The higher education sector is very crucial in education and has a leading role in all walks of life. When providing for quality education quality products can be produced. Higher education provided by the public sector in Mauritius is unable to meet the demands for a seat at the university. Private sector institutions are competing with the public sector institutions in education. The number of higher education institutions in both sectors in Mauritius is increasing. Thus, the study is aimed at analysing the quality of education offered at the University of Mauritius.
The purposes of the study were;
(a) To analyze the quality of services offered by the University of Mauritius.
(b) To investigate the quality of students of the University of Mauritius.
(c) To understand the level of increasing demands for courses at the University of Mauritius.
The population of study was students from the different faculties of the University of Mauritius. The sample was two hundred full-time students; all attending a degree programme from the five faculties of the university.
Data were tabulated, the amount of variables was reduced using the principal component analysis (factor analysis) and then analyzed using a logistic regression.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Higher education usually includes advanced education consisting of three to seven years after graduation leading to some specialisation to qualify for a professional activity or for employment in executive positions in business, industry, or government service. In Mauritius, higher education is the top most level of three sector education system.
Higher education is the most important level of education because it develops the manpower for the country that leads the nation in giving insight into its future ideals, resources, problems and its solutions. The future of a nation depends largely on the quality of people groomed in the institution of higher education. Higher education in Mauritius can be traced back to the establishment of the School of Agriculture within the Department of Agriculture in 1914, which became integrated into the UoM when it was established in 1965.After that, many institutions have been established in the private and public sector that are providing higher education in the fields of medical, engineering, information technology, computer sciences, business studies and commerce. With the growing role of private institutions in catering higher education, the need was felt to evaluate the quality of education and services offered at the University of Mauritius which is a public sector institution.
All over the world the universities are recognised as centres of higher learning, which are considered as expedients agents of development in the nation building. Universities generate, disseminate and utilise knowledge. As primary contributors to economic growth, they produce scientists, engineers, professionals, technicians, scholars, managers and men of exquisite capabilities. The capacity of a nation to develop economically, socially, politically and culturally derives largely from the power to develop and utilize the capabilities of its people.
Chapter 2: Literature Review
The term higher education is usually used to distinguish courses of study, which result in the award of a degree, Diploma or similar advanced qualification, for various kinds of further education (Lawton and Gordon. 1993).
Higher education constitutes the stage of education which starts after 15 years of schooling for the intellectual work and advanced training of students for their effective leadership role in all walks of national life.
Tertiary education level is higher than that attainable on completion of a full secondary education. An accepted definition of higher education is that higher education requi
res as minimum requirements for admission, the successful completion of secondary education or evidence of the acquisition of an equivalent level of knowledge (Terry and Thomas, 1979).
Higher education includes all education above level of the secondary school given in Colleges, Universities Graduate Schools, Professional Schools, Technical Colleges and Normal Schools (Good, 1973).
‘Higher’ education is simply the highest part of the education system, in terms of students’ progression, the acquisition of education qualifications, its status and its influence over the rest of the educational system.
Higher education is said to impart the deepest understanding in the minds of students, rather than the relatively superficial grasp that might be acceptable elsewhere in the system. In higher education, nothing can be taken on trust and the students have to think for themselves so as to be able to stand on their own feet, intellectually speaking (Barnett, 1997).
Higher education is thought to advance students to the “frontiers of knowledge” through their being taught by those who are working in that difficult territory.
Sanyal (1982) says that in order to achieve the new international order, there is the need for integrating socio-economic policies with educational policies in each country, as stronger co-operation amongst the third world countries in field of higher education. Development of higher education should not only be contingent upon economic development to achieve the new international order but should promote the development of culture in view often fact that role of science and technology, the life-style and the very sense and value of life under-go changes in the future.
Objectives of higher education
All over the world the universities are recognised as centres of higher learning, which are considered as expedient agents of development in the nation building. Universities generate, disseminate and utilise knowledge. As primary contributors to economic growth, they produce scientists, engineers, professionals, technicians, scholars, managers and men of exquisite capabilities.
The goal of higher education is to meet two principal needs: socio-cultural and developmental of a country. Higher education is an opportunity for individuals to develop their potential. It fulfils the needs for high-level manpower in a society. Its objectives include cultural and material development. It produces individuals who are morally sound and capable of multifarious roles in the society. It is a medium and vehicle for achieving an objective of higher vision, should endeavours, with commitment and larger spending, in higher education (Govt. Of Pakistan, 1999).
A country’s social and economic development depends on the nature and level of higher education. This fact is revealed by the statements and findings concluded by the prominent educationists and decision-makers. In the developed countries, the role of higher education in production of high quality human capital is quite evident. The Governor of the State of Kentucky, Paul Patten, once said, “I have staked my success as governor on changing the way we deliver higher education to our people. Education and economic development are the twin rails that will lead us to a higher plateau and help us achieve our goal of raising the standard of living in our state. My experience in creating jobs, as the secretary of the economic development, during my term as lieutenant governor, has helped me focus on the needs of our businesses. Those businesses are the customers of our product: the graduates in higher education. Increased technology and global competition demand that we develop our students’ skills and mental capacity so they can share in the tremendous prosperity of our nation”. He further emphasized on the quality of higher education and the need for its improvement. He commented, “higher education is in trouble. The warning signs could not be clear. Its users (students and families) think it charges a premium price for an increasingly mediocre service. Its primary suppliers (secondary schools) often fail to deliver material that meets minimum standards, and its beneficiaries (employers) often are frustrated by the quality of the “finished product” (McGill,1992).
Factors affecting Quality of Higher Education
The quality of higher education may be enhanced through providing proper professional training to the teachers by revising the existing curricula. Higher education is the most important level of education because it develops the manpower for the country that leads the nation in giving insight into its future ideals, resources, problems, and its solutions. The future of a nation depends largely on the quality of people groomed in the institution of higher education.
Factors that contribute the most are the level of competency of teachers, curricula and the standards of student’s intake, in the deteriorating quality of higher education. Nevertheless inappropriate funding for student support services, libraries, journals, books, ill equipped laboratories and lack of repair facilities for equipment and non qualified staff are crucial factors in education. Salaries and other allowances consume the university budget, thus, little is left for the items so essential for raising the quality of education. Budgetary constraints, particularly for operation, adversely affect the quality of teaching, especially practical training.
2.3.1 Students’ Experiences
Students’ experiences of their learning and the teaching in the subjects they are studying are one of the more ubiquitous sources of information about the quality of teaching for institutions and individual academics.
2.3.2 Student to Staff Ratios
While at the level of the institution student: staff ratios (SSRs) may seem to be a direct consequence of funding levels, institutions in practice spend funds on buildings, on administration, on ‘central services’, on marketing, on teachers undertaking research, and so on, to very varying extents, rather than spending it all on teaching time. Low SSRs offer the potential to arrange educational practices that are known to improve educational outcomes. First, close contact with teachers is a good predictor of educational outcomes (Pascarella and Terenzini, 2005) and close contact is more easily possible when there are not too many students for each teacher to make close contact with. Second, the volume, quality and timeliness of teachers’ feedback on students’ assignments are also good predictors of educational outcomes and again this requires that teachers do not have so many assignments to mark that they cannot provide enough, high-quality feedback, promptly. A gain, low SSRs do not guarantee good feedback or feedback from experienced teachers.
Meta-analysis of large numbers of studies of class-size effects has shown that the more students there are in a class, the lower the level of student achievement (Glass and Smith, 1978, 1979). Other important variables are also negatively affected by class size, such as the quality of the educational process in class (what teachers do), the quality of the physical learning environment, the extent to which student attitudes are positive and the extent of them exhibiting behaviour conducive to learning (Smith and Glass, 1979). These negative class-size effects are greatest for younger students and smallest for students 18 or over (ibid.), but the effects are still quite substantial in higher education. Lindsay and Paton-Saltzberg (1987) found in an English polytechnic that “the probability of gaining an ‘A’ grade is less than half in a module enrolling 50-60 than it is in a module enrolling less than 20”. Large classes have negative effects not only on performance but also on the quality of student engagement: students are more likely to adopt a surface approach in a large class (Lucas et al., 1996) and so to only try to memorise rather than attempt to understand.
2.3.4 Class Contact Hours
The number of class contact hours has very little to do with educational quality, independently of what happens in those hours, what the pedagogical model is, and what the consequences are for the quantity and quality of independent study hours.
Independent study hours, to a large extent, reflect class contact hours: if there is less teaching then students study more and if there is more teaching students study less, making up total hours to similar totals regardless of the ratio of teaching to study hours (Vos, 1991). However, some pedagogic systems use class contact in ways that are very much more effective than others at generating effective independent study hours. A review of data from a number of studies by Gardiner (1997) found an average of only 0.7 hours of out-of-class studying for each hour in class, in US colleges. I n contrast each hour of the University of Oxford’s tutorials generate on average 11 hours of independent study (Trigwell and Ashwin, 2004).
2.3.5 Teaching Qualifications
Teachers who have teaching qualifications (normally a Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education, or something similar) have been found to be rated more highly by their students than teachers who have no such qualification (Nasr et al., 1996). This finding was in a context where obtaining such a qualification was largely voluntary, and those who have the qualification might be considered to be different in some way from those who have not, and this could be argued to invalidate the comparison. The difference might concern the extent of professionalism or commitment to teaching, but nevertheless there was no control group in the study. A longitudinal study that overcomes this objection has examined the impact over time on students’ ratings of their teachers, and on teachers’ thinking about teaching, of (mainly) compulsory initial training during their first year of university teaching, in eight countries. It found improvements on every scale of the ‘Student E valuation of Educational Quality’, a questionnaire developed in the US (Marsh, 1982) and tested for use in the U K (Coffey and Gibbs, 2000), and improvements in the sophistication of teachers’ thinking (as measured by the ‘Approaches to Teaching Inventory’, a measure of teaching that predicts the quality of student learning, Trigwell et al., 2004). This improvement in measures of teaching quality could not be attributed to mere maturation or experience as teachers in a control group in institutions without any initial training were found to get worse over their first year, on the same measures (Gibbs and Coffey, 2004).
Functions of higher education
The capacity of a nation to develop economically, socially, politically and culturally derives largely from the power to develop and utilise the capabilities of its people. Higher education thus is considered sine qua non of national development, for it produces the highest level of manpower. In all advanced countries, the universities constitute the main spring of human capital. The most successful discharge of the universities role as a change agent is in the area of science and technology.
The training of high-level scientific manpower is a matter of vital national concern. Higher education is today recognised as a capital investment in education. It is considered investment of human capital which increases labour productivity furthers technological innovation and produces a rate of return markedly higher than that of physical capital. Today we find the world divided into developed and developing countries. The dividing line between them is the capacity of educational and scientific attainments and its application for economic progress and prosperity (The World Bank, 1990).
In modern times, higher education is considered as a means of human resource development in a society. In advanced countries, universities constitute the main spring of knowledge, ideas and innovations. Today, the most successful discharge of a university as an agent of change is in the area of science and technology. The priming and grooming of high-level professional manpower is a matter of vital concern. As a pathway to socio-economic development in a country, higher education cannot be ignored or given low priority. Higher education in a state of rapid development everywhere in the world as its benefits to the social, economic and cultural life of different communities is realisable. This has led to worldwide exponential expansion of universities and colleges; as many more people are encouraged remaining in education. However there are problems. First, higher education is expensive, and its expansion requires ample resources. Second, rapid expansion raises problems of quality assurance and control, as increased numbers could so easily lead to a decline in standards. Third, expansion in the developing world often draws upon the resources, ideas and expertise of the developed world, even though these may not always be appropriate for every different economic and social system (North, 1997).
Higher education plays a vital role in the development of a society. For centuries, tertiary institutions had the important role of educating our future political leaders, professionals of tomorrow, businessmen, religious and social philosophers, who serve the community, enrich its values and develop its resources. Universities are complex organisations with multiple missions and a myriad of roles. A university has the roles of providing of theoretical education and professional training, a developer and a disseminator of new knowledge, a catalyst to shape the practice of management and business and a contributor to the community and the national economy (Khurshid, 1998).
2.5 The Education system in Mauritius
Mauritius educational system has for root the British one, as the island was a British colony long ago. After independence in 1968, the new government invested considerably in human and material resources for the education sector and progress has been noticed and reached in terms of a per capita grant to children of 3+ and 4+, primary education was free, as well as textbooks, compulsory secondary education up to 16. Higher education courses were offered at University of Mauritius and the University of Technology for affordable fees.
Since 1977, secondary education has been free. As for full time undergraduate level at the University of Mauritius, it was free since 1988. Free education is funded by the State which strain huge budgets and subsidize a big part of the grant aided secondary schools expenses. With universal primary education being achieved in the 1970s, free education in 1977, and legislation making education up to 16 years of age compulsory, the challenges policyâ€makers have had to face have related to broadening access at the higher education level, improving quality, and strengthening the management of the sector (while ensuring equity). The financing of higher education is basically via the government and students/parents.
Students enrolled in public higher educational institutions are funded to a very large extent by the government. Students enrolled in local private higher education institutions and those in overseas institutions pay the full cost of their education.
The key factors influencing the quality of higher education are the quality of faculty, curriculum standards, technological infrastructure available, research environment, accreditation regime and the administrative policies and procedures implemented in institutions of higher learning.
The overall vision of government was spelt out in the New Economic Agenda formulated in 2000. The main challenge was to move gradually away from traditional sectors to the services sector. The objective was to diversify manufacturing into higher valueâ€added markets and to consolidate services (financial, ICT, etc.) as a fourth pillar of economic development. To attract new investment and to maintain the country’s competitiveness, a highly productive skilled workforce was seen as imperative. With a view to setting Mauritius on a higher growth path, the country has recognised the importance of developing higher education as a regional hub for high quality education and training, to ensure that the knowledge industry acts as a catalyst in broadening the Mauritian economy, and in providing the necessary support to the existing and upcoming sectors. There has been a dramatic paradigm shift in the development strategy mooted by the government.
In summary, it has been accepted by government that the education system, especially higher education, needs to be reâ€orientated to respond more effectively.
Higher education in Mauritius can be traced back to the establishment of the School of Agriculture within the Department of Agriculture in 1914, which became integrated into the UoM when it was established in 1965. However, it was only in postâ€independent Mauritius that several public higher education institutions were created, which were complementary to UoM.
Over the years the higher education sector has become increasingly diversified.
2.5.1 Pre-Primary Sector
This sector caters for children 4+ and since a few years for 3+. The State provides a grant of R 200 per child. The private institutions occupy 80% of the educational provision in the sector.
The following measures are part of policy developments to consolidate the sector:
Strengthening the institutional and regulatory framework for the provision of Early Childhood Care and Education.
Reduction of disparity among pre-schools.
Addressing the problem of out-of-schools pre-primary children due to absolute poverty.
Developing a National Curriculum Framework for the pre-primary subsector.
Ensuring readiness of all pre-primary school children for primary school.
Construction of pre-primary units in disadvantaged areas
Strengthening partnerships with parents through a Parent Empowerment Program.
2.5.2 Primary sector
The enrolment in primary school takes effect at the age of five and enters the Standard I and moves gradually up to Standard VI. The CPE is an examination carried out at national level in all schools and follows a grading system. There are five compulsory subjects: English, French, Mathematics, Science and History and Geography. The grading process works on the five best grades along with Asian/Arabic languages.
Several initiatives have been implemented in primary institutions to improve the CPE results. This gave rise to the ‘Zones d’ Education Prioritaires’ (Z.E.P.). This targets those schools with low performance over 5 consecutive years. Later on in 2011, Enhancement Programme was introduced for STD III and IV. Moreover, the ‘Sankoré’ project was one where STD IV classes were equipped with interactive wall fixed projectors.
2.5.3 Secondary sector
For a child to be admitted to a secondary college, it all depends on the CPE results. There are three categories of secondary schools: State owned grant-aided private schools, and fully private fee-paying schools. The secondary school experience begins with Form 1 up to Form VI, an achievement of seven years. Since 2010, a national curriculum has been set up for Forms I-III. The curriculum encloses all subjects up to Form III including English, French, Mathematics and the Social and Hard Sciences.
When reaching Form IV, students are offered option form where they have to choose at least six major subjects for O-level exams in Form V. Later, for A Level examination, students will have to specialize in 3 main subjects and 2 subsidiary subjects. These two important examinations are undertaken by the University of Cambridge through the University of Cambridge International Examinations which sets up the syllabus, prepares the examination papers and undertakes correction for most subjects.
2.5.4 TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training)
The Mauritius Institute of Training and Development (MITD) is the main provider of the TVET program. Its purpose is to offer a variety of technical programs to students willing to meet the needs of the world of work at a middle professional level. Courses at the National Diploma are also provided at the MITD. The TVET sector is monitored and regulated by the Mauritius Qualifications Authority.
2.5.5 Tertiary sector
It was in 1924 that tertiary education started with the College of Agriculture. It has developed and diversified; it now composes of public, private, regional and overseas institutions offering for a wide choice of courses and programmes.
Through years, this education sector has given rise to other institutions with different characteristics and disciplines. Distance education has also been part of the sector. Some important institutions of the public sector are the University of Mauritius (UoM), the University of Technology (UTM), the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE), the Mahatma Gandhi Institute (MGI), the Mauritius Institute of Training and Development (MITD) and the Open University of Mauritius (OUM). Besides all these, the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) is responsible for the allocation of public funds, planning, and coordination of post-secondary education and training as well.
In addition, private institutions are more and more present in the tertiary education sector where they are proposing courses in areas like Information Technology, Law, Accountancy and Finance, and Management.
2.6 The University of Mauritius
The University of Mauritius (UOM) is a national University of Mauritius. It is the oldest and largest Mauritian university in terms of student enrollment and curriculum offered. It is situated at Réduit, Moka. The University was inaugurated on 24th March 1972 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II accompanied by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. Over the past decades, in response to the contemporaneous and emergent needs of the various sectors of the Mauritian economy, the university now has progressed from being a mostly in-service training institution to a fully-fledged university, concentrating increasingly on bachelor’s degrees, postgraduate programmes, research and consultancy.
The university’s current strategic plan, Strategic Directions 2006-2015, has the following six strategic directions:
Investing in resources
Quality culture and good governance
National, regional and international collaborations
The University of Mauritius has committed itself to continuous improvement and quality management. These are the actions that the university is trying to cater for:
Ensuring relevance – interact proactively with the world of work and the community to cater for emergent requirements while inculcating a wider sense of belonging to the university.
Ensuring quality of teaching and learning – enhance existing provisions for continuous improvement in the quality of teaching and learning, and work progressively towards the implementation of best practice.
Strengthen research – develop further the university’s research capacity and research management plan.
Internationalize the university – improve the international standing of the university and expand its role and programme of activities.
Amongst Mauritian universities the UoM stands out both in terms of its dominance with regard to enrolment and it numerous pockets of excellence with regard to research. The UoM is the largest supplier of tertiary education locally, accounting for 22.2% of total higher education enrolment.
Originally, the university had three schools, namely Agriculture, Administration and Industrial Technology. It has since expanded to comprise five faculties, namely Faculty Of Agriculture, Faculty Of Engineering, Faculty Of Law and Management, Faculty Of Science, and Faculty Of Social Studies & Humanities. The faculties are involved in teaching, research and consultancy. It has also a Centre for Medical Research and Studies, a Centre for Distance Education, a Centre for Information Technology and Systems, and a Consultancy Centre. Following these on-campus developments and expansions, it resulted in a simultaneous increase in the number and in the diversity of programmes being offered, and the number of students enrolled.
The programmes of the University are internationally recognized and include quality assurance mechanisms such as the external examiner system and affiliated with renowned Universities worldwide. There is a Quality Assurance Office which helps the University in maintaining and improving the quality of all its activities. There are various exchange agreements that have been established between the UOM and overseas universities.
The Students Union, established in 1971, is run by and for the students. It work in the interest of students and regularly organize various activities. All students are members, the membership fee being included in the registration. Students are very dynamic in organizing extracurricular activities supported by the Public Relations Office.
Chapter 3: Research Methodology
3.1 Problem Statement and Research Objectives
When the problem has been clearly defined and the objectives of the research precisely stated the research can be designed properly. As it is often said, “a problem well defined is a solved one”.
The problem statement for this study is that there is each year a high level of demand for a seat at University of Mauritius though there are other tertiary institutions in Mauritius. This study tries to find out the reasons behind this high demand.
For this dissertation the research objectives are:
To analyze the quality of services offered by the University of Mauritius.
To investigate the quality of students of the University of Mauritius.
To understand the level of increasing demands for courses at the University of Mauritius.
To achieve the objectives mentioned above, a questionnaire has been administered to the different students in the form of face to face interview to collect information about the different factors affecting their learning experience at the University of Mauritius and hence facilitating the analysis of the information gathered.
3.2 Determine Research Design
Research design can be considered as the basic plan which guides the data collection and analysis phases of the research project. There are three main types of research used in projects:
Exploratory research is unstructured, informal research undertaken to have background information when the researcher does not know much about the problem. On the other hand in the descriptive method, research problem is well defined and structured and can be used to answer questions such as who, why, where, what and how (Burns and Bush, 2003), whereas causal research examines the effect of one variable on another one. The research undertaken in this study is descriptive in nature. The purpose of the research is to investigate, analyse and evaluate the student learning experience at the University of Mauritius.
Data sources and Data Collection
The only steps involved in collecting data is to look for primary data which consists of information collected for the first time to meet the specific needs of the investigation of the researcher. These can be in the form of letters, e-mails and interviews. Primary sources are more supportive, they address directly the requirements of the researcher though it might be costly.