|Institution:||Zimbabwe Open University|
|Full text PDF:||http://lis.zou.ac.zw:8080/dspace/handle/0/155|
There was a lot of interaction about benchmarking in institutions of higher learning, but there seemed to be no clarity on whether these institutions shared an understanding of the benchmarking concept. There also did not seem to be a clear comprehension of what criteria the institutions employed to measure benchmarking as a determinant of quality in higher education. This lack of clarity motivated the study, and the motivation was irrevocably strengthened by the encouragement some governments and international organisations made to their national institutions of higher learning to adopt benchmarking as a quality enhancement mechanism. The qualitative paradigm was adopted as it enabled the researcher to carry out an in-depth interrogation of benchmarking practices in the study. The case study method facilitated the researcher’s interaction with the benchmarking phenomenon within the context of the institution. The population of the study was composed of all the ODL institutions in the SADC region, from which a sample of three institutions, from three countries, was chosen. An average of five participants was purposively selected from each institution because they possessed the required data and these came from the ranks of Senior Management, Middle Management and Lower Management. The researcher used in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, document analysis and observation to generate the requisite data. The generated data were coded, analysed and interpreted to arrive at findings and conclusions. The three institutions consciously practised benchmarking. However, the institutions practised a different type of benchmarking from the approaches contained in the review of related literature. The employees of one institution visited other institutions on staff exchange programmes, as assessors and markers and to attend academic gatherings at which information, experiences and new insights were shared. The institutions belonged to professional associations for collaborative benchmarking purposes and shared a common understanding of benchmarking. It was concluded that the three institutions of higher learning consciously practised benchmarking but the practice was not formalised and not documented, leading to the absence of a feedback loop. As a way forward, the three institutions, and others, needed to formalise and institutionalise their benchmarking practices, and create a feedback loop.