Fostering sustainable development through quality assurance in higher education
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According to the World Bank working paper no. 124, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is home to 740 million people. Although the number is increasing, Africa has 635 out of the world’s 17,716 universities (3.6%). The gross tertiary enrollment ratio is about 5 percent, the lowest in the world. The current enrolments rates are the highest that Sub Saharan Africa has ever seen. It is hoped that these rates will continue to increase in spite of the fact that the budget allocation for education has been declining in most countries over the years. This coupled with the mushrooming of private provision of higher education and pressure from a rapidly transforming labor market have given rise to new concerns about quality. One of the ways in which universities assure quality and acquire recognition in their home countries and abroad is through accreditation and certification. In addition, universities seek quality certifications so as to differentiate themselves from the many institutions that are offering degrees and diplomas which have become commodities in the market economy. Today, a number of universities are seeking and acquiring the ISO certification in Kenya. 3 out of the 7 public universities have received the ISO certification while one private university is certified. Quality is fitness for purpose. John Henry Newman, states that university education implies an action upon our mental nature, and the formation of a character. It goes beyond providing information to the person to formation of the person. The ultimate aim university education then becomes integral human development. Quality certifications have had positive impact on the business performance of many entities. For instance they have lead to significant cost reductions, time saving and customer retention. However do these perceived benefits lead universities to achieving their true purpose and mission when they define and follow quality procedures? The certification procedures currently in use focus on the institution, the product it offers and the processes that are in place in the institution. This paper seeks to examine the role played by quality assurance in university education, the purpose of higher education and the factors that could make accreditation ineffective. It ends by suggesting how this process could be improved.