Quality Assurance Policy
The University of Sierra Leone (USL) over the years has faced a series of challenges. Starting from the continuous increase in student enrolment coupled with lack of expansion of physical facilities, dwindling number of senior academic staff (a situation which was exacerbated by the rebel war years), which resulted in poor staff to student ratio amongst others, with attendant serious quality implications in the University. In addition, changing stakeholders’ needs as a result of current technological advances, competition by higher education institutions, state regulations, as well as the necessity for the institution to meet its mission and vision require that our universities put modalities in place to ensure and maintain quality of its programmes. In a bid to address the foregoing, higher education institutions have put in place quality assurance procedures in order to assess whether they meet the objectives from policy level to programme and course level. Quality assurance is not identical to quality, but it checks the quality of processes and outcomes against international benchmarks with the aim of enhancing standards.
In 2012, the University of Sierra Leone (with other tertiary institutions in the country) was subjected to an annual Performance Management Contract by the government, an exercise that requires universities to set up annual quantifiable targets that the government would use to assess a university’s achievement, and relevance to society’s needs during the year under review. The University of Sierra Leone responded to these challenges by establishing a Performance Management Contract unit which comprises a Performance Contract Coordinator assisted by Focal Point officers at each of the three Campuses of the University. This unit in collaboration with other key personnel in the University has been working to put together systems that will enable the University to meet agreed targets whilst at the same time performing tasks of monitoring and evaluation with the view to regain stakeholders’ confidence. The role of the Performance Management Contract committee to some extent however hinges on quality.
Quality Assurance Directorate
Directorate of Strategic Planning and Quality Assurance, USL
The University of Sierra Leone established the Strategic Planning and Quality Assurance Directorate in January 2019 and is headed by a Director who reports to the Vice Chancellor. The Directorate is staffed organised into three teams:
Strategic Planning – this is staffed with a Deputy Registrar serving as Panning Manager, a Planning Administrator, a Web Master and a Public Relations Officer Confidential Secretary and two Office assistants. The Planning team has responsibility for developing long-term plans by examining internal capabilities and laying out strategies for how these capabilities be used to improve performance.
Quality Assurance – this team is staffed with three Quality Assurance Officers attached to each Campus at the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS), Fourah Bay College (FBC) and the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM). The QA team will work with all departments to increase stakeholder confidence and the University’s credibility, while also improving work processes and efficiency.
Internal Audit – The team is made up of 6 staff University’s Quality Control arm for financial activities.
Efforts to promote and embed QA practices in the University has in the past been are either one-off or at best ad-hoc and there is no QA training programme currently being offered in any of the higher education institutions. As at 2014, a Quality Assurance structure at University of Sierra Leone did not exist. Notwithstanding, selected quality elements have been employed in ensuring quality and the University maintained academic standards by carrying out the following key functions such as:
- Admission panel using precise entry requirements for freshmen as approved by its Senate
- Curriculum review committee
- Staff appraisal, appointments and development processes
- Student assessment regulations and mechanisms
- External moderation of examinations for final year students
- Internal and External assessment for academic promotion for professorial rank
- Faculty and Departmental board of examiners
It is in recognition of the need for urgent action to promote the highest level of academic standard, that the Vice Chancellor re-constituted the then Directorate of Planning and Development to establish the Directorate of Strategic Planning and Quality Assurance.
In May, the 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 map 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. The University is commitment to the continuous enhancement of the quality of its provision. The immediate priority of the QA directorate is to make improvements in student and staff access to information, teaching and assessments, publishing of examination results and overall administrative processes.
Quality Assurance -Training
Sierra Leone revives Quality Assurance Training for strategic and prudent management.
In today’s fast-paced environment, customers are more demanding and competition more intense. Delivering quality products and services is more crucial than ever for survival and long-term success. Having an internationally recognized Quality Management System (QMS) enables and enhances organizational performance, increases customer satisfaction and gains a competitive edge. Sadly, structured national-level quality assurance processes in the business and academic communities in Sierra Leone and many other countries is rare. Most countries face major capacity constraints.
In Sierra Leone, no academic or professional institution currently offers Quality Assurance training. Therefore, developing and offering professional QA short courses or degree programmes in the higher Education institutions has the potential of attracting huge interest and uptake in Sierra Leone, the subregion and other parts of the globe, given the rapidly growing interest in the field and the high demand for Quality Assurance graduates and professionals.
With the establishment of a QA Directorate at the University of Sierra Leone in March 2019, there has been sustained effort by the University to engage internal and external stakeholders in scoping exercise to map out priorities for defining and improving services to students, lecturers and the public and for establishing professional and academic QA training. This initiative has been greatly welcomed by UNIDO and two other organizations have embarked on a scoping exercise aimed at introducing the first QA curriculum in the Sierra Leone Higher Education system with the goal to train QA professionals and build QA capacity in Sierra Leone and other African nations.
As part of this initiative, a one-day Awareness Training for Quality Management Systems (QMS) will be hosted by the Institute of Public Administration and Management on Wednesday 10th October 2019. This is a free workshop opened to anyone or recognised organization involved in the planning, implementing, maintaining, supervising or auditing of an ISO 9001:2015 QMS or anyone interested in learning the concept of Quality Management System (QMS). The workshop will be facilitated by Dr. Shaukat H. Malik, Chief Technical Adviser for UNIDO.
Due to limited space, invitation is opened to recognised organizations only and selection will be done on a first-come-first serve basis. The training will offer delegates with an in-depth understanding of the requirements in ISO9001 and the workshop will cover:
- Importance and benefits of an ISO 9001:2015 QMS
- Key requirements, terms and definitions of ISO 9001:2015
- Structure of ISO 9001:2015, which incorporates the Annex SL common framework for management system standards
- Main concepts such as risk-based thinking, process approach, Plan-Do-Check-Act, and 7 management principles.
On Tuesday 17th March, Dr. Shaukat H. MALIK, accompanied by Evelyn T. Alpha, (National Expert for Coordination) and James Dumbuya (National Coordination Expert for Standards Implementation) visited the University of Sierra Leone for a conducted tour of training facilities at the Institute of Public Administrations (IPAM) and the Fourah Bay College (FBC). The visit came as a result of months of dialogue between UNIDO and the USL Director of Strategic Planning and Quality Assurance headed by Mr David Gbao.
UNIDO Delegation at IPAM
The UNIDO delegation was received by the Head of Campus and Deputy Vice Chancellor of IPAM, Prof S. E. Nonie. Dr Malik gave a brief overview of UNIDO’s work aimed at increasing Sierra Leone’s Competitiveness (SL-COMP) project through Enhanced productivity and Trade compliance of selected value chains.
UNIDO Delegation at FBC
As a Member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Mano River Union (MRU) Sierra Leone is regionally integrated and could take advantage of these treaties for increasing trade, but lack of technical competences could hinder any effort in this direction. Hence, developing, enhancing and embedding strong quality assurance processes in our production and service delivery organizations and institutions is an essential requirement in improving the climate for business across all sectors. The visit was concluded with a plan for USL and UNIDO to jointly organize a free one-day workshop on Awareness Training for Quality Management Systems (QMS).
Please visit https://usl.edu.sl/qa-training/ to register. For further information and enquiries, please contact the Evelyn T. Alpha, UNIDO National Expert for Coordination (076 221 353) or Abigail Amanda Jusu, Office Admin, IPAM/USL (078 154401; firstname.lastname@example.org)