THE ROLE OF PRIVATE HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS IN THE PROVISION OF UNIVERSITY EDUCATION IN BOTSWANA: LESSONS LEARNED FOR SUCCESS AND QUALITY
Botswana has a student enrolment of 38 000 in its tertiary education system which comprises one operating state university, one private university, five colleges of education, four technical colleges, and eight health institutes. The country has 14 privately owned higher education institutions – 13 colleges and one university – whose student enrolment constitutes 35% of the total tertiary student enrolment in the country. Unlike most African governments, the Botswana government sponsors students in private tertiary education institutions through payment of tuition fees, book fees, other fees, and a living allowance currently pegged at Botswana Pula 1400 (US$190) per month. The proliferation of these private higher education institutions most of them offering university education on their own or with external partners, operating as business models, has led to the development of some negative perceptions of low quality and profit maximization. Some of these institutions have grown considerably fast over the years, while others remain relatively less successful. This paper therefore explored the reasons why some of these institutions have fared considerably much better than others and the measures they have put in place to maintain quality – fits that have endeared them well with relevant stakeholders such as the government of Botswana, students, parents, and industry – factors which have made the government, through the Ministry of Education and Skills Development, to send more students to such institutions than to others. This vote of confidence by the government has contributed to the success of these institutions’ business models. It is only through unquestionable quality programmes, teaching and learning, and the production of employable graduates that private higher education providers can contribute to the human resources growth and further economic development of Botswana.
This study used the triangulation approach. Questionnaires, interviews and observations were used to gather data on successful private tertiary education institutions and what they have learnt from the past, their mistakes and those of others, and the quality measures and mechanisms they have put in place to develop into success stories. The reasons why other institutions have remained less successful over the years were also identified.
Research findings indicated that private higher education institutions in Botswana offering degree programmes have earned themselves varying dimensions of reputation from crucial stakeholders ranging from positive to negative or indifferent. Those with a positive image owing to perceived quality have managed this fit through quality physical infrastructure that promotes teaching and learning, recruitment, remuneration and development of competent, well qualified teaching staff, investment in academic research, introduction of internal quality control and enhancement mechanisms, dialogue, involvement and participation of student leadership in institutional and programme governance, and others. Those that have earned negative reputation seem to have shunned these best practices in private tertiary education which in the past were the preserve of public owned and funded institutions.