Building a culture of quality assurance in higher education in Namibia

“The training provided me with key stepping-stones on how to assure quality in higher education at a high standard,” reported Beatha Ndinelao Kapolo, participant of the Training Workshop on Quality Assurance in Higher Education: Creating a Quality Culture, held by the National Qualifications Authority (NQA) of Namibia in partnership with the University of Namibia (UNAM) in February 2019.

As head of Training at the Nakayale Vocational Training Centre (VTC), Northern Namibia Hub, and Quality Assurance Focal Person of the Namibia Training Authority, Beatha found the training directly relevant to her daily work, “I was really empowered with the understanding of various terminology used in high education quality assurance as well as their applications. The training also equipped me with the knowledge for designing a quality assurance system. From this training, I will now be able to develop the quality management systems needed at our VTC hub including quality assurance policies and manuals, something I have learnt from this training for the first time.”  

In Namibia, enrolment in higher education has grown explosively and the higher education system expanded rapidly since the 2000s. Yet, this growing demand has encountered a severe shortage of qualified academic staff and the need for a national quality assurance system has become ever more important. The UNESCO policy review in TVET, Higher Education and Innovation of Namibia in 2016 recommended to the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation (MHETI) that the improvement of quality should be treated as a strategic priority area in higher education.  

Higher education has been recognized in Namibia as a driving force in the realization of its Vision 2030. The national development agenda hinges on quality higher education in cultivating competitive human capital and in building a knowledge-based society. Dr. Itah Kandjii-Murangi, Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, stated at the official launch of the UNESCO-Shenzhen Project (28 November 2018) that, in order to ensure the quality and relevance of education, there is a need for a renewed commitment to consistently strengthen the higher education system in Namibia, in line with international standards by instilling a culture of quality managed through quality assurance frameworks that are also able to effectively measure performance.   

The UNESCO-Shenzhen Project accompanies Namibia in its endeavors in building institutional and human capacity in quality assurance that meets international standards, and fostering a quality culture in higher education. Specifically, UNESCO supports the National Qualifications Authority, an implementing partner of the Project, in initiating the 3-phase training for quality assurance professionals. It aimed at equipping participants with knowledge, skills and competencies that enhance quality assurance practices in higher education. Phase 1 (November 2018) and Phase 2 (February 2019) trainings were successfully completed, and Phase 3 training is now under way.  

The training has covered a wide array of theoretical and practical topics, including foundations for quality assurance, quality assurance management, and quality assurance in curriculum development, in teaching and learning, and in assessment, etc. Tailored to the needs of quality assurance practitioners from both quality assurance agencies and higher education institutions, the training has incorporated diverse training methods (case studies, group work, hands-on practices, etc.), to motivate and support participants to conceptualize and design mechanisms for quality assurance in their own working contexts.  

“What I found especially useful is the fact that the training was participatory and relevant to our work. The facilitator was undoubtedly knowledgeable of the subject field and she ignited an enthusiasm amongst the participants. Everybody in the workshop contributed to the discussion. Everybody understood that quality assurance is truly the responsibility of everyone: students, lecturers, universities, parents, private sector and indeed policy makers and the wider society,” said Dr. Elijah Ngurare, Quality Assurance Coordinator at the University of Namibia, responsible for quality assurance coordination at Jose Eduardo Dos Santos Engineering Campus as well Hifikepunye Pohamba Campus in Ongwediva.

“Indeed it was an eye opening workshop and it is my hope that the NQA and UNESCO will continue with these types of training with a view of planting a quality seed which will find fertile ground for quality education for the African learner everywhere”, Dr. Ngurare added.