1) Preamble
The Global Quality Assurance Association (GQAA) hosted a transformative three-day Quality Assurance Symposium between May 14th to 16th, 2024. This event brought together prominent individuals from various higher education institutions (HEIs) across Africa, aiming to delve into the broader picture of quality assurance (QA) and its multifaceted benefits beyond mere compliance and policing. The symposium provided a comprehensive understanding of quality assurance practices and their significant impact on institutional excellence through the lens of total quality management (TQM) and the designing of appropriate QA tools.
It should be noted that in each of the GQAA’s engagements 2 trophies (one for a male and another one for a female delegate) are always given out to 2 people as decided by the other delegates. For this event, it was Dr Cynthia Bannerman from the Accra College of Medicine & Dr Moshood Babatunde Lawal from University of Nigeria.
2) Understanding Quality, Quality Assurance and The Benefits in A Broader Perspective
Dr. Violet Makuku, the facilitator, began by elucidating the concept of quality assurance and its critical importance in various contexts. She defined quality as the degree of excellence or superiority of a product or service, emphasizing that measurement is key to improving quality. Different perspectives of quality, including user-based, manufacturing-based, and product-based/regulatory perspectives, were highlighted to show the multi-dimensional nature of quality and quality assurance.
She also highlighted the critical distinction between quality assurance and quality control. While quality assurance is proactive and process-oriented, aimed at preventing defects, quality control is reactive and product-oriented, focused on detecting defects after production. Several dimensions of quality, such as performance, durability, features, aesthetics, value, serviceability, and perceived quality, were discussed, underscoring the need for a holistic and comprehensive approach to quality management.
In the context of higher education, universal quality indicators such as fitness for purpose, relevance, institutional branding, meeting set standards, value for money, excellence, and transformation for the better were mentioned by delegates while Dr Makuku guided the engagement. These indicators serve as benchmarks for evaluating the quality of educational institutions. Quality assurance in higher education was defined as a continuous process of monitoring, evaluation, and improvement of procedures, policies, services, and personnel to uphold the quality of educational offerings. She also took time to highlight the characteristics and competencies that quality assurance personnel ought to possess in order for them to deliver in their roles exceptionally well.
3) Practical Applications of Quality Assurance and Continuous Improvement
Dr. Makuku detailed the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, also known as the Deming Cycle, as a four-step management method used for ongoing enhancement in quality management processes. Each phase—planning, doing, checking, and acting—was emphasized as crucial for driving continuous quality improvement initiatives through monitoring and evaluation. This enables the identification of
flaws, gaps and hurdles Participants were encouraged to apply this cycle to various quality improvement projects and processes within their institutions. By integrating the PDCA cycle methodology into their quality management practices, institutions/organizations can enhance operational efficiency, effectiveness, and overall performance.
Dr. Makuku also addressed the importance of changing mindsets as a key driver for development. She highlighted the transformative power of altering habitual ways of thinking, asserting that change is essential for growth and progress. The distinction between a fixed mindset, characterized by rigidity and resistance to change, and a growth mindset, marked by openness and resilience, was well illustrated. Embracing a growth mindset was portrayed as pivotal for personal and organizational development and transformation.
4) Policies & The Quality Assurance Policy: The Practical Implications
The final day focused on aligning quality assurance policies with higher education as well as national policies. Dr. Makuku emphasized the importance of clarity and adherence to national laws when formulating institutional policies. She underscored the need for quality assurance policies to guide organizational actions, financial decision-making, and stakeholder communication, making them vital for achieving excellence in higher education institutions.
Through highly interactive sessions, the challenges faced by public higher education institutions in implementing quality assurance initiatives were identified by the delegates, including inadequate structures, systems, and policies, as well as a lack of effective coordination and direction in quality enhancement activities. Dr. Makuku advocated for a holistic approach to quality assurance that links it with issues of regulations, translation, and transformation, rather than viewing it solely as a standalone policy instrument. To address these challenges, she proposed aligning best practices in quality management with education for sustainable development, highlighting the need for higher education institutions to transform themselves and contribute to societal advancement through quality education. Various QA tools, such as assessment tools, policy documents, monitoring tools, and data collection instruments, were discussed to ensure comprehensive quality assurance practices.
In light of living in a technology driven world with technological advancements taking place at unprecedented rates, it was only right for the GQAA to also empower the delegates with knowledge around the use of technology to enhance quality and to ensure quality, efficiency and effectiveness in operations. Miss Tariro took the delegates through sessions on the productive use of the various emerging artificial intelligence (AI) tools and she also covered the use of technology in data collection and monitoring and evaluation as it pertains to quality and quality assurance.
In the final session, participants drew and presented their action plans for total quality management in their institutions. These plans outlined specific activities and strategies to ensure quality in higher education, reinforcing the symposium’s goal of fostering a culture of quality in academic institutions.
5) Conclusion
The three-day Quality Assurance Symposium was a resounding success, providing valuable insights into the broader picture of quality assurance beyond mere policing. By embracing total quality management practices and designing appropriate QA tools, institutions can significantly enhance efficiency, effectiveness, and customer satisfaction. Dr. Makuku’s practical and delegate-centred presentations underscored the importance of continuous improvement and changing mindsets for personal and organizational development. Higher education institutions can meet the evolving needs of students and society through robust quality assurance frameworks, a commitment to excellence, driving progress and transformation.
Contact us: info@gqaa.org; director@gqaa.org; +233 270 239 438; +233 263 129 798
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