Many emerging challenges relating to the accreditation of higher education institutions and programmes are not only causing stress in institutions of higher learning but also within the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).
This was expressed by Prof Hazman Shah Abdullah, MQA’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer (QA), during his public lecture on ‘Quality Assuring Higher Education in the New Millennium’ organised by WOU at the main campus today.
He said that Malaysia will have its Malaysian Qualifications Framework referenced to the Asean Qualifications Reference Framework next year, and this may help facilitate mobility of graduates across ASEAN. He also stated that from next year, MQA will conduct overseas validation visits to audit Malaysian institutions’ accredited awards delivered offshore through partnership, franchise or whatever form of arrangement.
He raised concerns over the issue of MQA accountability should an institution accredited by the agency fails to deliver on its promises to students. He informed that presently in the US and Europe, not only colleges but several accrediting agencies as well are facing lawsuits from students when colleges do not provide the required support.
Prof Hazman also touched on the problem of some colleges in Malaysia that have such poor record-keeping that they do not have exact graduation figures or any clue to the whereabouts of graduates. He said that the degree of QA performance of institutions vary from very good to mediocre and yet all are lumped together as “accredited” in the final tally. He much prefers that the system accords varying degrees of accreditation. If this is implemented, it then becomes a strong incentive for institutions to improve.
He also highlighted that MQA now has a reinforcement division which actively monitors websites, information in the mass media, blogs, ads and claims of accreditation. He remarked that since last October, there have been a lot more rejections for provisional and full accreditations on account of serious issues concerning teaching and assessment.
He said that MQA will also pay attention to holistic learning - attitude, attributes, living skills and critical thinking – besides making sure that programme outcomes are realised. For this purpose, MQA assessors are being trained to look beyond content and teaching, to also learn how to ascertain whether the institutional environment nurtures ethics and academic integrity as well.
He stressed that institutions must have a vision that goes beyond cost and money to building a brand, reputation and character, and that students must be demanding of universities to deliver on promises.
During Q&A, Penang Skills Development Centre CEO Muhamed Ali Hajah Mydin asked about MQA’s role in enhancing graduate employability. Prof Hazman replied that MQA is now focusing more on learning outcomes, including getting industry’s input on the skills needed for particular areas or occupations. He said the MQA also monitors how effectively the education provider engages industry for feedback on the study curriculum towards improving the teaching and learning experience of students. He urged higher education providers to pay equal attention to the end product - their graduates, in particular the employability of graduates.
Some 150 university academics and administrators attended the lecture, including WOU Board of Governors Chairman Tan Sri Emeritus Prof Gajaraj Dhanarajan, Vice Chancellor Prof Dato’ Dr Ho Sinn Chye, and representatives from AIMST University Kedah; Penang Medical College; DISTED College; Kolej Poly-Tech MARA Ipoh; INTI International College; and other institutions.