College of College of Graduate Studies

Innovative monitoring for postgrads

Dr Memme Makua (Head: Quality Assurance and Enhancement, CGS) has been awarded DHET funding for the development of the online M&D Students’ Supervision and Monitoring Dashboard - a CGS project to quality assure postgraduate student engagement across all colleges.

The College of Graduate Studies (CGS), a service college that supports Unisa postgraduate students and scholars, takes academic quality assurance and enhancement seriously. Dr Memme Makua is the driving force behind the college’s Quality Assurance and Enhancement (QA&E) unit.

Once mandated to improve the health of the sickly as a professional nurse and nurse manager at a hospital, and, later, to improve the skills and knowledge of student nurses, as a nurse educator at nursing education institutions, she has been at the frontline of being in the service of humanity.

Makua’s expertise in quality assurance was sharpened while working at the South African Nursing Council (SANC), the national office regulating nursing practice and nursing education in South Africa. After five years of dealing with accreditations, reviews and de-accreditation of nursing education programmes and institutions, her desire to interact with students resurfaced.

Her urge to explore quality assurance of teaching and learning in an open distance learning environment led to Makua being appointed at Unisa, in the Department of Health Studies, on 1 June 2012.

When asked about her current role as the Head of Quality Assurance and Enhancement, specifically in relation to master’s and doctoral (M&D) students at the CGS, this is what she had to share with the Unisa community.

What does your role as the head of quality assurance and enhancement (QA&E) in CGS entail?

The Head of QA&E is an academic position. The objective of QA&E, at CGS, is to provide leadership in academic quality assurance and enhancement in the college, and to manage all activities, processes and procedures related to academic quality assurance and enhancement, with a particular focus on providing support regarding institutional reviews within academic colleges, schools and departments.

I oversee quality assurance and enhancement of academic activities and postgraduate studies administration at CGS. The position involves risk prevention, identification, mitigation and other quality assurance activities within the university.

Quality assurance activities, at both college and institutional level, include preparations for auditing in the form of college peer reviews, internal reviews of schools by peers and external reviews by the accrediting body, namely the Council on Higher Education (CHE), as the quality assurer that acts on behalf of the Department of Higher Education and Training, as well as external reviews by professional quality assurance bodies like SANC, South African Institute of Charted Accountants, and the Health Professions Council of South Africa, where applicable.

I was part of the Unisa Department of Planning and Quality Assurance task team that prepared the university for the Commonwealth of Learning (CoL) audit that took place between 2 and 6 December 2019. I participated as a task team member in developing the improvement plans that had to be implemented following the audit, and I also played a part in the development of the self-evaluation report (SER) for the CHE national doctoral reviews (NDR) of 2020.

What skills and talents are you bringing into the college that will benefit M&D students?

QA&E is a managerial position and the vast experience that I have in quality assurance, gained from working at various education institutions, including the SANC and Unisa itself, has armed me for the current QA&E activities at CGS.

I am experienced in postgraduate students’ supervision and I would like to refine the supervision of M&D students, to benefit all colleges, since CGS is a service college for Unisa’s seven colleges and the School of Business Leadership, in regard to postgraduate studies.

What is the College’s and your vision for Unisa’s M&D students?

CGS’s vision is to be a leader in innovative multi-interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research scholarship and to provide excellent support in postgraduate studies.

My vision is to provide innovative online M&D student supervision and monitoring, to enhance quality assurance in the teaching and learning experiences of postgraduate students.

How will you realise this vision?

As a supervisor for postgraduate students and a quality assurance ambassador, I am concerned with the gap in the master’s and doctoral students’ walk. CGS provides generic research training workshops; however, the monitoring of the students’ supervision is not adequately attended to. There is a high dropout rate, where students fall out along the way and few students complete their studies.

In February 2020, I was sponsored by the QA&E Department to attend the CHE 2020 Quality Promotion Conference, at the CSIR ICC, in Pretoria. The take home message from the conference, for me, was "student involvement in quality assurance and promotion". 

The message involved listening to the voice of the student, in order to enhance their experiences and, thus, improving student success. Quality assurance, in relation to the student engagement part of the walk, is necessary to ensure student satisfaction, retention and improved research output, towards achieving increased student throughput rates. Innovative supervision and monitoring tools, which involve student participation in teaching and learning, should be put in place to enhance the supervision experience. The students should have an opportunity to participate on a platform where their voices will be heard.

My role is to enhance the monitoring part, starting at departmental level up to college level. I have to mobilise the necessary resources to monitor student engagement, such that the student’s progress can be followed at the press of a button. The Chair of Department or M&D Coordinator must be able to enter a student number in the student system and immediately have access to information on the student’s research progress, for example, the research proposal or chapters of the research phase.

In May 2020, I applied to the DHET for funding through the university capacity development project, for the Covid-19 Responsiveness Grants, and it was awarded in July 2020. The funding is for the development of the online M&D Students’ Supervision and Monitoring Dashboard - a CGS project to quality assure M&D student engagement in all colleges.

For more on the CGS QA&E, you can send an e-mail to

* By Mpho Moloele, PR and Communications Assistant, Department of Research, Innovation and Commercialisation

Publish date: 2020/10/23