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CHE > Media and Publications > Other > Statement by Prof Hugh Africa, Chairperson of the Higher Education Quality Committee and Dr Mala Singh, Executive Director of the Higher Education Quality Committee
May, 2004

The HEQC of the CHE has just completed a re-accreditation exercise during which 37 MBA programmes offered by 18 public and 9 private higher education institutions were evaluated in a stringent peer review process. This first national review by the HEQC focused on MBA programmes offered by universities and technikons as well as by local and foreign higher education institutions operating in South Africa. The impact of this re-accreditation exercise will be widespread, both within the field of MBA education in South Africa and also within higher education at large. For students, for academics and professionals in the field, and for employers, there is now a quality validated foundation for the MBA programme. For higher education institutions, the clear message is about the need to give planned attention to the quality of existing programmes, particularly in areas of high demand and high impact. For the HEQC the re-accreditation of MBAs provides a model for national reviews in other programme areas. The culmination of this exercise is not the mere release of the accreditation outcomes. The HEQC is developing a report on the state of MBA provision in South Africa which will be an analysis of MBA education as well as a set of recommendations and strategies to enhance the quality of provision and make the MBA more internationally competitive. The report will be produced and discussed in close partnership with key stakeholders e.g. the Association of Heads of Business Schools in South Africa and the employer sector.

Although the review is a powerful signal from the HEQC about the high priority to be given to quality in the creation of a new higher education landscape in South Africa, the MBA re-accreditation exercise must be seen as only one component in the HEQC's comprehensive agenda of work in quality assurance and quality improvement. 2004 marks the beginning of a six year cycle of audits at public and private higher education institutions. The audits will focus on institutional arrangements for quality in the core functions of higher education - teaching and learning, research and community engagement. This year will also see the introduction of a new programme accreditation system which will focus on the quality of new programmes to be offered in higher education. The Board of the HEQC has already approved a proposal that the next national review will be in the field of teacher education. In addition, there are a number of initiatives underway to support newly merged institutions and historically disadvantaged institutions to develop strong internal quality management systems in preparation for the HEQC's requirements for institutional audits and programme accreditation. The HEQC is also planning to intensify its quality literacy campaign which was started last year to alert prospective and currently enrolled students about the kind of quality related questions that they should be asking when they sign up for a programme or qualification.

The intense public and media interest in the MBA re-accreditation process and outcomes is understandable. The MBA exercise, however, needs to be located within the comprehensive and wide-ranging approach of the HEQC to quality assurance and quality improvement in South African higher education. This is an approach that covers many aspects and dimensions of quality and one that is intended to encourage higher education institutions themselves to take primary responsibility for improving the quality of provision. The HEQC provides a framework and an external process to ensure that this responsibility is acted upon.

The HEQC believes that the achievement of greatly improved quality in higher education is the best way of giving substance to the transformation objectives of equity, access and social responsiveness in higher education. Progress towards this achievement will depend on the way that the HEQC's quality initiatives are reinforced by the planning and funding decisions of the Department of Education as well as the active co-operation of higher education institutions and other role-players like the South African Universities Vice-Chancellors Association (SAUVCA), the Committee of Technikon Principals (CTP), the Association of Private Providers of Education and Training and Development (APPETD) and a range of professional organisations in higher education. We in the HEQC are looking forward to a vitally important phase in the transformation of higher education where issues of quality and excellence are high up on the agenda of all role-players who want higher education to fulfil its great potential in responding to the social and economic and intellectual needs of our country.

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