NCHE adopts Policy to Accommodate and Legitimize all Post-Secondary Institutions in Liberia By “Lincensing” Standards
The National Commission on Higher Education (NCHE) is the arm of the Liberian Government charged with the regulation and supervision of higher education activities in the country. The NCHE was established as an autonomous agency of the Government by an Act of the National Legislature in 1989. The Act authorizes the Commission to:
- Formulate broad policy guidelines for the establishment of institutions of higher education in Liberia, and to coordinate and serve as the principal liaison between institutions of learning commencing from the Post-Secondary level;
- Monitor, evaluate, and accredit institutions of higher learning;
- Approve new and existing programs of higher education for funding, after having satisfied itself of their needs for national development; and,
- Review existing programs at institutions of higher education with the aim of establishing priority programs of study based on national needs.
As the regulatory arm of the Liberian Government for higher education, the NCHE is charged with licensing new institutions of higher learning with the appropriate designation of “Level” for program delivery.
The new “Licensure” policy provides Guidelines and Standards for Licensing Institutions to Conduct Post-Secondary Education and Training in Liberia. It ensures prospective and existing institutions and the citizens of Liberia that post-secondary educational institutions (otherwise referred to as higher education institutions) operating in Liberia demonstrate the capacity to deliver the required good quality of education by providing up-to-date instructional curriculum, faculty, library resources, personnel, student services, facilities and equipment that meet the demands of current realities of the socio-economic situations of Liberia.
Any learning activity (academic, vocational, technical, or professional) above the senior secondary level, for the conferral on the recipient thereof the title of “Certificate”, “Diploma”, “Degree,” signifying specified career, vocation, and profession of educational attainment based on (1) interactions between faculty and students following a coherent course of study with specified student outcomes, and/or (2) a coherent course of study in which the student and instructor are not in the same place delivered either synchronously or asynchronously with specified student outcomes and faculty-student interaction mediated through electronic means, or (3) a combination of the foregoing; provided, that ‘post-secondary education’ shall not include any honorary degree or other so-called ‘unearned’ degree. The content and rigor of the curriculum for the program must be at a level to assure an education of good quality.
NCHE licensure and accreditation are not the same. NCHE licensure to operate signifies that institutions have satisfied certain minimum requirements established by its quality assurance as stated in the Guidelines and Standards for Licensing Higher Education Institutions in Liberia. Accreditation, on the other hand, signifies that an institution has attained a threshold level of academic quality. Licensure to operate is not an accreditation. “Licensure” to operate means that the NCHE has determined and certified that an institution meets minimum standards established for integrity, sustainability, stability, and educational quality, including the offering of bona fide instruction by qualified faculty, and the appropriate assessment of students' achievement prior to, during, and at the end of its program.
Licensure is legitimate as well as a requirement for all post-secondary institutions in country, whereas accreditation is a status sought for by an institution. Licensure fulfills a consumer protection function, protecting potential and enrolled students and employers, as well as the public in general. It substantiates minimum educational quality and is prerequisite to, among other things, the search for accreditation. Normally, licensure precedes accreditation; and it is the first requirement an institution must meet in order to be eligible for accreditation and for various programs.
Evidence submitted by an institution in support of accreditation may be submitted in support of receiving or maintaining licensure provided that the institution can demonstrate such evidence to be relevant to licensure standards. The weight of evidence derived from accreditation is evaluated by the NCHE just as all other information and documents submitted. In view of this, every newly applying higher education institution shall be subjected to “Licensing’ rather than “accreditation.”
More so, existing accredited higher education institutions will be assessed or evaluated upon the revised accreditation policy in line with contemporary and comparative standards to ensure educational quality provision. Institutions identified below the benchmark may be given a timeline to improve. Institutions that will be noticed without the potential to improve shall be recommended to the Board of Commissioners of the NCHE for appropriate actions. Below are the basic standards that show the relationship and distinction between “Licensure” and “Accreditation”;
BASIC STANDARDS FOR LICENSING & ACCREDITING HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTION & PROGRAMS IN LIBERIA
- The institution must have an Article of Incorporation with a Certificate of Authority to Transact Business or to Conduct Affairs in the Republic of Liberia.
- Availability of Articles of Incorporation
- Publication of Contact Information
- Availability of Articles of Incorporation of Controlling Corporation(s)
- Publication of Governing Board Membership
- Institutional Profile
- Facilities and Library: The institution shall have physical facilities, either on or off campus, that are adequate to serve the needs of its educational programs, support services, and mission related activities. Facility sites should be free of traffic hazards and distracting noises. General tests of usefulness, cleanliness, and maintenance should be met.
- Access to the Internet (Where Applicable)
- Laboratories (Where Applicable)
- Instructional materials
Relevant Program(s) with Rationale
- Comparative & Standardized Curriculum supportive of its Program(s)
- Faculty & Personnel
- Management & Administration
- Governance with By-Laws & Constitution
- Personnel or Human Resource Manual
- Student’s Handbook (Includes admissions and academic information with regulations)
- Student Services: The institution must provide services for students in addition to formal instructional experiences of the classroom and library of laboratory. Student services should support the institution’s mission, and they should be evaluated annually. These services include;
- Academic Guidance & Counseling
- Emergency Health Attention or First-Aid
- Mentoring or Internship Service (with job placement where possible)
- Student records
- Extracurricular activities.
- Financial Policy
- Sustainability Plan
- Strategic Plan
As mentioned above, “Licensure” is prerequisite to accreditation, and it is mandatory for all post-secondary or tertiary institutions by the National Commission on Higher Education (NCHE) in Liberia. Accreditation, on the other hand, is a status that is sought for by an institution from the NCHE, and or other accrediting organization. Accreditation substantiates educational quality provision. Evidence submitted by an institution in support of accreditation may be submitted in support of receiving or maintaining licensure provided that the institution can demonstrate such evidence to be relevant to licensure standards. The weight of evidence derived from accreditation is evaluated by the NCHE Board of Commissioners through the Department of Quality Assurance. Basic standards to be considered include all required for Licensure along with the following;
- List of publications for the past two years.
- Academic Staff List, indicating Full-time and Part-time by Faculties and Departments, stating for each staff, the qualification, the awarding institution and the year of award.
- Total WAEC Level aggregate score of each student at the time of his/her admission.
- Current student enrolment statistics by level/year of study and by sex.
- Academic Regulations
- Tracer Studies Report
- Code of Ethics
- Research Output & Publications
- Appointments and Promotion Regulation of Academic and non-academic Staff
- Financial Audit Report for at least 2 Years
- Three Years Prospective Budget
- Institutional Quality Assurance
- Standardized Physical Facilities
Rev. James Andrew Lablah