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Thursday 17 January 2019
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Probing the quality and cost of tertiary education

main_0 namibia-scientistsThe Patriot this week interviewed Mocks Shivute, Executive Director of the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) Secretariat to discuss issues related to higher education. Among the issues discussed were funding, student fees as well as the council’s plans for 2017.

What is your role as Executive Director of the NCHE Secretariat?
To ensure that the Secretariat successfully achieves the objectives set in the Strategic Plan, which is developed based on the mandate of NCHE as prescribed by the Higher Education Act, Act 26 of 2003.
Furthermore, serve as the Secretary to the Council, which is the principal advisor to the Minister on higher education-related matters.

What are NCHE’s plans for 2017?
In line with the Public Service Performance Management System, NCHE has adopted the culture of implementing five-year strategic plans.  The existing strategic plan ends this month, 31 March 2017.  Therefore, our main focus firstly will be to finalise the 2017/18-2021/20122 strategic plan.  Alongside this activity, other major activities would include: registration of private higher education institutions; accreditation of academic programmes offered at higher education institutions; institutional audit; finalisation of the national graduation survey and publication of the 2016 Namibia Statistical Yearbook.

What are the major challenges faced by NCHE?
Lack of financial resources hampered the implementation of some programmes, that is, enrolling new academic staff to benefit from postgraduate training programme,  implementation of the funding framework;
Acquiring quality assurance subject expert for some programmes to be reviewed;
Delays in the appointment of the fourth Council hampered approval of some key documents;
The provision of registration documents by private HEIs delays the process;
Attracting and retaining qualified and experienced personnel.

What is NCHE’s role in the funding framework for public higher institutions?
NCHE is mandated by the NCHE Act to advice the Minister of Higher Education on the allocation of funds to public higher education institutions.
Accordingly, the NCHE set up a Funding Framework & HEMIS Committee to:
Review and make recommendations on the annual updating of the parameters of the Funding Formula
Review and discuss with public higher education institutions their Annual Development Plans and tuition fee adjustments
Make recommendations to the NCHE in respect of public higher education institutions’ budget proposals for submission to the line Ministry
Monitor trends in public higher education indicators, and suggest appropriate interventions where necessary
Make recommendations in respect of adding new indicators to the Funding Framework on emerging issues
Maintain open communication with public higher education institutions on issues pertaining to data collection and management, and
Ensure the timely publication and dissemination of public higher education statistics.

The Funding Framework & HEMIS Unit of the Secretariat addresses secretarial, administrative and technical issues specifically for the Funding Framework and HEMIS Committee, and is responsible for:
Collecting and assessing public higher education data for completeness and reliability;
Processing such data;
Producing public higher education statistical reports;
Analysing public higher education institutions’ MTPBs; and
Preparing public higher education institutions’ budget proposals for submission to the line Ministry.

Public universities have over the years complained over the funding accorded to them by Government. Is the Council aware of these concerns and what is being done to improve the situation?
The Government of Namibia has been aware of these concerns, hence in 2010, Cabinet directed the line ministry to:
Reform public higher education funding;
Develop a public higher education management information system (HEMIS);
Review the public higher education funding formula;
Assess the budget submissions of public higher education institutions; and
Monitor the utilisation of resources by public higher education institutions.

The Funding Framework was subsequently approved in 2013 to ensure that funds are allocated to public higher education institutions in a fair and transparent manner.  The funding framework is in its second year of implementation, however, with the current financial crisis, government is encountering one cannot measure the effectiveness of the framework.

Students at tertiary institutions have often lamented the high cost of tertiary education and accommodation. Are there any regulatory systems in place to ensure that fees do not escalate uncontrollably?

The Tuition Fees Model, which is a component of the funding framework, deals with the way public higher education institutions determine the level of these tuition fees and their periodic adjustment. Because of the way tuition fees impact on access to education, equity, and the equilibrium of public finances, the Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation regulates the process of adjusting tuition fees. Tuition fees should not exceed 25 percent of a household’s GDP per capita.

The rising tuition fees have come under scrutiny, as the question of whether the quality of education is increasing along with the fees. What is your view on this perception?

The increase in tuition fees should be seen in the context of the entire economic set-up.  Just as the cost of all other goods increase, the cost of delivering higher education is also bound to increase.  This cost cannot all be absorbed by government subsidies.  Hence, the increase in tuition fees.
This is, however, not done at the expense of the quality of the academic programmes.  The quality assurance system implemented by NCHE recognises the need for internal quality assurance structures at the higher education institutions and external assurance by NCHE.  With this arrangement, it is expected that all academic programmes will be developed in line with the national quality assurance standards

Employers have continuously complained that public universities are not producing quality Namibian graduates, which usually leads to the importation of the workforce. Is your office aware of such perceptions and how often does NCHE engage the business community to share ideas in this regard?

Such concerns have been raised by individuals but have not been scientifically confirmed.  What has been confirmed in the National Human Resources Plan is the shortage of skilled human resources in some professions. That concern is being addressed through monitoring of the annual outputs from the higher education institutions in the form of annual statistics.
Nevertheless, after the completion of the national graduate survey this year, we intend to conduct, employer survey to confirm the alleged concern or perception.

In your view, what are the factors hampering the delivery of quality education in Namibia?
Lack of funding to the higher education sub-sector to attract and retain adequate and qualified staff.

There were budget cuts in ministries, particularly the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation. Have these cuts affected the execution of the NCHE mandate?

Yes, NCHE was affected to the extent that we could not fill all the vacancies in the institution, thereby hampering maximum performance.

Due to the budget cuts, all government institutions had to re-prioritise, and to use government resources where they can have the most impact. Which areas has NCHE identified as impact areas to ensure that its objectives are not compromised?
Programme Accreditation
Implementation of the funding framework
Supporting tracer studies at the three universities (IUM, NUST and UNAM)
Development of the tuition fees adjustment model

How involved is NCHE in the operations of the country’s top tertiary institutions (Namibia University of Science and Technology and the University of Namibia) to ensure that they deliver quality education?

NCHE:
Conducts programme accreditation, which is a quality assurance measurement ensuring that the programmes offered by the two public universities are of quality;
Through the funding framework, monitors the programmes introduced and offered by the instutions;
Compiles the Namibia Higher Education Institutions statistical yearbook that provides an analysis of the HEIs enrolments, graduation, staff; and
Consults on issues affected higher education in the country.

There has been an increase in numbers when it comes to non-accredited colleges in Namibia. What is NCHE’s role when it comes to curbing the mushrooming of bogus colleges in the country?
The Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation together with the NQA, NTA and NCHE have joined forces to put an end to the mushrooming of unaccredited/unregistered training providers.




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