Prof Sahr Responds to Quality Assurance Challenges in the University of Sierra Leone

While information explosion and global completeness have placed a compelling demand on educational institutions to enhance the quality of their delivery process and products, efforts to promote and embed Quality Assurance (QA) practices in the Sierra Leone educational system are so far either one-off or at best ad-hoc and to date there have been few sustained QA efforts in the Sierra Leone Higher Education system.

Notwithstanding, the University of Sierra Leone has always taken steps in ensuring quality and maintaining academic standards by carrying out the following key functions:

  • Setting up admission panels using precise entry requirements for freshmen as approved by its Senate
  • Regular curriculum review
  • Staff appraisal, appointments and development processes
  • Student assessment regulations and mechanisms
  • External moderation of examinations for final year students
  • Internal and External assessment of academic staff for promotion to professorial rank
  • Regular faculty and Departmental board of Examiners meeting.

The Assuring Quality of Higher Education (AQHE) in Sierra Leone partnership is led by the University of Sierra Leone, working with Njala University, the University of Makeni, Tertiary Education Commission, Sierra Leone Institution of Engineers, King’s College London (UK), the 50/50 Group, INASP (UK) and the University of Illinois (US). AQHE is a DfID funded programme called SPHEIR (Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform) aimed at delivering systemic and sustainable change within higher education systems in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

In recognition of the need to reinforce the notion of quality and to promote the highest level of academic standards, the Vice Chancellor and Principal, Prof. Foday Sahr in January 2019 established the Directorate of Strategic Planning and Quality Assurance. The Directorate will provide an overarching framework for quality assurance and adopt a holistic approach covering all the processes in the university to serve students and other stakeholders in expected quality standards.

The QA Directorate is headed by a Director and staffed with a Deputy Registrar (Planning) an Assistant Registrar (QA), two QA Officers, Public Relations Officer, Web Master, the Internal Audit Team and two Office Administrators. In May 2019 the QA Directorate held consultations with student leaders, academic and administrative staff across all campuses to build an accurate picture of the challenges facing the University around quality so as to develop a solution road map and identify key drivers for successful implementation. The plan includes the review of the University’s processes and procedures to assure the quality of learning and teaching.

With a determined focus to drive up performance on all campuses, each constituent college of the University – the College of Medicine and Allied Health Services (COMAHS), Fourah Bay College (FBC) and the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM) have been assigned a QA Officer to work with college administrators and students in exploring and ensuring improvements in student access to information, teaching and assessments, publishing of examination results and overall administrative processes.

In August 2019, an online student survey will be conducted in part to report to the Government on the quality of academic provisions and to feed into an evidence-based university decision-making in assuring performance. This effort will be supported by Niche Technologies, the company developing the Universities Campus Management System.