columnBy Toivo Mvula
Accreditation of Institutions in Namibia by the Namibia Qualifications Authority (NQA) in the Ministry of Education
1. What is accreditation?
Accreditation is confirmation by the Namibia Qualifications Authority (NQA) that an institution or organization has the capacity to provide a specified course, or courses, and assess the performance of persons enrolled in such a course, or courses. An accreditation decision is made when agreed quality requirements, specified as the Accreditation Standard, have been met.
2. What must an institution do to be accredited?
An application form has to be submitted, accompanied by supporting information and documents. The applicant must complete a form of self evaluation to ensure that they meet the requirements of the Accreditation Standard before they apply.
3. Who conducts the accreditation of the institutions?
Accreditation is conferred by the Council of the Namibia Qualifications Authority following in-depth analysis of the application by the NQA staff in conjunction with professional bodies, subject experts and awarding bodies. The analysis is supported by a site visit to verify that claims made in the application are factual and accurate.
4. Why are institutions not accredited by the NQA operating in the country?
The legal mandate for the NQA to accredit institutions was confirmed by the gazetting of Regulations in late August 2006. These Regulations specified the form in which applications must be made and the criteria against which applications would be judged and decisions on accreditation made.
Since these Regulations were gazetted, the NQA has received 30 applications. Three institutions had their applications for accreditation confirmed before the end of 2006, and a number of others are at an advanced stage of consideration.
The quality checks made by the NQA and its quality partners take time as the NQA and its partners must be confident that appropriate courses have been designed and that these are being taught and assessed in appropriate ways by appropriately qualified people. The NQA must be confident that quality is sustainable before it is able to offer assurances to Namibians wishing to enrol in specified courses at particular institutions.
5. Which institutions are accredited?
The NQA is required to publish its accreditation decisions in the Government Gazette. It is also required to keep a register of accredited institutions and the courses for which they have been accredited to offer. The NQA invites anyone interested in studying at an institution to check the status of the institution and any specific course with the NQA before completing their enrolment. Request forms for such information are available from the NQA office, telephone (061)271083 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The NQA no longer publishes lists of recognized courses and institutions in the form of booklets as this information, often sourced from abroad, can become outdated quickly. Any booklets previously published by the NQA should not be treated as expressing current information.
6. Which institutions have had their accreditation withdrawn by the NQA?
The Regulations make provision for the accreditation of an institution to be withdrawn by the Council of the NQA in whole or in part (ie, for some courses only). The Regulations detail specific processes that must be followed in such cases. Given that the Regulations only came into effect in August of 2006, it is too early for any institution to have had their accreditation withdrawn.
The maximum period for accreditation is three years, after which an institution must apply for re-accreditation. Hitherto no institution has been de-accredited.
7. Can institutions be accredited by bodies other than the NQA?
A number of examination and awarding bodies, such as City & Guilds of London, the Institute of Commercial Management (ICM) and the Association of Business Managers and Administrators (ABMA) grant permission for their courses to be offered by local institutions and for local students to be eligible to enter for examinations. Should the necessary standards set by these bodies not be met, such permission can be suspended or withdrawn. This is what happened to inter alia Bema College of Namibia and Anvil College.
The reasons for the withdrawal of such centre status vary, but for legal consideration the NQA is not at liberty to disclose the reasons. The awarding bodies can be approached for that.
Increasingly, such examination bodies are viewing accreditation by the NQA as evidence that the necessary standards exist. It is within this context that such awarding bodies and the NQA have entered agreements of cooperation.
Institutions from abroad that enrol Namibian students for contact and/or distance learning or who operate satellite tuition services within Namibia must be accredited by the appropriate authorities in their own country before the NQA will consider any application to have a qualification awarded by them evaluated for use in Namibia. South African institutions offering qualifications registered by the South Africa Qualifications Authority (SAQA) must be accredited, for example, by the relevant body in the Republic of South Africa. Otherwise the NQA may not recognize such qualifications here in Namibia.
8. Quo Vadis?
Accreditation is not a once-off event but a process. Equally, accreditation is but one of the elements of Quality assurance. There is a paradigm shift on the part of the NQA, i.e. we are deliberately moving away from quality control to quality assurance. The aim is to move away from an approach of policing to a system of engagement and of ownership. All role-players - the state, the training providers, employers, employees, professional bodies and quality assurance agencies - are thus expected to promote quality. We are building capacity and expertise in these areas of quality assurance in education and training in Namibia. Once we all embrace the concepts applicable to quality assurance, accreditation will be demystified.
The Education Corner is a bi-monthly column that was created by the Ministry of Education to highlight educational issues that are of concern to its stakeholders (learners, students, parents, teachers, development partners, unions, and the private and public sectors). For more information, contact the Public Relations Office at Tel: (061) 2933358 or 2933366.