College of Science, Engineering & Technology

The importance of measuring quality

Dr Corné van Staden

The College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET) has a new Quality Assurance Manager (Acting). Dr Corné van Staden, who was a lecturer in the School of Computing, tells the news team about her new role.

You recently attended the Council on Higher Education’s (CHE) 2020 Quality Promotion Conference from 26 to 28 February 2020. Please provide us with the key lessons you learned from this conference and indicate what you believe are critical for CSET?

The key lessons learned from the CHE conference can be summarised as follows: It is not only Unisa that finds it challenging to get students involved and interacting with the systems, but other higher education institutions (HEI) face the same challenges. A further challenge HEI face is how to measure the quality of students’ success and employability after they graduate. The following needs have also been identified: further investigation is needed in the linear relationship between the lecturer and the student; curriculum transformation; and appropriate responses to the needs of the industry and society. Student support has also been identified as a key element, as well as the involvement of students in curriculum design.

Can you give a summary about yourself?

I have been in academia since 1993. My academic career started at the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) as a lecturer. I then worked as a lecturer at Midrand Graduate Institute (today called Pearson Institute of Higher Education) for six years, whereafter I was appointed as the Dean of Information Technology, a position I held for 10 years. My academic career at Unisa started in 2016. Since 2004, I am also involved with the Council of Higher Education as an evaluator and have been selected by CHE as one of the National Doctoral Review panel members, which will start in 2020 for the next five years. I have a passion to serve people, for academia and quality education for all. My field of research is in user experience, e-moderation, e-learning and mobile learning. I obtained a BCom Computer Science degree, a BSc Hons in Computer Science, an MTech in IT and a PhD in IS.

Can you give us a brief background about the quality assurance (QA) office?

The CSET’s QA office is a work in progress, with goals to be achieved each year. Since 2016, the CSET has conducted programme reviews in the three schools. The feedback from the reviews assisted CSET members to reflect on current offerings, to improve qualifications and to implement change where needed. The QA office was only established in March 2020. The three schools used to do their own quality assurance but since establishing the QA office, the schools started to report to this office. Each school in the CSET has its own unique way of ensuring quality assurance. For example, the School of Engineering must also provide evidence of quality offerings to the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) and not just to Unisa or the CHE.

What does QA mean for higher education in general?

Quality assurance in higher education in general means fitness for purpose, simplification, differentiation, consultation, the involvement of stakeholders, integration and development. It is important to measure the quality of offerings in higher education and the employability of students, to improve the throughput rates without compromising quality and to ensure academic excellence.

What will your role be in the QA office?

The role of the QA office would be to create a culture of quality assurance and academic excellence - not a culture of compliance. The QA office would also assist the schools with record-keeping of evidence as well as establishing QA teams who will be responsible for the quality assurance of examination papers, study material and programme reviews. The role of the QA office would also be to report to the DPQA on a regular basis, assist with QA in teaching and learning, research, community engagement and governing bodies, for example, the CHE. The goals for 2020 are to establish the QA office, to consult with stakeholders to improve programmes, to support students and to govern quality assurance.

What exactly does the word "success" mean to you?

Success means to always do your best, to properly set concrete goals, to understand the difference between need and want and being content. Success also means how you view the world and the people around you.

* Interviewed by Thembeka Ntuli-Mpapama, Communication and Marketing Specialist, College of Science, Engineering, and Technology

Publish date: 2020-05-18 00:00:00.0