Private higher education institutions in the country have been urged to follow standards and regulations set by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) as they do their part in offering higher education to Malawians.
The encouragement comes from Vice Chancellor of the Pentecostal Life University (PLU) Professor David Kamchacha, whose institution was accredited by NCHE in August 2017.
Professor Kamchacha expressed excitement at the accreditation status the university is enjoying, noting that although the process is rigorous, it is necessary as now they can comfortably stand as one of the approved institutions in the country offering quality higher education.
“As an institution we are very excited considering the importance of accreditation. We appreciate NCHE’s mandate. As a higher education institution we are there to contribute to the development of Malawi vis a vis quality education,” Professor Kamchacha said.
Accreditation is the process or act of recognising that a higher education institution, or a programme offered by such an institution, meets all formal requirements of academic excellence in terms of the physical, human, financial, teaching and learning resources; management and operational procedures and an acceptable standard of academic life focusing on teaching, research, community service and expert service in line with Section 28 of the NCHE Act.
“Government realized that the private sector can complement efforts to increase access to tertiary education and we appreciate NCHE’s work. NCHE is important and a necessary evil. It is necessary because it is there to guide higher education institutions to follow approved standards so that at the end of the day we produce industry ready graduates who have acquired quality education,” added Professor Kamchacha.
The PLU Vice Chancellor noted that although the accreditation process is rigorous, it has helped the institution to identify their strong areas so they can build on those and grey areas which they need to revisit.
“We will not relax; we will not relent. The assessment of our institution by NCHE has challenged us on how to do better to maintain our strongest areas and work on the grey areas. We submitted our improvement plan to NCHE for approval and we have put it in motion so we can improve and do even better”, he said.
PLU Executive Dean Prince Ngwira agreed with the Vice Chancellor acknowledging the important role of NCHE saying as a country we need standards in the higher education sector to be maintained, urging other Universities especially private ones to embrace the role of NCHE.
“NCHE’s role is to bring sanity to the industry. NCHE is the watchdog that is necessary to ensure students graduating from Malawi Universities both public and private are recognized both locally and internationally,” he said.
One of the students Moses Nhlane, studying for a Bachelors Degree in Community Development, expressed optimism that he will be welcomed by the industry once he graduates from PLU.
“I’m happy that PLU is accredited because prior to this even for us to get internships it was really hard as employees were questioning our credibility. I hope it will be easier now to get internships and even actual jobs thanks to this accreditation,” he said.
PLU Registrar Dr. Owen Luhanga also noted the importance of higher learning institutions ensuring quality at all stages saying this plays a crucial part in the production of quality graduates from the University.
“You need to start with recruitment of qualified and efficient staff, then you go to the programmes being offered and then you should as well emphasize on integrity of the staff members as well ensure adherence to ethics. There is also need to ensure monitoring and evaluation,” he said.
However, Dr. Luhanga noted that while they appreciate the role of NCHE in promotion of high standards of education in private institutions, they are facing a number of challenges as a private University.
These challenges include inadequate funding since at the same time they need a return on their investment. Resources are required for books, computers, and payment of academic and non-academic staff as well among other challenges.
“Currently, we are in these rented premises but we have already acquired our own land to build our own purposely built University campus, we struggle for space for students, staff. We hope soon we will have our own buildings”, said Dr. Luhanga.
Another challenge Dr. Luhanga spoke about is clearing the general public’s perception that a University is only that which is public saying private Universities are good just the same.
Chief Executive Officer for NCHE Dr. Ignasio Jimu, said there is no conflict between increasing access; inclusiveness and quality education, urging all higher education institutions to be open and accountable to the students and the public, more also about the credibility of qualifications they offer.
Currently, there are 18 higher education institutions, both public and private which are accredited by NCHE in the country.