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 requires 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 aim of higher education is to meet the socio-cultural and developmental needs of a country. Higher education provides 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).
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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).
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.
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.
The question of the quality is directly related to the quality of educators, students and the infrastructure provided to them by the educational institutions. The level of competency of teachers, curricula and the standards of student’s intake are the factors that contributes the most, 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.
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While at the level of the institution student: staff ratios (SSRs) may seem to be an inevitable 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.
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).
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 an important role in the development of society. Universities for centuries had a crucial role in educating the potential professionals, businessmen, political leaders, 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).
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