border education which apportion responsibilities to various stakeholders. African nations, and in particular the national quality assurance agencies, must devise effective mechanisms to protect their students and other stakeholders


from disreputable providers and from low-quality provision.

These measures must include ensuring that all providers are

accredited in their home countries to offer the programmes

they intend to mount; all providers must provide in the

importing country facilities and resources similar to the

provisions in their home country; all providers must be

approved by the national quality assurance agency of the

importing nation. While this may be possible to achieve, it is

noted that monitoring and quality assuring e-learning is

more complicated and may in fact require the collective effort

of African countries through the Africa Union and the

Association of African Universities.

Chapter 2

Case Studies of Quality Assurance Models in African Countries

In this section, we consider the models of quality assurance

in five specific countries. Each of these countries has a

national quality assurance agency with the responsibility to

coordinate quality assurance activities in their respective

countries. Nigeria has the National Universities Commission;


South Africa, the Higher Education Quality Committee of the

Council of Higher Education (CHE); Kenya, the Commission

for Higher Education (CHE); Tanzania, the Tanzania

Commission for Universities; and Ghana, the National

Accreditation Board. Each of these agencies is set up by law

and they are fully functional. A review of the characteristics

and modalities for action for each Agency firms the

subsequent portion of this chapter.



Quality assurance activities in Nigeria are multi-

dimensional. It includes formal recognition of state

universities; the approval of individual university

programmes; development of minimum academic standards

for programmes taught in Nigerian universities and the

accreditation of same; ensuring that private universities are

established following laid down guidelines; resource

verification and the enforcement of carrying capacity for

individual university programmes.

6.1 The recognition of state universities:

The laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (LFN) Act No. 1 of 1974 established the National Universities Commission (NUC) as a statutory body. The law conferred on the Commission the responsibility of coordinating the development of universities in Nigeria, advising government on the establishment of new universities and financing of


federal universities as well as coordinating foreign assistance to all universities

By the 1979 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, tertiary education was included in the concurrent legislative list. In effect therefore, both Federal and state governments could establish tertiary institutions. This stimulated the establishment of the first set of seven state universities between1979 and 1982.

Furthermore, by LFN Act No. 16 of 1985, the responsibility for setting minimum standards and quality assurance of tertiary institutions and their awards was ceded to the National Universities Commission. Consequently, the Commission was de facto given the responsibility to recognize the programme of institutions and by implication the institutions that run the programmes.

In consonance with the above, state governments have the powers to establish universities through the enactment of appropriate state laws. However, for the universities to be recognized to initiate academic activities and to eventually award degrees, diplomas and certificates, a state must formally deposit with the NUC the legal instrument of establishment as well as the specific documents defining the master plan and academic brief of the new university. Such documents, which must meet the standards stipulated by the Commission, are required to enable the Commission have base documents essential for effective monitoring. In this way, the Commission ensures that state universities meet quality imperatives in their establishment.

6.2 The development of minimum academic standards for programmes in Nigerian universities

As earlier indicated, the NUC was by LFN Act No 16 of 1985

given the specific quality assurance responsibilities of

defining minimum standards for all academic programmes


taught and also of the accreditation of such programmes. Consequently, the law empowered the Commission to carry out two interrelated quality assurance functions. This development gave rise to the development of minimum academic standards (MAS) for all programmes in the thirteen (13) undergraduate disciplines taught in Nigerian universities in 1989. These were in Administration, Agriculture and Forestry, Arts, Education, Engineering and Technology, Environmental Sciences, Law, Management Sciences, Medicine and Dentistry, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Sciences, Social Sciences, and Veterinary Medicine. While the Commission coordinated the process, the specific standards were drawn up by senior university academic staff in relevant individual disciplines. Subsequently, the documents were sent to all universities for comments and inputs before being finalized. In effect, the academic standards were produced in a collaborative effort rather than as an imposition on the universities.

The MAS documents prescribes minimum floor space for lectures; minimum laboratory/studio space and facilities per student; minimum floor, sitting and required equipment for the library, minimum number and quality of staff; as well as acceptable staff/student ratios for individual disciplines. Also, the documents set minimum entry and graduation requirements for each discipline/programme, as well as prescribed appropriate curriculum for each of them. The


minimum academic standards equally defined and prescribed the course credit system and the Grade Point Average for all academic discipline taught in Nigerian universities. It also defined general academic issues in Nigerian universities such as course unit, grade point average, length of academic year, minimum number of actual teaching weeks per semester, external examination system, re-sitting of failed courses, implementation of continuous assessment as required by the National Policy on Education (NPE) and the implementation of the minimum of four year degree programme in Nigerian universities as well as the determination of minimum number of credits required to graduate from a degree programme.

In 2004, the Commission initiated a process of reviewing the MAS which had been in use from 1989 to eliminate obsolete information and to incorporate new developments in technology and knowledge. Subsequently, the revised document, which also defined benchmarks and renamed ―Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards‖, was submitted to the Federal Government for approval through the Federal Ministry of Education. Also, Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards have been developed for the postgraduate programmes in Nigerian universities. The documents have been sent to the universities for their comments and inputs. Their submissions are expected to be incorporated into the final document before its submission for approval to the


Federal Government. Specifically, the BMAS for Master of

Business Administration (MBA) was used in 2006 to conduct

accreditation of the programme in the face of seeming

proliferation of the MBA programme in Nigeria Universities

and as a test case for the accreditation of post graduate


The MAS document has been criticized as an imposition of

the NUC and for enforcing uniform curriculum on the

universities. As earlier indicated, the standards are defined

by experts in respective academic disciplines and NUC

coordinated the process of development, validation and

approval. Also, the document only prescribes minimum

curriculum content as enunciated by the experts cognizant

of the threshold level of knowledge exposure required of a

graduate in a specific discipline/programme. In fact, the

universities are free to go beyond the minimum prescription

and many currently do. The minimum standards document

is a excellent quality assurance/accreditation tool as it

defines the minimum level of offering required of individual

programmes in Nigerian universities and explicitly exposes

same to the international academic community.

6.3 Accreditation in Nigerian Universities

The accreditation exercise in Nigerian universities is usually

programme accreditation and is preceded by the setting up


of minimum academic standards. The first system wide

accreditation exercise for undergraduate programmes was

conducted between 1989 and 1991. Since then, several

accreditation exercises have been conducted in 1999/2000,

2002, 2005 (February) and 2005 (November), and 2007.

Accreditation in Nigeria is a system of evaluating academic









compliance with the provisions of the minimum academic

standards (National Universities Commission, 1999).

The main objectives of accreditation in Nigeria are;

a) ensuring that at least the provisions of the minimum academic standards documents are attained, maintained and enhanced;

b) assuring employers and other members of the community that Nigerian graduates of all academic programmes have attained an acceptable level of competency in their areas of specialization, and;

c) certifying to the international community that the programmes in Nigerian Universities are of high standards and that their graduates are adequately prepared for employment and for further studies.


The accreditation exercise is conducted to ensure that the Universities meet the provisions of minimum academic standards. The exercise involves three distinct steps:

a) Self- study,

b) Site visit and Peer review, and

c) Reporting of outcome.

The process of accreditation involves the NUC, as the national accreditation agency, sending the self-study forms to the Universities hosting programmes that are to be accredited. The university is required to complete the Forms and to return them to the NUC before the site/accreditation visit. The self study forms are central to the whole process of accreditation in Nigeria as it gives the affected programme in the university the opportunity to self assess itself and to list its strengths and weaknesses.

Peer review is an important component both programme and institutional accreditation. In Nigeria, the NUC constitutes peer review panels/teams that will visit the institution for the accreditation exercise. Membership of the panels is composed of very senior academics, usually professors, one of who is a chairman. The Commission also appoints a secretary from among its staff who does not participate in the scoring of programmes but is responsible for the administration of the panel. For professional programmes


(such as medicine, pharmacy, accountancy, veterinary medicine, animal science), NUC usually includes representatives of the statutory regulatory professional body.

Before engaging on the site visit, the panels are formally briefed by the Commission on the assignment, the essence, the procedure, their responsibilities and required confidentiality. They are also exposed to simulations of situations and advised on scoring patterns. The reason for the simulation exercise is to reduce to a minimum such variations in scoring that may arise among panel members. The major objectives of site visit include:

a) Determining the extent to which the particular programme or discipline to be accredited has in all respects met the provisions of the approved Minimum Academic Standards;

b) Verifying the Statements of Fact claims supplied by the university in the completed Self-Study Form (NUC/SSF);

c) Holding discussions with officials of the university

that would enable each member of the panel objectively complete the Programme Evaluation Form (NUC/PEF).

d) Completion of the Accreditation Panel Report Form (APRF) and the Awarding of an appropriate accreditation grades:


After each member of the panel has completed the PEF, they meet as a panel/team to complete the APRF. The meeting is presided over by the chairman of the team. Based on the average score derived from the individual PEFs for a programme, the Panel will derive an average total score and enter a recommended grade on the APRF in conformity with the provisions of the Manual.

6.2.1 Accreditation Criteria

The accreditation of a programme is based on pre-determined criteria. This is to ensure the objectivity of the accreditation exercise. The criteria is made up of six broad areas of academic content, staffing, physical facilities, library facilities funding of the programme, and employers‘ rating of the graduates. The criteria are enumerated below;


Academic Content


The philosophy and objectives of the programme;


The curriculum content of the programme;


The admission requirements into the programme,


Academic regulation governing the programme;


Course evaluation (examinations and continuous


vi) Standard of students' practical/project work;

vii) Students course evaluation;

viii) External examination system;





Administration of the Faculty /Department - that is the Head of the Department or the Dean of the Faculty.


Academic Staff:

- Number of staff

- Staff/Student ratio

- Staff mix by ranks

- The competence of teaching staff

- Qualification of teaching staff


Non-teaching staff


Staff Development Programme


Physical Facilities


Laboratories/studio/clinic/farm and equipment


Classrooms equipment and facilities


Office Accommodation


Safety of the environment


Funding for the programme


Library Facilities Seating capacity, Books, Journals, ICT installation,


Employers’ Rating

6.2.2 Evaluation and report The panel evaluates the programme and writes a report which is discussed with the university officials at the exit meeting. At the meeting, the panel‘s qualitative not quantitative findings are discussed with the university officials. At the end of the meeting, the Vice Chancellor or


his representative, the dean of the faculty and the head of department where the programme accredited is domiciled are expected to endorse the report. If there is any area of disagreement, this is stated in the report. The quantitative aspect which contains the scores of the exercise is not made known to the university at this time.

The evaluation of the programme leads to award of an accreditation status. If the programme obtains an overall score of 70% as well as scores 70% in the four major criteria of academic content, staffing, physical facilities and library facilities the Programme earns FULL accreditation status. If the programme scores 60% to 69%, it earns INTERIM accreditation status. Also, if it has an overall score of 70% but scores less than 70% in any of the four major criteria it earns an interim accreditation status. A programme that scores less than 60% earns DENIED accreditation status.

The implication of the above is that the programme that earns Full accreditation status has met the essential requirements to offer appropriate degrees and certificates. Full accreditation status has a five-year tenure and so such a programme will not be visited again for accreditation for five years. Interim Accreditation is an indication that the programme needs to rectify some deficiencies and must therefore be revisited after two years. As a matter of principle in the NUC, if a programme scores Interim a second time,


the programme is given the status of Denied accreditation Denied accreditation status means that the programme has failed to meet the minimum set standards and ought to be closed down until the deficiencies are rectified. The current practice in Nigeria is that the NUC insists that such a programme is denied the opportunity to admit new students from the next academic session and until the observed deficiencies is remedied. When the deficiencies have been done, the University is required to invite the National Universities Commission to visit the programme for accreditation. If the programme scores a Denied status a second time in a row, the Commission will demand that the programme is shut down permanently.

Submission of Report At the end of the accreditation exercise, the panel submits its report to the NUC representative on the panel who will submit it to the Commission for analysis. In addition, the panel also submits the completed PEF and APRF. The latter contains the final result of the accreditation in a qualitative and quantitative form.

Release of results and reporting. Following an analysis of the submitted/ recommended grades, the Commission confirms the grades or modifies them if inconsistent with the guidelines in the Manual. Subsequently, the results of the accreditation are presented to the Board of the Commission which on approval authorizes release. The Commission subsequently


conveys the result of the exercise to individual universities and issues a certificate and a technical report for each assessed programme. The technical report details the strengths and weaknesses of the assessed programme and the reason for the approved status. The overall report of the exercise is released to the press and copied to the Minister of Education for information.

6.3 Other External Quality Assurance Measures The Nigerian experience in external quality assurance is not

restricted to the development of minimum academic standards and accreditation of academic programmes which involve all universities. There are other quality assurance activities that are put in place to ensure that institutional development is quality driven. These include the strict process involved in the establishment of private universities and the monitoring of the same, resource verification before the commencement of new programmes in universities and ensuring that universities maintain optimum carrying capacity.

a. Ensuring Quality in Private Universities

The establishment of private universities is coordinated also

by the National Universities Commission. However, the final approval of any private university lies with the Federal Executive Council on the recommendation of the Minister of Education. By Act Number 9 of 1993, the Federal Government prescribed the requirements for the establishment of private universities and gave the NUC the


responsibility to monitor their development. The Commission was required to recommend those that had met set guidelines to the Federal Government for approval. The law expanded the proprietorship of universities to include companies incorporated in Nigeria, individuals or association of individuals in Nigeria. The first three private universities were approved in 1999. Ten years later, there are thirty four (34) approved private universities in the country.

Specifically, the Private universities Act, 1993 provides that each proposed private university in the country must meet the following requirements:

a) Provide an approved master plan

b) Provide an academic brief

c) Have 100 hectares of land

d) Provide a bank bond to the value of N200 million

Naira. To accomplish its responsibility as prescribed by the law, the Commission set up the Standing Committee on Private Universities (SCOPU) to guide the prospective universities in meeting the basic statutory requirements and ensuring that

NUC standards and quality requirements are incorporated into their development process. In fact, the Committee has the following 13-step process for evaluating prospective private universities (Okojie, 2008) 1. Application in writing stating the intent for the establishment of the university;



Collection of Application Forms;

3. Submission of Application Forms and relevant documents;

4. Intensive review/analysis of documents by experts in relevant NUC Departments;

5. Revision of documentation by proprietor(s) based on report by SCOPU;

6. Interactive Meeting of SCOPU with the proposed universities;

7. First Site Assessment visit;

8. Finalization of documentation;

9. Second (final) Site Assessment visit;

10. Security Screening of Proprietors and Board of Trustees;

11. Approval by NUC Management;

12. Approval by NUC Board;

13. Approval by Federal Executive Council (Composition of the Council includes, the President, the Vice President and the Ministers);

On meeting the said requirements, the new university is granted provisional approval for three years.

The proposed university is required among other things to submit a set of documents including the academic brief, the university law and the master plan. The academic brief of the university articulates the academic structure and


purpose of the institution including its vision and mission statements, its philosophy, objectives, academic pattern of the institution including academic programmes, research policy, academic support units, service units, patterns of growth, cost estimates and performance audit system. The master plan of the university shows the pattern and structure of the physical development of the university. The university law defines the modes of engagement in the ownership and administration of the private university. These documents are to be submitted to the Commission, through SCOPU, which reviews them thoroughly and makes necessary comments until the proposed university complies with all the guidelines in developing such documents.

The proposed university must therefore meet such requirements as stipulated in the law in terms of documentation, physical facilities, human and financial resources. The Standing Committee (SCOPU) ensures this institutional resource verification is carried out and that only such prospective institutions that have met all the requirements can be recommended for approval.

On approval and licensing, the new university is required to admit student commensurate with its facilities and only into programmes where it has adequate human and material resources. Also, the university is instructed not to start a post-graduate programme until it graduates its first set of


students. These measures are intrinsically put in place to ensure that the new university adopts quality practices from inception.

b. Monitoring of Private Universities

There is in place a Committee on Monitoring of Private Universities (COMPU), a committee of the National Universities Commission which is to ensure that the private universities are constantly monitored and kept on their toes with regards to the maintenance of quality and standards (Monday Memo, 2003). The Committee is required:

To conduct annual monitoring of all licensed private universities in Nigeria with a focus on such areas as academic brief and master plan implementation; management and governance of the institution; quality of students, staff and infrastructural input, and other issues pertinent to the delivery of quality university education;

To advise Management, Senate, Council, and proprietor(s) of the institution of the areas needing immediate remediation;

To prepare an annual report to Government through the National Universities Commission Management and Board on the State of Private Universities in Nigeria


Programme Resource Verification


In establishing a new academic programme at the undergraduate or post graduate level, a Nigerian university, irrespective of the ownership, is required to request the NUC to conduct a resource verification assessment for the programme. This involves a affirmation that the curriculum is in conformity with the minimum academic standards as well as an assessment of the available resources in space (including office space, classrooms, properly equipped laboratories/studios, farm/teaching hospital facilities) academic and non-academic staff, library with books and journals, other essential materials and funding. In principle, an approval is required before the university can start the programme. The university must attain a certain high standard in the provision of these requirements before it can be allowed to mount the programme. As in accreditation, the NUC involves other senior academic staff from other universities to assess the university‘s readiness to mount the programme.

d. Carrying capacity

Carrying capacity is the maximum number of students that the available resources in a programme can support in the production of quality graduates (Okebukola, 2008). A university is not therefore expected to enroll more students than its available resources can carry. Such important resources include classrooms number and size; staff teaching and non-teaching; library - space, books, journals


and computer facilities; and laboratories - number and available equipment. For some programmes like agriculture and medicine, size and structure of farms as well as teaching hospital facilities respectively, must be taken into consideration. This is an important quality issue as most universities in Nigeria face serious pressures with demand for placements.

e. Advisory Visits

An advisory visit is made by the NUC in the effort to institutionalize quality assurance in universities. The objective is to offer advice to the institution on best practices in the running of the institution. Issues discussed during the visit include quality in governance; curriculum content, delivery and schedule; carrying capacity and student admissions; internal quality activities; optimal utilization of resources; incentives, welfare and discipline of staff and students. By bringing the issues for exhaustive discussion, the university is made to institutionalize practices which promote internalization of quality assurance. With time and regular advisory visits, quality assurance will become a routine issue in universities and demystify the anxiety prior to accreditation or external peer reviews or assessments.

The National Universities Commission has mainstreamed quality assurance in the Nigerian university system and the universities have responded very responsibly. The overall result is a clear and


continuing improvement in the quality of academic delivery in the nation‘s universities.



Ghana, a west African country with a population of 18 million, has 29 universities composed of 7 public and 22 private universities. Ghana has two agencies responsible for higher education, the National Council for Tertiary Education and the National Accreditation Board. The latter has the vision ―ensuring high standards in higher education‖ and was established following the enactment of National Accreditation Board Law, 1993 (PNDL 317) as a public service institution with the responsibility for the accreditation of programmes and institutions in the country. It was established ―to contribute to the furtherance of the better management of tertiary education as the Quality Assurance Body‖. Its principal functions include:

Accrediting both public and private (tertiary) institutions with regard to the contents and standards of their programmes. Determining in consultation with the appropriate institution or body, the programme and requirements for the proper operation of that institution and the maintenance of acceptable levels of academic or professional standards;


Determining the equivalences of diplomas, certificates and other qualifications awarded by institutions in Ghana or elsewhere.

The Board defines accreditation as a system of according recognition to an educational institution for meeting satisfactory standards in performance, integrity and quality. The institution among other things, must have well-qualified staff in adequate numbers, a well-equipped and well-stocked library, adequate number of classrooms, lecture theatres, laboratories, workshops, with the requisite equipment, and adequate and reliable sources of funding.

The board is mandated to accredit all post-secondary institutions of higher or further learning, or professional studies that provide advanced academic and/or professional instruction and conduct research in the sciences, social sciences, humanities and career- focused programmes. The institutions include universities, university colleges, polytechnics, colleges, schools, institutions, academies, or tutorial colleges. Such institutions may be public or private. The Institutions to be accredited by NAB are those that have demonstrated their commitment to the maintenance of acceptable standards and have benefited from advice offered by assessors selected by NAB.

The Board is empowered to set up committees and sub-committees with respect to;


a) Institutional accreditation b) Programmes accreditation

c) Monitoring







maintenance facilities.







The board assesses the institutions through the administration of

questionnaires at the two levels of institutional and programme

accreditation. The information derived from the questionnaires is

used as basis for the assessment of an institution and its

programmes. As part of the initial preparation for institutional

accreditation, a sub-committee of the Board visits the institution

for initial assessment. In case of programme assessment, a panel

of assessors in specified areas is commissioned to assess the

programmes. These experts are chosen from the academia (peers),

professional association/bodies and individuals in practice.

Assessment criteria

The panel assesses the programmes based on the following criteria;

programme philosophy, admission policy, curriculum, staffing,

examinations, and external moderation, and academic regulation,

provisions for student assessment of course content and teaching

and for peer review and professional assessment of content

teaching, physical facilities (lecture halls, library, workshops etc,

and affiliation.

Confirming and reporting of accreditation results


After the accreditation, the Board analyses the recommendation of

the assessors and issues a specific letter or certificate to an

institution indicating its accreditation status and the period for

which the status is valid. The letter also specifies the various

programmes and levels at which each accredited institution should

offer them. The Board also publishes information about accredited

institutions from time to time in the national newspapers and the


Sanctions for not meeting the required standards

For institutions that are unable to ensure the required quality

standards, the following sanctions are used;

Suspension of the activities of the institution until a time the

identified deficiencies are remedied together with verifiable

evidence. The board will normally visit the institution to

ascertain the proof of the remedies undertaken

Denial accreditation

A revocation of the certificate of accreditation

Closure of the institution

Accreditation is granted for periods of up to five years to institutions, depending on the state of facilities and resources human and material - available to them and the degrees of deficiencies identified by assessors.

Accreditation Status


A specific letter or certificate is issued to an institution indicating

its accreditation status and the period for which the status is

valid. The letter also specifies the various programmes and levels

at which each accredited institution should offer them.

Evaluation of certificates

Another responsibility of the Board is the evaluation of certificates and qualifications awarded by institutions in Ghana or any other country to establish comparability. It also determines the authenticity and comparability of both local and foreign educational certificates.



In Tanzania, the Higher Education Accreditation Council (HEAC) was established under the Education Act of 1995 as a government agency responsible for the promotion and quality assurance of higher education institutions, programs, staff, students and awards. Ten years later the Tanzania Commission for Universities


(TCU) was established under the Universities Act of 2005 substituting HEAC. The Commission is mandated to recognize and accredit the country‘s university institutions and their programmes; to approve relevant examinations regulations and determine the equivalence and recognize awards given by higher education institutions inside and outside Tanzania. The TUC is a government agency responsible to the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology. 6.3.1 Accreditation Committee The Commission for Universities has an Accreditation Committee that has the following functions (TUC, 2006)

a) Setting general standards of quality and quantity of contents of

programmes and mode of their execution by universities at their respective levels;

b) Promotion of quality assurance standards in universities;

c) Auditing of the quality assurance mechanisms of universities;

d) Accreditation of universities and programs;

e) Evaluation of qualifications of staff of universities;

f) Coordination and harmonization of courses and programmes in universities;

g) Standardization, recognition and equation of awards of universities; and

h) Visitation and inspection of universities.

6.3.2 Stages of Accreditation of Private Higher Institution In Tanzania, there are four stages towards accreditation of private higher education institutions. These include letter of interim


authority, certificate of provisional registration, certificate of full registration and certificate of registration.

i) Letter of Interim Authority (LIA)

This letter is issued to persons or organizations that have expressed their desire, commitment and intention to set up a higher education institution in the country. The Letter of Interim Authority authorizes the founders of an institution to proceed to implement their plans as provided in their write up and as approved by the Council.

ii) Certificate of Provisional Registration

This is issued to persons or organizations that have commenced the process of setting up permanent premises for their institution in accordance with the institution‘s Master Plan and time frame for accomplishing the different tasks. Such an institution will have a full-time chief executive and core staff especially those involved with the courses to be offered under the initial faculties or programs.

iii) Certificate of Full Registration

This is issued to owners or founders of institutions that have most of the initial requirements in place that is, essential physical structures, operational procedures, course programs, qualified lecturers, appropriate teaching and learning environment, materials and student support structures and services. An institution qualifying for full registration will be in full operation.



Certificate of Accreditation

An institution which is in operation with all the essential courses in the initial faculties in progress can apply for accreditation. The institution will be technically evaluated with particular focus on the content and organization of courses, adequacy of instructional and learning environment, materials and support services, and

qualification and experience of the academic staff.

Professional associations in Tanzania participate in accreditation panels and are involved in curriculum review exercises.

6.3.3 Guidelines for Internal Quality Assurance According to Sabaya (2004) the Higher Education Accreditation Council has put in place regulations and guidelines as part of the country‘s mechanism for internal quality assurance for higher education to ensure:

Appropriateness of institutional development plans, facilities for academic, administrative and technical support services;internal quality assurance for higher education to ensure: Appropriateness of the mission and objectives of the

Appropriateness of the mission and objectives of the institution, the matching standard facilities and services and governance systems;for academic, administrative and technical support services; The relevance, adequacy and scope of courses for planned

The relevance, adequacy and scope of courses for planned qualifications;of the mission and objectives of the institution, the matching standard facilities and services and governance


Adequacy in the numbers, qualifications, competencies and experience of academic, administrative and technical support staff;Appropriateness and adequacy of teaching, research and learning resources; Institutional quality assurance and periodic

Appropriateness and adequacy of teaching, research and learning resources;of academic, administrative and technical support staff; Institutional quality assurance and periodic academic audit

Institutional quality assurance and periodic academic audit systems as pre- requisites for institutional and course re- accreditation.and adequacy of teaching, research and learning resources; The Tanzania Commission for Universities in future aims,

The Tanzania Commission for Universities in future aims, among others, to (TUC-IIEP, 2006):

Stimulate a culture of continuous improvement of higher education in relevant institutions through periodic review of their quality assurance system, accreditation status and issuance of regulatory guidelinesin future aims, among others, to (TUC-IIEP, 2006): Establish mechanisms for monitoring quality of academic

Establish mechanisms for monitoring quality of academic staff in universitiesaccreditation status and issuance of regulatory guidelines Establish and facilitate quality assurance mechanisms for

Establish and facilitate quality assurance mechanisms for programs and courses imported into Tanzania under cross-border provisionfor monitoring quality of academic staff in universities In its attempt to regulate cross-boarder higher education,

In its attempt to regulate cross-boarder higher education, the TCU insists on

having a copy of the memorandum of understanding between the foreign provider and local institution to safeguard the interests of the local client.



Three countries with quality assurance agencies have been

examined. The three models examined reveal that the quality

assurance agencies were statutorily set up by their respective

governments. They coordinate quality assurance activities in the

country and such activities involve both the public and private

higher education institutions. Among the quality assurance

agencies considered, only Nigeria NUC is not involved in the

evaluation of foreign certificates. While Ghana NAB accredits all

higher education institutions in the country, NUC and TCU are

specifically for universities.

From these models, it pertinent to note that;

Quality assurance is very important for higher educationuniversities. From these models, it pertinent to note that; institutions in the 21 st century, Accreditation

institutions in the 21 st century,

Accreditation is a process,for higher education institutions in the 21 st century, Harmonization of quality assurance practices is essential

Harmonization of quality assurance practices is essential forin the 21 st century, Accreditation is a process, the growth of quality assurance in African

the growth of quality assurance in African universities,

Building of human capacities in the area of qualityfor the growth of quality assurance in African universities, assurance is crucial both in ensuring quality

assurance is crucial both in ensuring quality and achieving

harmonization of quality assurance practices.

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