The advent of South Africa’s first democratic government in 1994 signaled the beginning of significant policy changes in education including a notable emphasis on distance education in which University of South Africa is one of the key player. Distance education plays a significant role in South Africa, particularly in teacher and higher education. It affords access to a large and diverse students population especially the majority of the black disadvantages of the past obnoxious apartheid regime.
As a result of the incorporation over several years of the various dedicated distance teacher education institutions and the merger in 2004 with Technikon Southern Africa, Unisa is now the only dedicated distance education public provider in higher education. Unisa has thus become a comprehensive higher education institution offering diplomas and full range of degrees across general, vocational and professional fields. Judging from this amalgamation of various institution and the higher expectation of service delivery from both the internal and external Unisa stakeholders, a lot of pressure has thus been put on Unisa to improve on the quality of service interms of delivery period of study materials, quality of study contents, quality improvement from the support services, quality of the teachers and teaching methods.
In order to discuss the various barriers towards improvement on the aforementioned area of quality improvement, it is imperative to highlight what really constitute quality at Unisa.
The higher education quality committee (HQEC), a permanent committee of the council on higher education (CHE) understands quality as fitness for purpose, value for money and individual and social transformation with an umbrella fitness-of-purpose framework. Within the ambit of the HQEC’s definition of quality, Unisa commitment to quality as expressed in the 2015 strategic plan is about knowing the vision, mission and objectives of Unisa, understanding what an employee needs to do and how he intends to do it in relation to the vision, mission and objectives of the University; learning from what an employee does and through a variety of reflections and survey, a remedial action could be taken for improvement; seeking to achieve continuous improvement and satisfying all identified stakeholders both students and customers.
Quality Management System at Unisa
The QMS at Unisa is defined as the policies, structures, procedures, strategies and resources allocation for assurance, supporting, developing, enhancing and monitoring the quality of teaching and learning, research and community engagement. It is within these parameters that the quality of input, process, output and impact should be assessed by means of self-evaluation, peer reviews, service level agreement, benchmarking as well as staff and student satisfaction surveys. Quality management at Unisa is seen as a shared responsibility that is overseen centrally through the governance structures, with responsibility devolved and decentralized to operational level. Members of the University community are expected to strive for high quality in all their activities.
The QMS for professional and support service environments makes provision for environment-specific systems that meet the University’s general requirements for quality assurance, aimed specifically at ensuring the quality of service activities affecting academic core functions like quality of research been carried out and the quality of the teaching resources available. Three basic principles are evidenced in the manner in which QMS are managed and these has to do with focus on the customer’s needs and good service; plan, do, monitor, evaluate and improve; motivate all employees so that they are committed to quality and continuous improvement. Through this means of the QMS, the University will meet the requirements...