The Higher Education Authority says it has registered 61 universities, 16 of which are strictly for distance learning.

HEA Director General Professor Stephen Simukanga said the authority was auditing these institutions and would soon announce de-registration of some of them for failing to adhere to guidelines.

“It is the first time we are having a higher authority that is looking at quality insurance in higher learning institutions so we had to come up with a criteria to use in registering these institutions and also criteria to use in accrediting learning programmes which these institutions are offering. The first two years was spent on coming up with those tools, benchmarking with other similar authorities especially in the Commonwealth and in 2016, around July is when we started registering these institutions. At that time, we found 35 that were operating under the old act, so they had to register using the new criteria and out of 35, two of them fell off, they couldn’t meet the criteria. Since then we have registered about 61 universities. I’m sure the public would be alarmed; 61? We are a small country, out of 61, 16 are purely distance learning and for us, we feel that what is important is to ensure that the quality that is coming out of these institutions is of high standards,” Prof Simukanga said when he featured on ZNBC’s The Platform programme on Tuesday.

“We want to make sure that whoever remains standing as a university in the next two years will be providing quality education…once we register, it doesn’t end there, we go back to audit. Although we register you, you may have some weaknesses so when we come back after a year to audit we want to see an improvement in those areas and make sure that you are doing what you promised. We are already finding out that some institutions are not following what they were supposed to and soon we will announce the de-registration of one or two universities in the next few weeks. The process we have started will weed out all those fake qualifications.”

He said the authority would scrutinize all programmes being offered and the instructors to ensure that they met the set standards.

“In some cases, we are finding very interesting things like in some cases, there are people who are teaching who are not qualified to teach because if you have a bachelor’s degree, you cannot teach a fellow bachelor’s degree. You have to teach a diploma and those programmes, we are not accrediting them. So the main function now that we are settled and I am glad that the ministry has given us a good budget for 2018 so that we recruit more staff, going into 2018 we will be doing a lot of inspections,” said Prof Simukanga.

“We are also discussing with PACRA in terms of how we can regulate this, it is not just having a name at PACRA and you are a university. This is a very unique industry and it requires a lot of scrutiny.”

See full list of registered private universities here.