Introduction – The agency’s motivation to take part in the review.
The Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZIMCHE) was established through an Act of Parliament in 2006. Although skeletal staff were recruited in 2007, operations commenced in 2009 and hence has been in operation for ten years. ZIMCHE is the competent authority registering, accrediting, auditing and the holistic quality assurance (QA) of higher education institutions (HEIs) and their programmes. QA is targeted at safeguarding the quality of higher education (HE) in Zimbabwe. In pursuance to this goal, ZIMCHE develops and continuously improves policies, methods, standards, instruments and tools for use assuring and enhancing quality. This stems from the realisation that as systems evolve and the HE arena changes, QA bodies need to continuously adjust in order to achieve their goals. ZIMCHE finds it unnecessary to re-invent the wheel; it benchmarks its practices with other world-class QA agencies, adapts and innovates. A key enabler is the unique Act which empowers ZIMCHE not only with regulatory powers, but mandates it to also promote, advise and coordinate all issues that impact on the HE quality. Thus in executing its mandate, ZIMCHE focuses on both accountability and improvement. Benchmarking revealed that some QA agencies take the regulatory function only whilst some take a voluntary, self‐improvement approach.
The vision of ZIMCHE is to be an internationally acclaimed quality-assured higher and tertiary education system by 2025. The mission is to regulate and engender a culture of self- assessment in higher and tertiary education in order to bring about industrialisation, modernisation, sustainable and equitable socio-economic development. In pursuance of its mandate and mission, ZIMCHE puts the responsibility for QA in HEIs to all levels: top management, senior management, middle management and at operational level. At the professional and academic level, ZIMCHE uses the collegial type of QA wherein staff and students are trained and encouraged to take charge of their work and to embrace constant improvement. Individuals, departments and institutions are given the responsibility to ensure quality. HEIs ensure quality in designing and implementing programmes using ZIMCHE standards and guidelines.
Cognisant of the need to continuously improve the QA system by way of further developing its strengths, eliminating weaknesses and mitigating risks, ZIMCHE recruited an Internal and Quality Assurance Audit Manager to assist in giving an independent opinion on the implementation of Council policies, procedures and systems. ZIMCHE is desirous of achieving the best QA system with limited resources by empowering HEIs be in charge of the quality of its teaching and learning, research and development and reducing the volume of assessments. To this end, ZIMCHE wishes to embrace the voice of local and international stakeholders hence the motivation for Council to be subjected to an independent review of its effectiveness in implementing its mandate. Such an exercise is costly hence ZIMCHE grabbed the opportunity offered by HAQAA to be involved in a pilot review Courtesy of HAQAA financiers. The use of the African Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Higher Education will be of great use to ZIMCHE. The knowledge that the pilot reviews are supported by the African Quality Assurance Network (AfriQAN), a reputable international body, gave Council much comfort. Although ZIMCHE solicits for feedback from its stakeholders from time to time, the independent pilot review team is likely to get those views on the performance Council that stakeholders might not be free to share with ZIMCHE directly. Such honest and frank information will assist ZIMCHE to improve on the quality of its services.