The Council on Higher Education (CHE) is an independent statutory body established by the Higher Education Act of 1997, tasked with advising the Minister of Higher Education and Training as well as establishing and managing an external quality assurance system for higher education through its permanent committee, the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC).
In 2021, the CHE initiated a new quality assurance (QA) cycle that requires all public universities and private higher education institutions to undergo an institutional audit.
Stellenbosch University has undertaken a self-evaluation that has culminated in a self-evaluation report, and is now awaiting the institutional audit peer review site visit which is scheduled from 31 October to 4 November 2022.
Why an institutional audit
The institutional audit is an external quality assurance mechanism used by the Council on Higher Education. They test whether a university's internal quality management system is effective in enabling student success.
Similar to our internal quality assurance cycle for departments and support services, the institutional audit allows for a self-evaluation to be conducted, followed by a peer review site visit where good practices and improvement areas are identified. Unlike a departmental evaluation where the department is the unit of analysis, in the case of an institutional audit, it is the university.
This institutional audit is an opportunity for the university community to assess and strengthen, where necessary, our arrangements for managing the quality of the overall student experience, particularly in the light of national priorities, and to consider whether those arrangements help students. The University's identity, progress with transformation and high-level strategies are all evaluated against the standards set by the Council on Higher Education.
Process for an institutional audit
The process for an institutional audit includes the following:
A self-evaluation, where we reflect on four focus areas and 16 standards.
Identifying interim improvement actions, based on the quality judgements made in our self-evaluation report.
A peer review site visit, which in our case will take place from 31 October to 4 November 2022, and
An improvemet plan, based on the key findings of the peer review panel, followed-up with a process report to the Council on Higher Education.
Each of the above is described in more detail below:
Phase 1: from 20 July 2021 to 30 June 2022
1.1 Self-evaluation committee
Soon after the Council of Higher Education initiated the University's institutional audit, a self-evaluation committee was established, with representatives from each faculty and responsibility centre, including two students from the Student Representative Council.
1.2 Self-evaluation report
The self-evaluation committee produced a self-evaluation report which is available here. It went on two consultation rounds to faculties, students and the Senate, before being approved by the Council in June 2022.
1.3 Portfolio of evidence
Informing all the quality claims made in the self-evaluation report, is a portfolio of evidence. Documents referenced in the self-evaluation report, are uploaded to a SharePoint repository and hyperlinked.
1.4 Key findings
Click on each block below to view the summary of the key findings of the self-evaluation, grouped according to the four focus areas:
Interim improvement actions
Phase 2: 30 June to 30 October 2022
This website makes the self-evaluation report available to all internal role-players at the University, and also highlights the key findings and interim improvement actions.
2.2 Interim progress report
After the submission of the University's self-evaluation report to the Council on Higher Education, we have already made progress on some of the improvement actions we identified for ourselves. This will be reported to the peer review panel in the an interim progress report.
Peer review site visit
Phase 3: Schedule received in September, with site visit from 31 October – 4 November 2022
3.1 Site visit
The site visit will take place in a hybrid format from 31 October to 4 November 2022. An audit panel has been appointed by the Council on Higher Education. They consist of national and international peers.
Approximately one month before the site visit, the audit panel will send SU a draft interview schedule based on the possible lines of inquiry they have identified.
SU will contact the relevant interviewees and brief them on the process and ask them to familiarise themselves with the institutional audit self-evaluation report.
During the site visit, staff and students should feel free to respond to the peer review panel’s questions in an open and honest manner. At the end of the site visit, the panel will give verbal feedback, before working on a written report in which they will identify commendations and recommendations for the University to take forward.
3.2 The audit panel
The audit panel has been appointed by the Council on Higher Education. The panel members are as follows:
Prof Richard Bernard (Chair)
Consultant for HEIs in South Africa
Dr Bulelwa Nguza-Mduba
Acting Rector of Butterworth Campus at Walter Sisulu University
Prof Somaiya Naidu
Former Pro-Vice Chancellor (Flexible Learning) at the University of the South Pacific
Prof Irene Govender
Professor of Information Systems and Technology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal
Prof Maropeng M. Modiba
Emeritus Professor at the University of Johannesburg
3.3 Interview schedule
Interviewees are expected to familiarise themselves with the content and conclusions of the self-evaluation report and be aware that there is a portfolio of evidence which provides greater detail and evidence to support the institutional claims.
Interviewees may want to familiarise themselves with the institutional information contained in the institutional profile section at the beginning of the
Improvement plan and Progress report
Phase 4: After 4 November 2022
As soon as SU receives the Council on Higher Education audit report, the University will be expected to draft, consult and implement an improvement plan and report on the progress made to the Council of Higher Education, depending on the findings and the timeframes proposed.