Countries are developing ambitious strategies to produce a globally competitive workforce. International expectations, standards, local, and national needs contribute towards the desire to improve on the quality of education provided to the nation. With the realisation that diamonds are not forever, Botswana is striving ‘towards a knowledge society’. Quality tertiary education has been identified as a catalyst that can propel Botswana towards an educated and informed nation as per one of the vision 2016 pillars. In this light, programme accreditation as one of the quality assurance tools used in the tertiary education sector needs to be up to date. The accreditation status can be regarded as a mark of quality. The aim of this study was to contribute towards improvement of the programme accreditation system by developing characteristics of an effective programme accreditation system for tertiary education institutions in Botswana.
Educational design research was found suitable for this study because it is a methodology that is aimed to improve educational practices. The research subjects were people in the tertiary education sector who participated in the programme accreditation process of tertiary education institutions in Botswana. Data was collected through interviews, questionnaires, and document analysis. Formative evaluation was done throughout to approach product quality.
The findings indicated that Botswana’s programme accreditation system is in line with international procedure of self-evaluation, a site visit resulting in a programme accreditation report, followed by a programme accreditation decision. Accreditation agencies studied subscribe to such a model. The model allows institutions to do a critical analysis of their programme environment and find ways of providing ‘an exemplary programme’ by designing improvement strategies, thereby allowing them to be innovative.
The quality of the self-evaluation report is partly determined by the intensity of the research into the programme provision, which should contain the programme content, resources and delivery. The institution is expected to give an authentic view of the situation as it exists, stating both strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities for improvement being guided by programme accreditation standards, requirements, and criteria. Assessment for conferment of the accreditation status is carried out by a team from academia and industry, the programme review team. Every accreditation report is expected to contain recommendations for programme improvement.
An effective programme accreditation system should be relevant to the environment in which it is carried out, transparent so that all stakeholders are clear about the requirements, inclusive and adaptable to accommodate different situations and responsive to contemporary issues.
A prototype of a relevant, practical, and valid programme accreditation system that is appropriate for use in the tertiary education institutions in Botswana as well as characteristics of an effective programme accreditation system were realised. The long-term goal of the output of this research is that the designed characteristics should be applicable not only to tertiary education level but also to the whole education system, and should be internationally applicable so that other programme accreditation systems, both emerging and maturing, could benefit.