Towards understanding programmatic quality in private universities in Tanzania

Matimbo, Fulgence John (2016-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2016

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT : The context of this study is the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) – German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) pilot project on enhancing quality assurance in higher education in East Africa. The purpose was to explore institutional internal quality assurance processes which resulted from participation in the project and critically analyse the use and application of the concept of ’quality’ in private universities in Tanzania. In doing so, the study sought to understand how private universities in Tanzania interpret and apply the quality concept in programme evaluation. In order to answer this question, the study examined the literature on quality assurance in higher education and proposed a simple conceptual framework for a better understanding of self-evaluation of undergraduate programmes in private universities in Tanzania. The framework is based on a judgement that an improved understanding of how private universities in Tanzania interpret and apply the quality concept in programme self-evaluation depends on an understanding of the contexts in which these institutions operate. It is argued that programme self-evaluation is a complex multi-faceted process requiring a pluralistic research design. This was attempted in the study by employing a range of research methods from within an interpretative research paradigm and using a multiple case study design. The study analysed data from documents, interviews and used a Delphi exercise to reach levels of consensus. The study is therefore classified as exploratory and explanatory. It sought to explore the perceptions of quality held by key practitioners and how these perceptions influenced the process of programme self-evaluation. It also sought to explain how context influenced the process of programme self-evaluation. Findings from the study revealed varied perceptions of ‘quality’ in Tanzanian private higher education. These perceptions have a bearing on implementation of programme quality assurance. The findings of the study also showed that the IUCEA did attempt to work communicatively with the higher education community and that it was, in part, due to its consultative effort that private universities restructured themselves by establishing quality assurance units. However, the study also revealed that the adoption of the regional approach to programme self-evaluation was done at the expense of internal institutional quality assurance systems leading to compliance culture. The findings of the study suggest that understanding and operationalisation of the quality concept should not ignore the fact that private universities in Tanzania are facing common as well as distinctive challenges. On the one hand, this study has identified lack of financial resources and poor leadership as among the major of such challenges. On the other hand, the study suggests that bureaucratic power is an important dimension in understanding the dynamics of programme self-evaluation. From its findings and conclusions the study has narrowed the knowledge gap which existed before as little was known about how undergraduate programme quality in private universities were interpreted and applied in Tanzania. The study may contribute to make difference in improving such an understanding and importantly contribute to future programme self-evaluation efforts in Tanzania.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Hierdie studie handel oor die Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) – German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) loodsprojek met die oog op die verbetering van gehalte in hoër onderwys in Oos-Afrika. Die doel was om ‘n aantal privaat hoëronderwysinstellings se interne gehalte versekeringsprosesse te ondersoek en om die gebruik en toepassing van die konsep “gehalte” in privaat universiteite in Tanzanië krities te ontleed Die navorser het ondersoek ingestel na hoe privaat universteite in Tanzanië die konsep ’gehalte’ in die evaluering van voorgraadse programme toepas. Om hierdie vraag te beantwoord het die navorser die literatuur oor gehalteversekering in hoër onderwys ondersoek en ’n konseptuele raamwerk vir die begrip van die selfevaluering van voorgraadse programme aan privaat universiteite in Tanzanië voorgestel. Hierdie raamwerk is gebaseer op die aanname dat ’n beter begrip van hoe privaat universiteite in Tanzanië die konsep ’gehalte’ in programevaluering interpreteer en toepas, afhang van die konteks waarbinne hierdie instansies opereer. Daar is vasgestel dat die self-evaluering van programme ’n komplekse proses met vele fasette is en dat ’n veelvoudige navorsingsontwerp benodig word. Daarom het die navorser gebruik gemaak van ‘n veelgeval navorsingsontwerp en verskillende metodes binne ‘n interpretatiewe navorsingsparadigma benut ten einde kwalitatiewe data te genereer. Data verkry vanaf dokumente, onderhoude en die gebruik van ’n Delphi oefening is ontleed om konsensus oor bepaalde gehalte-aspekte bereik. Hierdie studie is dus ondersoekend en ook beskrywend deurdat dit persepsies van gehalte en hoe hierdie persepsies die proses van program self-evaluasie beïnvloed, ondersoek het. Daar is ook gepoog om te verduidelik hoe konteks die proses van program self-evaluering beïnvloed. Die studie het bevind dat verskillende persepsies van gehalte aan hoëronderwysinstellings in Tanzanië bestaan. Hierdie persepsies beïnvloed die toepassing van gehalteversekering. Daar is ook bevind dat die IUCEA wel probeer het om met die hoëronderwysgemeenskap te kommunikeer en dat hierdie konsultasie daartoe gelei het dat privaat universiteite gehalte versekeringseenhede gevestig het. Die aanvaarding van ’n streeksbenadering tot die self-evaluering van programme was ten koste van interne gehalte versekeringsprogramme en het gelei tot die ontstaan van ’n kultuur van inskiklikheid. Daar is bevind dat indien daar gepraat word oor die verstaan van die gehalte konsep en die lewensvatbaarheid daarvan, die feit dat privaat universiteite in Tanzanië algemene asook unieke uitdagings beleef, nie uit die oog verloor kan word nie. Die studie het bevind dat gebrek aan fondse en goeie leierskap belangrike uitdagings is. Aan die ander kant speel die burokrasie ook ’n rol in die dinamiek van die self-evaluering van universiteitsprogramme. Die bevindinge van die studie kan bydra tot kennis van die onderwerp, aangesien daar voorheen min aandag geskenk is aan hoe die gehalte van voorgraadse programme aan privaat universiteite in Tanzanië geïnterpreteer en toegepas is. Hierdie bevindinge kan bydra tot toekomstige pogings om self-evaluering in privaat universiteite in Tanzanië beter toe te pas.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/98675
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