Steps to Measure Quality in Higher Education: South Africa

Measuring quality in higher education is essential for ensuring student satisfaction, enhancing academic standards, and improving institutional effectiveness.

Measuring quality in higher education is how we make sure students are getting the best possible experience and will obtain a meaningful education.

How Do We Properly Measure Quality in Higher Education?

Measuring higher education quality is also important for enhancing academic standards and improving institutional effectiveness.

It helps identify gaps, informs policy decisions, and drives continuous improvement, leading to better educational outcomes and societal benefits.

But how is it done?

Can you imagine telling a professor their lectures are outdated boring monologues?

It has to happen!

Let’s get some insight on how it’s done!

Recommendations for Measuring Quality in Higher Education

The concept of quality in higher education has gained significant attention worldwide, with numerous methodologies developed to assess and enhance educational standards.

In this review we’re taking a look at insights from four key papers focusing on measuring quality in South African higher education: Luckett (2010), Green (2010), de Jager and Gbadamosi (2010), and Akoojee and Nkomo (2007).

Links to these great studies are at the end of this post, click through and take a read!

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1. The Foundations and Challenges for Quality in Higher Education

Luckett (2010) critically examines the evolution of quality assurance methodologies in the South African higher education context.

The paper discusses the historical and socio-political constraints that shaped the quality assurance landscape.

Luckett emphasizes the tension between neoliberal market-driven approaches and the transformative goals of post-apartheid South Africa.

Luckett argues that while there has been a “quality revolution,” it remains constrained by these conflicting pressures.

The study highlights the need for a more context-sensitive approach that balances external accountability with internal improvement and transformation .

This means that while we are susceptible to external influences and demands, we need to be true to our homeground.

Easier said than done, right?

2. Service Quality Frameworks at the Durban University of Technology

Green (2010) presents a case study on measuring service quality in South African higher education, specifically at the Durban University of Technology.

I read this paper because I did my undergrad in Fine Art at the Durban University of Technology and so was curious about the findings. 🙂

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Using the SERVQUAL model, Green assessed five dimensions of service quality at DUT: tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance, and empathy. (We discuss this in further detail below.)

Green’s findings show that students’ perceptions of service quality are influenced by their academic and social experiences.

Green also found that there are big disparities between students’ expectations and their actual experiences.

This was relatable for me because when I was a student on campus, the SRC faked being banned to try to spark an interest.

But we didn’t care about a banning and giggled at their efforts once the truth came out.

Do you agree that the Madiba era spawned apathy because we thought democracy was a done deal?

Anyhow, the study underscores the importance of aligning institutional practices with student expectations to enhance overall service quality .

3. Quality Measures for Specific Higher Education Challenges

In their paper, de Jager and Gbadamosi (2010) propose targeted remedies for specific quality issues within South African higher education.

They argue that a one-size-fits-all approach is ineffective due to the diverse challenges faced by institutions.

(Duh)

The authors advocate for the adaptation of the SERVQUAL model to address specific areas of concern, such as administrative efficiency, academic support services, and infrastructure.

Their research suggests that tailored interventions can significantly improve perceived service quality, thereby enhancing the overall educational experience .

4. Balancing Access and Quality in Higher Education

Akoojee and Nkomo (2007) explore the twin challenges of access and quality in South African higher education.

They highlight the paradox of expanding access while maintaining high standards of quality.

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The authors argue that increasing access without corresponding improvements in quality undermines the transformative potential of higher education.

Their study calls for a balanced approach that ensures equitable access to education while also investing in the necessary resources to uphold quality standards.

This involves comprehensive policy frameworks that address both systemic inequalities and quality enhancement .

Synthesis and Implications of Quality in Higher Education

Collectively, these studies provide a nuanced understanding of the complexities involved in measuring and enhancing quality in South African higher education.

Luckett (2010) emphasizes the need for contextual sensitivity in quality assurance methodologies, recognizing the unique socio-political landscape of post-apartheid South Africa.

Green (2010) and de Jager and Gbadamosi (2010) highlight the practical application of service quality models, particularly the adaptability of the SERVQUAL model to meet specific institutional needs.

Akoojee and Nkomo (2007) underscore the importance of balancing access with quality, advocating for policies that simultaneously address expansion and enhancement.

Measure Quality in South African Higher Education

To create a comprehensive framework for measuring quality in higher education in South Africa, we can integrate the key insights and methodologies from the four studies.

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How South Africa can Measure Quality in Higher Education

This table outlines proposed higher education quality measures based on the dimensions discussed in these papers:

Quality DimensionMeasurement CriteriaStudy Reference
Contextual SensitivityAdaptation to socio-political contextLuckett (2010)
Consideration of historical inequitiesLuckett (2010)
Service QualityTangibles: Infrastructure, facilities, and physical resourcesGreen (2010), de Jager & Gbadamosi (2010)
Reliability: Consistency and dependability of servicesGreen (2010), de Jager & Gbadamosi (2010)
Responsiveness: Promptness and helpfulness in service deliveryGreen (2010), de Jager & Gbadamosi (2010)
Assurance: Competence, courtesy, and credibility of staffGreen (2010), de Jager & Gbadamosi (2010)
Empathy: Caring and personalized attention to studentsGreen (2010), de Jager & Gbadamosi (2010)
Access and EquityEnrollment rates across different demographicsAkoojee & Nkomo (2007)
Resource allocation to support disadvantaged studentsAkoojee & Nkomo (2007)
Policies to enhance equitable accessAkoojee & Nkomo (2007)
Student ExperienceAcademic support services: Availability and quality of tutoring, advising, and counselingde Jager & Gbadamosi (2010), Green (2010)
Administrative efficiency: Ease of registration, access to information, and responsivenessde Jager & Gbadamosi (2010)
Outcome-Based MeasuresGraduation rates and time to completionGeneral good practice in higher education quality assurance
Employment rates and career success of graduatesGeneral good practice in higher education quality assurance
Teaching and Learning QualityFaculty qualifications and developmentGeneral good practice in higher education quality assurance
– Student satisfaction with teachingGeneral good practice in higher education quality assurance
Innovation in teaching methods and curriculum designGeneral good practice in higher education quality assurance
Research Output and ImpactPublications and citationsGeneral good practice in higher education quality assurance
Research funding and grantsGeneral good practice in higher education quality assurance
Community engagement and societal impactGeneral good practice in higher education quality assurance
Measuring Quality in Higher Education

Explanation of the Measuring Quality in Higher Education Table

Measuring quality in higher education is how we spot the weak links, make smarter decisions, and keep raising the bar.  

Because when colleges are at their best, everyone wins.

1. Contextual Sensitivity of Quality:

Measures are derived from Luckett (2010), emphasizing the need for quality assurance systems that consider the unique socio-political and historical context of South Africa.

2. Measuring Service Quality:

Criteria from Green (2010) and de Jager & Gbadamosi (2010) are included, utilizing the SERVQUAL dimensions (tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance, empathy) to assess the quality of services provided to students.

The SERVQUAL Model

The SERVQUAL model is a widely used framework for measuring service quality, encompassing five key dimensions:

Tangibles:

This dimension refers to the physical aspects of the service environment.

In higher education, this includes the quality of facilities such as classrooms, libraries, laboratories, and technological infrastructure.

Well-maintained and modern physical resources contribute to a positive learning environment.

Reliability:

Reliability involves the ability to consistently deliver promised services accurately and dependably.

In the context of higher education, this means providing consistent academic and administrative services, such as accurate grading, timely feedback, and dependable course scheduling.

Responsiveness:

Responsiveness is the willingness and ability to help customers promptly.

For higher education institutions, this translates to quick and efficient support from faculty and administrative staff, timely responses to student inquiries, and effective handling of student issues and complaints.

Assurance:

Assurance encompasses the knowledge, competence, and courtesy of staff, as well as their ability to inspire trust and confidence.

In higher education, this involves the qualifications and expertise of faculty, the professionalism of administrative staff, and the overall reputation of the institution.

Empathy:

Empathy is about providing caring and individualized attention to customers.

For educational institutions, this means understanding and addressing the unique needs of students, offering personalized academic advising, and creating a supportive and inclusive campus environment.

By evaluating these dimensions, institutions can gain a comprehensive understanding of their service quality and identify areas for improvement to enhance the overall educational experience.

3. Measuring Higher Education Access and Equity:

Indicators based on Akoojee & Nkomo (2007) focus on ensuring that quality assurance frameworks promote equitable access and resource allocation, addressing systemic inequalities.

4. Measuring Higher Education Student Experience:

This dimension incorporates measures from de Jager & Gbadamosi (2010) and Green (2010), focusing on the quality and efficiency of academic and administrative support services.

5. Outcome-Based Measures:

Standard metrics in higher education, such as graduation rates and employment outcomes, are included to provide a comprehensive assessment of institutional effectiveness.

6. Measuring Higher Education Teaching and Learning Quality:

General good practices in higher education quality assurance are included, such as faculty qualifications, student satisfaction, and curriculum innovation.

7. Measuring Higher Education Research Output and Impact:

Standard metrics used globally to measure the quality and impact of research activities are also included.

This table integrates the specific insights from the four studies into a coherent framework for measuring quality in higher education in South Africa, ensuring that all critical aspects of quality assurance are covered.

Quality in Higher Education is Multifaceted

Measuring quality in higher education is a multifaceted exercise.

It requires a balance between external accountability and internal improvement.

In the South African higher education context, this balance is even more complicated by historical inequities and the imperative for transformation.

The insights from these four papers suggest that a successful quality assurance framework must be contextually adapted, responsive to specific institutional challenges, and cognizant of the broader goals of access and equity.

As higher education continues to evolve, ongoing research and adaptive methodologies will be essential in ensuring that quality enhancement efforts are both effective and equitable.


FAQ: Measuring Quality in Higher Education

How does the current landscape of quality in higher education in South Africa look?

The higher education landscape in South Africa is evolving, with institutions striving to balance access and quality amid socio-political and historical challenges.

This dynamic environment requires a deep understanding of the specific context and needs of each institution to effectively measure and improve quality.

What are the major challenges in measuring quality in higher education?

Many institutions face challenges such as disparities in service delivery, inadequate resources, and a lack of alignment between institutional practices and student expectations.

These issues can hinder the ability to provide consistent, high-quality education and support services.

What are the consequences of not addressing these higher education quality challenges?

Failing to address quality in higher education can lead to student dissatisfaction, low retention and graduation rates, and poor employment outcomes for graduates.

This not only affects the reputation and effectiveness of institutions but also has broader implications for economic development and social equity.

How can tailored quality measurement frameworks address these challenges?

By implementing customized quality measurement frameworks that consider the unique context and specific needs of each institution.

Then it is possible to identify and address gaps in service delivery, enhance resource allocation, and align educational practices with student expectations.

This approach ensures that quality improvement efforts are targeted and effective for higher education in South Africa.


Our Services to make your Quality in Higher Education Competitive

We specialize in education and economic development consulting, offering tailored solutions to enhance quality in higher education. Our approach involves:

1. Situation Analysis:

Conducting comprehensive assessments to understand the current state of quality in your institution.

2. Problem Identification:

Identifying specific challenges and areas for improvement.

3. Implication Exploration:

Assessing the impact of these challenges on student outcomes and institutional effectiveness.

4. Need-Payoff Solutions:

Proposing and implementing customized strategies that meet your institution’s needs and drive measurable improvements in quality.

Our expertise ensures that your institution can navigate the complexities of the higher education landscape and achieve its quality assurance goals effectively.

References:

  1. Luckett, K. 2010. A ‘quality revolution’ constrained? A critical reflection on quality assurance methodology from the South African higher education context. Quality in Higher Education, 16(1): 71-75. DOI: 10.1080/13538321003679556.
  2. Green, P. Measuring Service Quality In Higher Education: A South African Case Study. Durban University of Technology, South Africa.
  3. de Jager, J., & Gbadamosi, G. Specific remedy for specific problem: measuring service quality in South African higher education.
  4. Akoojee, S., & Nkomo, M. Access and quality in South African higher education: the twin challenges of transformation. Human Sciences Research Council and University of Pretoria.
leoniehall
leoniehall

Combining education, economics and creativity to achieve innovative and competitive solutions for private, public and personal development spaces.

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