With globalisation and the rise of the knowledge economy, there has been an increase in demand for higher education worldwide, which has resulted in the proliferation of private higher education institutions (PHEIs). Within this context, issues of quality and quality assurance processes, guided by national policies and frameworks, have become increasingly important. In South Africa, programme accreditation is one form of external quality assurance.
Literature reveals several gaps in the understanding of the management of quality assurance in the private higher education sector, and the topic of programme accreditation in relation to PHEIs in South Africa has received scant attention. The research question for this study was: How do PHEIs manage quality assurance as they engage in the process of programme accreditation in South Africa?
Exploratory, qualitative research methodology was deemed the most appropriate for this study and twelve semi-structured interviews were conducted with quality assurance managers at ten PHEIs in Gauteng. The conceptual framework, adapted from Zaki and Zaki Rashidi (2013), lists eight parameters relevant to the management of quality assurance within PHEIs in South Africa.
The findings of this study indicate a general lack of sound governance and management structures at PHEIs, an absence of institutional capacity, and academic leadership that is often deficient. The availability of relevant higher education resources within PHEIs remains a challenge. Concerning external quality assurance, the complexity of quality assurance and higher education legislation and various process-based challenges are some of the most common barriers for South African PHEIs. Recommendations are presented.