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CHE > Media and Publications > Frameworks Criteria > Proposed criteria for the HEQC's first cycle of audits: 2004/2009
March, 2003

Executive Summary

  1. Legislative authority for audits

    The Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC) of the Council on Higher Education (CHE) has statutory responsibility to conduct institutional audits as indicated in the Higher Education Act of 1997. Audits are the responsibility of the HEQC also in terms of being recognised by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) as the Education and Training Quality Assurer (ETQA) for the higher education band.
  2. Nature of the audit

    The audit does not seek to measure the actual quality of the outputs in relation to teaching and learning, research and service learning. Rather, the audit seeks to:

    1. Establish the nature and extent of the quality management system in place at the institution - what policies, systems, available resources, strategies and targets exist for the development and enhancement of quality in the core functions of higher education.
    2. Evaluate the effectiveness of the quality management system on the basis of evidence largely provided by the institution itself. The requirement to provide indicators of success and evidence of effectiveness, takes the audit beyond a checklist of policies and procedures.
  3. Objectives of the audit

    According to the Institutional Audit Framework(p. (iii)), the general objectives of audits are, inter alia, the following:
    1. To enable a higher education institution to assure itself, its stakeholders and the HEQC that its policies, systems and processes for the development, maintenance and enhancement of quality in all its educational offerings are functioning effectively.
    2. To enable providers and the HEQC to identify areas of strength and excellence as well as areas in need of focused attention for improvement in the short, medium and long term.
    3. To provide for consistency in quality management across the higher education sector and generate a national picture of the role of quality management in the transformation of higher education. It will also enable the HEQC to make a judgement on the overall status of quality management in higher education and monitor system level improvement.

    The above general objectives of audits apply to the first cycle of audits. In addition, there are some specific objectives for the first cycle of audits. These are the following:

    1. The HEQC intends to signal clearly to the higher education community the institutional areas in need of systematic attention in order to ensure an acceptable level of quality provision and to indicate certain key audit areas for in depth attention. The audit criteria which are developed in this document will be a key instrument for evaluating the effective alignment between institutional quality objectives and the quality management systems in place to achieve them.
    2. The first audit cycle will have a common set of quality requirements for all higher education institutions. The main target areas and the levels of scrutiny will apply to all audited institutions. This will enable the HEQC to obtain baseline information in the targeted areas from all higher education institutions. Such information will:
      • Facilitate capacity development and improvement programmes by the HEQC and other roleplayers.
      • Facilitate a more differentiated approach to audit in the second cycle, allowing for lesser or greater areas and levels of scrutiny, depending on the demonstrated effectiveness of internal quality management systems. The eventual granting of self-accreditation status to institutions will also depend to a great extent on the information available on internal quality management systems.
      • Identify and disseminate good practices in quality management through all the sectors.
  4. Scope of the audit

    The audit will encompass the following areas and levels of enquiry:

    At Level 1, general scrutiny of:

    • The fitness of the mission of the institution in relation to local, national and international contexts (including transformational issues).
    • The links between planning, resource allocation and quality management
    • The use of benchmarking and user surveys.

    At Level 2, general scrutiny of:

    • The quality management of the core functions - teaching and learning, research and service learning. The scrutiny of teaching and learning will include, inter alia, the quality management of short courses, exported and partnership programmes, programmes offered at tuition centres and satellite campuses, academic support services, and the quality of certification.

    At Level 3, in depth scrutiny of quality management arrangements for:

    • Programme development and review.
    • Student assessment and success.
    • In the case of institutions with a strong research mission, research quality management, as well as postgraduate education, will be scrutinised in depth.

    The scope of the audit as set out above is represented diagrammatically in Figure 3 on page 15.

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