QUALITY ASSURANCE FRAMEWORKS FOR HIGHER EDUCATION

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CHAPTER 4 PRESENTATION OF RESULTS FOR EACH CASE STUDY

INTRODUCTION

The aim of this study was to explore and understand issues and problems relating to the development and implementation of quality assurance systems at national and institutional levels in the context of public and private higher education institutions. Relying on the information collected by means of a survey questionnaire, a semi-structured interview with selected informants and a document review, this chapter provides a background of the case study institutions and an analysis and interpretation of the data drawn from each of them. The chapter begins with the background of the case study institutions, followed by the analysis of the views and opinions of faculty QA coordinators, department heads and senior instructors as expressed in their responses to the questionnaire. The opinions and perceptions expressed in the questionnaire responses provide information about the background of the institutions. Main data about the introduction of QA systems and the preparation of QA manuals or guidelines, core activities covered in internal QA systems and factors that hindered the implementation of internal quality assurance system was further illuminated and supplemented by the views expressed by informants in more in-depth interviews and through the document analysis. In this chapter, I also analyzed and interpret the information gathered from individual case studies through interviews and documents individually for each case study. Finally, the results of the interviews, document analysis and survey questionnaires from individual case studies are combined in Chapter 5.

QUESTIONNAIRE ANALYSIS

The questionnaire proved to be fairly effective as an information gathering tool as it allowed the respondents, all of whom are academic managers at various levels, to reflect on the following: the introduction of QA systems and preparation of QA manuals or guidelines; major activities of internal QA systems (including teaching and learning, curriculum design and revision, students’ assessment and research activities); and factors influencing the implementation of QA systems in St. Mary’s University College, Hawassa University, Admas University College, and Jimma University. Questionnaires were distributed for 120 respondents comprising 12 faculty QA coordinators, 36 department heads and 72 senior academic staff. From these, 94 questionnaires (78.3%) were returned (11 faculty QA coordinators, 27 department heads and 56 senior lecturers). Significantly, all the different levels are represented in the returned questionnaires. In a survey questionnaire, the following two specific research questions were addressed:
What are the major activities covered by internal quality assurance processes in Ethiopian HEIs?
What are the major factors that influence the effective implementation of internal quality assurance systems at institutional levels?

Survey findings on the development of QA systems, QA manuals, major internal QA activities and factors that influence QA system implementation

The development of an institutional quality manual is a major step in the overall process of quality assurance implementation; in fact, it was an implicit expectation of government that higher education institutions should develop quality manuals. I thus asked institutions to indicate whether they had developed quality manuals at all and if so, in which year.
As shown in Figure 4.1, 80% of the respondents from public institutions in the case study reported that they had developed their QA manual in 2004 EC. At the time when the survey was undertaken, 40% indicated that they had developed their manual between 2002 and 2003 EC academic year and an insignificant number of respondents – 10% – indicated that their institution had developed a QA manual between 2000 and 2001EC. The majority of the respondents from public universities confirmed that public universities, i.e. Hawassa and Jimma, had develop the quality manual in 2004 EC, at the point in time when the survey was undertaken, and the majority of respondents from private university colleges (90%) indicated that their institutions had developed the manual between 2002- 2003 EC. Very few respondents (10%) indicated that their quality manual was developed between 2000 and 2001 EC. The above-mentioned data suggests that private higher education institutions established their quality manuals and responded to government demands faster than public higher education institutions. The public higher education institutions were slow in developing QA manuals to maintain their own quality education.
As indicated in different institutional and national documents, higher education institutions in Ethiopia have the fundamental QA processes and structures in place; however, data from the questionnaires demonstrates that the progress made in this regard is very recent. As depicted in the above graph, respondents were asked when their institutions had introduced quality assurance systems. The majority (60%) and (58%) of respondents from public institutions indicated that QA systems had been introduced to their HEIs between 2001 and 2002 EC while a still significant number of respondents ,i.e. 41% and 38%, from public institutions reported that QA systems had been.
introduced between 2003 – 2004 EC. On the other hand, 45% and 40% of respondents from private HEIs reported that they introduced their QA system between 1999 and 2000 EC. An insignificant number of respondents – 10% and 5% –indicated they had introduced QA systems between 2001 and 2002 EC. Others from private university colleges did not respond to the question. Similar to the development of QA manuals, the time of the introduction of QA system differed from institution to institution. The majority of the respondents indicated the QA systems had been introduced to private university colleges between 1999 and 2000 EC. In the public universities, QA systems were introduced from 2001 to 2002. For example, in one of the public universities (Jimma University) a QA system was introduced between 2001 and 2002. This fact shows that even though quality assurance systems were introduced to Ethiopia around 1997 EC, public universities did not follow the formal rule set by the government that had demanded quality assurance systems when they were needed. The introduction of QA systems was relatively faster in private universities than in public universities.
The three groups of respondents from the four case study institutions were asked to rank the major activities their internal quality assurance system covered. As shown on the graph, five internal quality activities were provided as major internal QA activities. Consequently, the perceptions of the respondents towards these issues were discussed. The first internal quality activity, teaching and learning, was reflected by 85% and 10% as “most important” and “somewhat important” respectively. The second major activity, curriculum design and revision, was reported as “most important” (79%), “important” (15%) and “somewhat important” (5%). The third issue, students’ assessment, was rated by 69% as “most important”. The fourth and fifth major activities, i.e. research and publication, and student support systems, were also supported by 58% and 20% as “most important” and “somewhat important” and 51% as “most important” respectively. Thus 85% of respondents in the survey answered that their internal quality assurance process covered teaching and learning, 79% curriculum design and revision, 69% student’s assessment, 58% research and publication, and 51% student support systems. From the above discussion, we can deduce that the main focus of the institutions’ QA activities was teaching and learning; the second important activity was curriculum design and revision, the third and fourth were students’ assessment and research and publication. The evidence demonstrated that relatively all higher education institutions, both private and public, pay more attention to teaching and learning, curriculum design and students’ assessment in assuring quality than to the other activities of the university. Other activities such as research, and students’ support systems were considered as secondary in their quality assuring process as compare to other major activities. From this we can conclude that internal QA systems in both private and public HEIs focus on similar activities. There were no significant differences observed between public and private HEIs.
In most HEIs the curriculum is typically designed by committee or working group. Once a programme is up and running, a variety of processes for monitoring it exists. Most higher education institutions conduct some kind of internal evaluation in addition to an external one. The curriculum should be regularly evaluated and revision of the curriculum should take place at reasonable intervals (DAAD, 2010: 15).
Respondents from case study institutions were asked to rank the processes in place in monitoring their existing curriculum and developing and approving the new curriculum. As indicated in figure 4.4, both public and private HEIs put in place different processes to monitor the existing curricula. As indicated above, in public HEIs the curricula or programmes were evaluated by internal process (68%) and occasionally based on the interest of the instructors (61%) and the curricula were evaluated in an informal way by discussion between staff members and students (60%). In private HEIs the curriculum/programmes are evaluated as part of an external accreditation (60%) and by internal process (80 %), the curricula are evaluated after students’ complete one programme (40%) and the curriculum is evaluated informally by discussion between staff members and students (20%).
As indicated by the majority of respondents from private university colleges, in private UC the existing curricula were evaluated by external a creditors (by National QA agency) and internal processes. They also revised their existing curricula after completion of one programme (after graduation of one batch) on a regular bases, whereas in public universities the existing curricula evaluated more by internal processes and sometimes by external evaluators on occasional bases. . Once a programme is up and running, the frequency and means for monitoring it vary from one institution to another. In addition, most institutions seem to conduct a variety of processes in a variety of combinations, leading to the conclusion that there is no one typical process for monitoring the existing curricula in all institutions. From the above data, we can infer that private HEI gave more attention to curriculum evaluation than public HEIs.
The findings suggested that there was a significant gap between public universities and private university colleges in updating their curricula. It seems that private HEIs regularly revise their curriculum because of the pressure exerted on them by the national quality assurance agency, whereas in public higher education institutions the revision of the curriculum depends on the situation of the department and the institution or the interest of the instructors, because there was no follow-up mechanism on the part of the institutions and national QA agency.
The data gathered from QA directors, Academic vice presidents and college deans through interview indicates that the development and approval of the new curriculum takes place by the committee established for this purpose at department, collage and institutional levels, significant differences were not observed between public and private higher education institutions. Each institution had a working committee established by the institution at institutional, programme and faculty levels. The committee proposes the curriculum and approves the new curriculum or programme. The majority of respondents from both kinds of HEIs reported that the curriculum of higher education institutions is designed by the ministry of education, particularly for law, health and technology courses.
Most higher education institutions promote quality teaching as a central value. Universities illustrate the importance of their philosophy and a strong awareness of what students should gain through their learning experience. The internal quality assurance system is meant to insure the standards and continuous improvement of the quality evaluation of training programmes, quality evaluation of academic staff, and quality evaluation of learning.
Respondents from the case study institutions were asked to rank mechanisms used by institutions to ensure the quality of teaching and learning from most important to least important. The majority of the respondents (81.9%) indicated learner-centred teaching approaches, (70%) continuous assessment and (54%) student counselling and support systems as “most important” and the major mechanisms used by all case study higher education institutions, other mechanisms, such as students’ practical experience (50%) and quality assuring of teaching staff (20%) as “important”. The graph indicates that the three mechanisms – the effort to implement learnercentred teaching approaches, the use of continuous assessment to identify student’s progress, and providing timely advice and professional support, as well as student counselling and support systems were the core activities used by both public and private higher education institutions to ensure the quality of teaching and learning in their institutions. In addition to these mechanisms, students were engaged in practical activities in the form of internships and externships. Quality assuring of teaching staff was also carried out through higher diploma programmes, as well as short and long-term training. Respondents from public and private HEIs were asked to indicate the time they spend on research activities and processes put in place by their institution to ensure the quality of research. Since both private and public higher education institutions use similar processes to ensure the quality of research, I was forced to present the data all together rather than comparing the data from both kinds of higher education institutions. The institutional QA process covers research activities. All respondents, when asked whether or not they had specific processes in place with regard to QA in research, acknowledged that they did indeed have individual processes in place, as shown in figure 4.6. The most common processes in both public and private higher education institutions were internal seminars where research projects and ideas were discussed (81%), external peer review or inviting external peers (35%) and internal peer review of research projects (20%). Regarding the time instructors spent on research activities per week, the majority of the respondents replied as “not specified”; very few of them indicated one to four (1-4) hours per week.
Quality assurance systems in Ethiopian higher education institutions are still at an infant stage and confronted by many challenges. Data collected during this study indicates that implementation of some of these processes was weak, particularly in public higher education institutions, due to numerous factors. Figure 4.7 shows variables assumed to have a negative impact on the implementation of internal quality assurance systems in higher education institutions. In this regard, faculty QA coordinators, department heads and senior instructors were asked to rate their opinion about the problems listed according to their severity. Consequently, a total of 68% of respondents indicated that the lack financial resources for internal quality review were the most serious problem. The next serious problems, as reported by 67%, 62% and 55% of respondents, were the lack of appropriate training and experience in QA, commitment of institutional leaders and lack of follow-up on the part of the government or national QA agency respectively. In addition, the lack of incentives for internal reviewers (39%) was also considered as a potential difficulty. The survey data indicates that in public HEIs a lack of finance for internal QA (90%), the absence of commitment of institutional leaders (71%) and the lack of training and experience (67%) were the most serious problems observed. in private HEIs, the lack of appropriate training and experience in QA (64%), the lack of incentives for quality reviewers (45%), and the lack of financial resources for internal QA were the major problems identified by respondents.
From the reaction of the three groups of respondents, it is apparent that the degree of seriousness of the problem varies from one institution to another, and particularly between public and private higher education institutions. Financial problems for internal quality review and commitment of institutional leaders were the first two major problems in public higher education institutions and lack of appropriate training and experience in QA and lack of incentives for quality reviewers were the two major problems observed in private higher education institutions. From the data we can infer that there were four most influential factors that affected the effective implementation of internal QA systems in Ethiopian higher education institutions. These included a lack of financial resources for internal quality review, lack of appropriate training and experience in QA, commitment of institutional leaders, and a lack of follow-up on the part of the government or the national QA agency.

 INTERVIEW AND DOCUMENTARY ANALYSIS FOR EACH CASE STUDY

This part presents the case studies of St Mary’s University College, Admas University College, Jimma University and Hawassa University regarding all specific research questions. Here, I sketch the background of the case study institutions. The current practices of these university colleges and universities were analyzed in relation to the evolving national QA framework, using evidence collected through documentary review and interviews. The information taken from interviews and documents was analyzed together.
The status of the QA system and the way in which it has been implemented in different public and private higher education institutions was what I wanted to investigate through the case studies. This part explains the practices of the QA systems in all the case study institutions. Finally, I present an overall analysis of the results of the case studies in St Mary’s University College, Admas University College, Jimma University and Hawassa University. In this part, data gathered from the interviews and documents from each case study institution is analyzed and interpreted for each institution separately. All six specific research questions are addressed.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1 ORIENTATION OF THE STUDY                                                                                      1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
1.2 PROBLEM STATEMENT
1.3 AIM AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
1.4 THE SCOPE OF THE STUDY
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
1.6 DATA ANALYSIS
1.7 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS
1.9 STRUCTURE OF THE THESIS AND CHAPTER OUTLINE
1.10 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER  2  LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1  INTRODUCTION
2.2 Conceptualization of quality and quality assurance
2.3 A CRITICAL REVIEW OF QUALITY ASSURANCE METHODOLOGIES
2.4 WHY DO WE WORRY ABOUT QUALITY?
2.5 QUALITY IN HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS
2.6 QUALITY ASSURANCE FRAMEWORKS FOR HIGHER EDUCATION
2.7 QUALITY AND QUALITY ASSURANCE SYSTEMs IN ETHIOPIA HEIs
2.8 CRITERIA AND STANDARDS FOR QUALITY ASSURANCE
2.9 QUALITY ASSURANCE MODELS IN HIGHER EDUCATION
2.10 INTERNATIONAL QA PRACTICES
2.11 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK OF THE STUDY
2.12 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 3 THEORETICAL AND METHODOLOGICA ORIENTATION
3.1 INTRODUCTION
PART I THEORETICAL ORIENTATION
3.2. EPISTEMOLGY
PART I: THEORETICAL ORIENTATION
3.3 RESEARCH DESIGN
PART II: METHODOLOGICAL ORIENTATION
3.4 RESEARCH METHODS
3.5 DATA COLLECTION PROCEDURES AND INSTRUMENTS
3.6 DATA ANALYSIS
3.7. ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
3.8 Validity of the study
3.9  CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 4  PRESENTATION OF RESULTS FOR EACH CASE STUDY
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 QUESTIONNAIRE ANALYSIS
4.3 INTERVIEW AND DOCUMENTARY ANALYSIS FOR  CASE STUDY
4.4 ST MARY’S UNIVERSITY COLLEGE (SMUC)
4.5 ADMAS UNIVERSITY COLLEGE (AUC)
4.6 JIMMA UNIVERSITY (JU)
4.7   HAWASSA UNIVERSITY (HU)
4.8 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 5 PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION OF FINAL THEMES
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2. EXTERNAL QUALITY ASSURANCE DIMENSION
5.3 THE INTERNAL QUALITY ASSURANCE DIMENSION
5.4 FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE THE QA SYSTEMS IN HEIs
5.5  CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 6 CONCLUSION, SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
6.1 INTRODUCTION
6.2  General Conclusion
6.3 SUMMARY OF THE RESEARCH FINDINGS
6.4 Significance of the study
6.5  RECOMMENDATIONS

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QUALITY ASSURANCE PRACTICES IN ETHIOPIAN PUBLIC AND PRIVATE HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS

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