Editor's Comment

Forensic audit of varsities needed

THE concern raised by the Parliamentary Committee on Education, Science and Technology on the mushrooming of substandard universities and colleges cannot go without comment.
The committee is concerned, and justifiably so that a number of colleges and universities that have sprung up are offering substandard education, which has resulted in the production of a half-baked workforce on the labour market.
“We now have a situation where half-baked people are on the market and are failing to perform because of the quality of education they acquired from an institution that is not recognised,” said Harry Kamboni, a committee member, who is also Kalomo Member of Parliament (MP).
It is indisputable that, while it is good that the country has experienced a tremendous increase in the number of tertiary institutions in the recent years, many of these are failing to adhere to acceptable standards.
Last April, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) deregistered Alliance International University for offering substandard education.
According to the authority director general Stephen Simukanga, the university had no formally appointed key institutional officers, among other deficiencies as required of higher learning institutions.
The university is also said to have failed to provide evidence of subscription to electronic journals and progression regulations for online learning.
Lack of assessment systems and documents showing learner support under its academic programmes were also among the shortcomings cited.
The sad reality is that the case of Alliance International University is a reflection of what is prevailing in the sector.
There are so many higher learning institutions wearing the tag of university and yet their services cannot even qualify for high school.
It is evident that some people are venturing into offering higher education services purely for business without due consideration of the quality.
In worst scenarios, we have a whole university operating from one room with one or two members of staff.
How can such a university provide quality education to produce quality graduates well equipped to impact the world positively?
Institutions of higher education hold one of the most important roles in shaping the future of society. Research indicates that a strong system of higher education is a significant contributor to the country’s economic strength, social well-being and subsequently enhances ability to compete in the global marketplace.
It is therefore obvious that, if Zambia is to grow economically and transition to a developed country, there is need for quality assurance in the provision of higher education.
It is only through quality tertiary education that we can produce quality human capital that is needed to spur economic growth and development.
Today, human capital is estimated to be the most critical factor of production compared to a century ago.
This is because global wealth is concentrated less and less in factories, land, tools and machinery, but more than ever before, in the knowledge, skills, and resourcefulness of people which are increasingly critical to the world economy.
Given that quality human capital can only be developed through high quality education institutions or systems, the need to set high standards and adhere to them cannot be overemphasised.
The HEA, a national regulatory framework mandated to provide standards, quality assurance and advisory and regulatory services to all higher education institutions registered in Zambia, has a huge task at hand.
It is good that the authority is already pondering a forensic audit of universities and colleges.
It is hoped that the forensic audit to be conducted will be comprehensive to ensure that no university or college is left out.
Both new entrants and old-time players should be subjected to the audit. This is to ensure that set standards are adhered to and maintained throughout.
Zambia should not allow jokers to keep on masquerading as institutions of higher learning preying on unsuspecting and desperate members of society.
We, therefore, urge HEA to go flat out and weed out those that are masquerading as universities and colleges when they are in fact fraudsters reaping where they did not sow.

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