The establishment of quality assurance agencies in many parts of the world is viewed as a means of addressing the attendant challenges of ‘massifying’ systems of higher education. However, the last few decades reveal that addressing the issue of quality requires more than setting up national agencies since the continued growth and complexity of an expanding higher education system can overwhelm and eventually render a fledgling system ineffective.
The Ethiopian Higher Education Relevance and Quality Agency (HERQA) was formally inaugurated as a sector wide agency in 2003 – coinciding with the onset of the aggressive expansion drive in the higher education sector. Its establishment was primarily driven by the increasing expansion of the public sector and the mushrooming of private higher education institutions.
Set up as a semi-autonomous agency accountable to the Ministry of Education, HERQA was given the responsibilities of a national quality watchdog, with specific mandates for granting accreditation to private higher education institutions, conducting external quality audits on both public and private higher education institutions, offering equivalence of foreign credentials, and facilitating the development of internal quality assurance systems of higher education institutions.
HERQA has accomplished a variety of tasks since its inception. In addition to promoting the concepts of quality across the sector, it has been instrumental in the deployment of various guidelines and procedures that respond to its accreditation, quality audit and benchmarking processes.
HERQA’s direct influence in terms of offering quality-related short-term trainings and indirect influences through its regulatory frameworks are substantial additions to a changing higher education system fraught with challenges