College of Human Sciences

Covid-19 not slowing down this quality assurance unit

The Quality Assurance (QA) and Academic Enhancement Unit in the College of Human Sciences (CHS) conducted its first virtual programme review on 26 and 27 August 2020. The programme under review by a panel of external reviewers was the BA Honours degree in Archaeology. According to Prof Nampombe Saurombe, Head of Academic QA and Enhancement in the CHS, it is important to highlight such moments as it indicates how the college is adjusting to the new normal and not slowing down when it comes to ensuring that its students receive the best education South Africa and Africa has to offer.

Some of the panel members from the external review of the BA Honours degree in Archaeology in the College of Human Sciences (CHS). This was the first review for 2020 for the college and it was hosted virtually.

Saurombe explains that Unisa reviews different programmes every year as part of their Compact with Council and in compliance with criteria set by the Council of Higher Education. "The primary goal of reviews is to strengthen our academic programmes."

Explaining how the process unfolds, she explains that departments are required to prepare a self-evaluation report (SER) and select a panel of external reviewers to assess whether the programme is on track or not. These reviewers are experts from universities from all over the world. The reviewers usually visit Unisa for two or three days to spend time with lecturers, administrative and support staff, as well as the students, to get an overview and a better understanding of the programme. The feedback from these experts helps departments to develop improvement plans that are implemented and monitored over an agreed period.

However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Saurombe said it was not possible to carry out the above process. Therefore, CHS chose to do the "site visit" virtually for the first time. "I think it is something that other college members and Unisa staff should know and be proud of. We would like to commend the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, under the guidance of its Chair of Department, Dr Ingrid Marais, for being the first to do so in our college."

Marais explains: "The Archaeology team worked extremely hard to arrange this review in incredibly difficult circumstances. This once again showed their commitment to their students and their teaching. The review offers us an opportunity to reflect on where we need to improve, but also celebrate what we are doing right."

Saurombe says that following the successful first review in August, there will be another five from now until October this year. The five formal programmes to be reviewed are the BA Major in French, BA Major in Mandarin, MA in Politics/African Politics/International Politics, and the MA in History.

She says there is no stopping the CHS when it comes to quality assurance and other related matters. "The Covid-19 pandemic has propelled us to adapt to the new normal of working remotely. The College of Human Sciences is striving to achieve all the targets it has set out for 2020. These targets are outlined in the 2020 College Operational Plan and that includes these programme reviews."

"It has not been a comfortable period for the CHS community, as we currently operate in a VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) environment; nevertheless, we continue to embrace these changes and are willing to learn and adapt to deliver the ODeL promise. We are grateful for all the efforts of our academic and support staff that keep the CHS boat afloat."

* By Rivonia Naidu-Hoffmeester, Communications and Marketing Specialist, College of Human Sciences

Publish date: 2020/09/17