Equitable Access to Higher Education: Trends, Commodification and quality dimensions in Namibia
Higher education in most countries plays a pivotal role in the socio-economic development of citizens, hence the perception that no country can be better than the quality of its higher education system (Okwakol, 2012). It is at higher education that most governments have channelled considerable human and financial resources with a strategic view to develop human capital in the form of entrepreneurs, professionals, academics, political, religious and business leaders, who are further expected to contribute to the attainment of national goals and aspirations as embodied in Namibia’s Vision 2030 (National Planning Commission Secretariat, 2004). The National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) in Namibia was thus mandated by Parliament, Act 26 of 2003, to promote access and monitor quality assurance in higher education (NCHE, 2009). In view of emergent forces of Commodification in education, the study examined the challenges on access to higher education, the rise in tuition fees and the impact this may have on quality provision and to the economy at large. Following an interpretive paradigm, the study used semi structured questionnaires through snowballing on 25 school leavers and purposive sampling which accounted for 20 grade 12 students, 10 university lecturers, 50 university students and conducted interviews on 3 university administrators on key issues inhibiting access and impacting the quality of education in Namibia’s higher education. Using Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) the study formed themes for discussion so as to describe and capture the challenges inherent. The study concluded that while Namibia has made tremendous strides in funding education in general, the funding of higher education has gradually declined over the years thus negatively impacting access to higher Education especially for students from poor backgrounds. It was also noted that the rise in higher education enrolments may be a masking of social inequalities on access well as a threat to quality provision.
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