The Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) was honoured by the Association of African Universities (AAU) through an African Quality Rating Mechanism (AQRM) evaluation visit held in Harare in June this year.
ZOU is the only University in Zimbabwe that took part in the exercise, as well as the only Open and Distance Learning (ODL) University that joined 14 other Universities on the African continent.
The other Universities included Eduardo Mondlane University of Mozambique, Durban University of Technology, Botho University of Lesotho, Ecole Normale Superrieure De Constantine of Algeria, University of Moulay Ismail of Morocco, Al-Azhar University of Egypt, Crawford University of Nigeria, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology of Ghana, University of Ouaga II of Burkina Faso, The Catholic University of Eastern Africa of Kenya, Sudan University of Science and Technology of Sudan, Ndejje University of Uganda, University of Science and Technology of Masuku of Gabon and University of Kisangani of the DR Congo.
AQRM is an evaluation instrument which was developed by the African Union Commission as part of the African Union’s strategy for harmonising higher education and was adopted by the Conference of Ministers of Education of Africa in 2007.
Its goal is to revitalise and strengthen African higher education institutions to ensure that they are globally competitive and attractive while being locally relevant.
The assessors’ team was led by Professor Goolam Mohamedbhai, the former secretary general of the Association of African Universities (AAU), as well as former Vice-Chancellor at the University of Mauritius.
Professor Mohamedbhai was accompanied by Professor Margret Flieder, professor of Nursing at Protestant University in Germany as well as Doctor Violet Makuku, who was representing the AAU.
In November 2016, the AAU sent out a call to approximately 1500 African universities to participate in the evaluation programme.
However, there was stiff competition for the programme as the Association had the capacity to sponsor only 15 Universities from the 1500.
ZOU Director, Quality Assurance, Mr. Benson Gabi, said through the office of the late Vice Chancellor Professor Primrose Kurasha, the University applied to participate and was selected.
ZOU was tasked to evaluate itself, which it did, with the help of its team of internal quality assurance auditors and sent the report to the AAU ahead of the evaluation visit. This gave the experts an insight of ZOU. They also requested relevant additional evidence before the visit.
The team then visited ZOU on June 22 to 23, 2017 and conducted the evaluation which included plenary discussions with unit heads, interviewing students in the absence of ZOU personnel, interviewing academic staff in the absence of University management, verifying evidence, visiting facilities at Harare/Chitungwiza Regional Campus and a courtesy call on the Vice-Chancellor.
The final report rated ZOU highly and credited ZOU’s internal quality assurance mechanisms.