The Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZIMCHE) was established by an Act of Parliament, Chapter 25:27, promulgated in 2006, to promote and co-ordinate education provided by institutions of higher education and to act as a regulator in the determination and maintenance of standards of teaching, examinations, academic qualifications and research in institutions of higher education.
- ZIMCHE is made up of a 21-member Council and a Secretariat with a current establishment of 40.
- Council is the policy making body while the Secretariat performs the day-to-day duties of Council.
- The members of Council are drawn from the top brass of the nation’s intelligentsia, including academia, the business community, statutory and professional bodies.
- The Council is required to have on it three Permanent Secretaries of Ministries and three Vice-Chancellors who represent public and private universities.
- The Chief Executive Officer is a member of Council and Secretary to Council.
- The calibre of the Council is exemplified by the current Chairman and Vice-Chairman: Professor C.J.Chetsanga, is a world renowned scientist who has held a number of prestigious positions, while Professor Mubako is a former Cabinet Minister, former High Court Judge and former Ambassador.
- For its Secretariat, ZIMCHE has employed highly qualified and experienced academics and specialists.
There is a Council that is responsible for the policy function and a Secretariat which carries out the day to day functions of Council. The Council operates through the Committee system and the following are the Committees in place :
- The Executive Committee (EXCO)
- The Higher Education Quality Assurance Committee (HEQAC)
- The Higher Education Finance Committee
- The Human Resources Committee
- The Academic and Student Affairs Committee.
The Secretariat is headed by the CEO. It is comprised of three directorates, each of which is headed by a Principal Director as follows:
- Registration and Accreditation
- Academic and Institutional Audits
- Human Resources, Administration and Finance
ZIMCHE’s Functions as set out in the Act can be categorised are into three areas
- Regulatory (in respect of the accreditation, registration, auditing and, where necessary, de-registration of institutions);
- Coordination and facilitation;
- advisory (advising the Minister and higher education institutions);
Functions of the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education are as follows
- to advise the Minister on all higher education matters;
- to develop and recommend policy on higher education including the establishment of public institutions and advise the Minister accordingly;
- to accredit institutions of higher education;
- to design and recommend an institutional quality assurance system for higher education, that is, a system whereby the courses, programmes and degrees offered by institutions are evaluated on a regular and objective basis, and to recommend to the Minister institutional quality assurance standards for
- the establishment, standardization and accreditation of institutions of higher education including standards of the physical plant and equipment; and
- the preparation and amendment of university charters and statutes;
- the development of curricula;
- the standards of libraries;
- the safety standards of laboratories and workshops; and
- student transfer between programmes and institutions of higher education;
- to advise on the shape and size of the higher education system;
- to advise on the budgeting and funding arrangements for higher education and for public institutions;
- to assist institutions of higher education in the training of high calibre staff;
- to promote equity in access to higher education through the provision of student assistance programmes;
- to promote international co-operation and facilitate exchanges in higher education; and
- to perform any other function that the Minister may deem necessary.
As quality assurance is central to the role of ZIMCHE, it is necessary that stakeholders acquire a good understanding of the purpose of quality assurance and what is meant by quality in modern discourse. Quality assurance in higher education is a world wide development that has taken place in the last two decades or so due to, among other things, the worldwide massification and rising costs of higher education in the face of dwindling resources. In this regard, the purpose of quality assurance can be summarised as follows:
- To improve and promote quality.
- To assure the public (i.e. the Zimbabwean public) and the international community that institutions are achieving acceptable levels of quality.
- To provide assurance to stakeholders and professional bodies such as the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe that the required standards of competence are being met.
- For institutions to demonstrate to Government, ZIMCHE and other important stakeholders that the requirements of accountability, efficiency and effectiveness are being met at both institutional and programme levels.
To have a clearer appreciation of ZIMCHE’s role in quality assurance one needs to understand the following:
- The External and Internal Dimensions of Quality Assurance:
Quality assurance in higher education has two important dimensions: an internal and external dimension. The quality assurance system involves internal self-evaluation by the institution and external validation by a quality assurance agency. Each higher education institution must see it as its responsibility to establish and maintain an effective quality assurance system. ZIMCHE as a quality assurance agency provides the external validation.
- Mode of Operation:As indicated earlier, ZIMCHE operates through three directorates. Of particular importance in terms of quality assurance are the processes of registration and accreditation, for which the Registration and Accreditation Directorate has responsibility; and programme and institutional audits, for which the Academic and Institutional Audits Directorate is responsible. The ZIMCHE Act requires that all degree granting institutions be registered with ZIMCHE.
- All state and private institutions that were in existence before ZIMCHE became operational were deemed to be registered.
- As far as programmes are concerned, ZIMCHE has developed institutional and programme criteria that must be met for the institution’s programmes to be accredited.
- To facilitate institutional self-evaluation, as well as the external audit function, ZIMCHE has prepared a number of instruments which are currently in use.
- ZIMCHE provides other services, including running training programmes for various categories of higher education personnel.
The processes of accreditation, registration, institutional audits and programme audits and the other services we provide are all designed to achieve the following:
- To ensure continuous improvement in quality
- To promote accountability
- To protect the credibility of the Zimbabwe’s qualifications and the reputation of the nation’s higher education system as a whole, and
- To develop one of the best higher education systems in Africa and the world.