An investigation of the impact of quality assurance on academic freedom within a South African Higher Education framework

Farmer, John (2002-03)

Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2002.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Quality assurance has become a prominent and permanent feature of Higher Education in many countries, and South Africa has been no exception in this regard. The pressing need for social and economic development and the competition for scarce resources has spearheaded the demands for accountability in Higher Education and given rise to the promulgation of a series of Acts and regulations aimed at the transformation of the sector. The most important legislation introduced was the SAQA Act No 58 of 1995. It provides the legal framework for the transformation of the entire educational system in South Africa, and in particular for the evaluation of the quality of Education and Training by establishing structures such as National Standards Bodies (NSB's), Standard Generating Bodies (SGB's) and Education and Training Quality Assurance Bodies (ETQA's). A significant development in South African Higher Education was the publishing of the Education White Paper 3 and the promulgation of the South African Higher Education Bill in 1997. One of the outstanding features of this legislation is that the evaluation of the quality of Higher Education is compulsory, and will be done by the Council on Higher Education (CHE), co-ordinated by its permanent committee, the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC). There is a concern that rigidly enforced quality assurance systems could have a negative impact on the academic freedom of institutions. The purpose of this study was, therefore, to determine the most likely impact of quality assurance on academic freedom. In order to achieve this objective, quality assurance and academic freedom frameworks were developed respectively, and the interaction of the various elements in this framework explored. In most instances it was found that quality assurance could have a negative impact on academic freedom. One particular aspect that is of serious concern at the tertiary level is the programme-based as opposed to discipline-based approach to qualifications. This poses a serious threat to academic freedom as it effectively diminishes the space within which academic freedom is practised. However, this conclusion is based on a meta-physical study, and needs to be confirmed by appropriate empirical studies.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Kwaliteitsversekering is reeds in baie lande 'n vername en blywende kenmerk van Hoër Onderwys, en Suid-Afrika het in hierdie verband nie agtergebly nie. Die dringende behoefte aan sosiale en ekonomiese ontwikkeling en die mededinging om skaars hulpbronne was aan die spits van die eise om aanspreeklikheid in Hoër Onderwys en het aanleiding gegee tot die promulgering van 'n reeks wette en regulasies wat op die transformasie van die sektor gerig is. Die belangrikste wetgewing wat ingevoer is, is die Wet op die Suid-Afrikaanse Kwalifikasieowerheid 58 van 1995. Dit maak voorsiening vir die wetlike raamwerk vir die transformasie van die hele onderwysstelsel in Suid-Afrika, en veral vir die evaluering van die kwaliteit van Onderwys en Opleiding deur strukture soos Nasionale Standaardeliggame (NSL'e), Standaarde-ontwikkelingsliggame (SOL'e ) en Onderwys-en-Opleidingskwaliteitversekeringsliggame (OOKVL's). 'n Betekenisvolle ontwikkeling in Suid-Afrikaanse Hoër Onderwys was die afkondiging van die Onderwys Witskrif 3 en die promulgering van die Wet op Hoër Onderwys in 1997. Een van die besondere kenmerke van hierdie wetgewing is dat die evaluering van die kwaliteit van Hoër Onderwys verpligtend is en deur die Raad vir Hoër Onderwys (RHO) uitgevoer en deur sy permanente komitee, die Hoër Onderwyskwaliteitskomitee (HOKK), gekoordineer word. Daar bestaan kommer dat streng toegepaste kwaliteitsversekeringstelsels 'n negatiewe uitwerking op die akademiese vryheid van instellings kan hê. Die doel van hierdie studie was dus om die waarskynlikste uitwerking van kwaliteitsversekering op akademiese vryheid te bepaal. Ten einde hierdie doelwit te bereik, is kwaliteitsversekerings- en akademiesevryheidsraamwerke onderskeidelik ontwikkel en is die wisselwerking van die onderskeie elemente in hierdie raamwerk verken. Daar is in die meeste gevalle bevind dat kwaliteitsversekering 'n negatiewe uitwerking op akademiese vryheid kan hê. Een besondere aspek wat ernstige kommer op tersiêre vlak wek, is die programgegronde benadering tot kwalifikasies in teenstelling met die dissiplinegegronde benadering daartoe. Dit hou 'n ernstige bedreiging vir akademiese vryheid in aangesien dit die ruimte waarbinne akademiese vryheid beoefen word, effektief inkort. Hierdie gevolgtrekking is egter op 'n metafisiese studie gegrond en moet deur toepaslike empiriese studies bevestig word.

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