Frequently Asked Questions

As the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE), we frequently receive inquiries from our stakeholders regarding various aspects of our work. To provide clarity, we have compiled some commonly asked questions along with their respective answers. We hope this information will help you gain a better understanding of NCHE.

Q: Why was the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) established?

 A: The National Council for Higher Education (NCHE), was established by the NCHE Act (2010), with the primary purpose of regulating higher education in Malawi. NCHE's mandate empowers the Council to oversee and regulate both public and private higher education institutions (HEIs) in the country. Our vision is to become a higher education regulator supporting the systematic growth and excellence of higher education institutions in Malawi. Our mission is to promote quality, accessible, relevant, and inclusive higher education and training in Malaŵi through use of best practices in higher education regulation. One of our key functions is to register and accredit higher education institutions and their programmes to ensure that Malawians receive high-quality higher education that meets international standards. Our aim is to produce a highly qualified workforce from Malawi's universities to contribute effectively to the country's development.

Q: What is the difference between registration and accreditation?

A: Registration is the process of granting a higher education institution the authority to operate as such. For a programme, registration means that the institution is permitted to offer that specific programme. To qualify for registration, a higher education institution must meet the minimum standards set by the Council. Operating as an unregistered higher education institution is illegal. On the other hand, accreditation is the process of recognizing that a higher education institution or programme offered by it meets formal requirements of academic excellence in various aspects, such as infrastructure, teaching resources, management procedures, and academic life. Accreditation requires institutions and programmes to meet national and international quality standards specified in the NCHE Act.

Q: Can an unaccredited institution's programme be accredited?

 A: No, a program can only be accredited if it is offered by an independently accredited institution and meets the accreditation requirements. Regardless of the quality of the programme, it cannot be accredited if the institution itself is unaccredited.

Q: Can an institution be accredited without having an accredited programme?

A: No, an accredited institution must have at least two accredited programmes. An institution cannot be accredited if it does not have at least two accredited programmes. However, an institution that offers or starts with only one programme may be exempted from the two-programme requirement under certain circumstances.

Q: Can institutions that have failed continue offering higher education programmes, or do you close them?

A: Duly registered institutions that have not been accredited are not supposed to close but are expected to work towards rectifying the identified shortfalls within the given time frame provided in their institutional improvement plan. When an institution or its programme fails to get accredited, the Council provides details of the identified weaknesses and requests an improvement plan. Failure to provide the improvement plan may lead to deregistration. The Council's efforts aim to support institutions in addressing their shortfalls.

The Council monitors the implementation of the remedial actions outlined in the improvement plan and re-assesses the institution or programmes after the given period. If the issues have been addressed, the institution receives accreditation; otherwise, the Council decides on further actions based on the progress made towards addressing the shortfalls, which may include extension of time for improvement or deregistration if there is no meaningful progress.

Q: How do you carry out accreditation exercises?

A: During accreditation exercises, a team of independent reviewers uses an accreditation framework to evaluate institutions and programmes. The assessment covers critical factors such as infrastructure, curricula, human resources, and others that contribute to the quality of teaching and learning in higher education institutions.

Q: Who are the reviewers?

A: The reviewers are experienced experts hired by the Council based on their areas of expertise, matching the programmes offered by the institutions being evaluated. These experts come from other higher education institutions, both locally and internationally, ensuring a peer-review process. Efforts are made to avoid conflicts of interest in the selection of independent reviewers.

Q: What value do qualifications issued by unaccredited institutions have?

A: Qualifications issued while institutions and their programmes were accredited (by the Credentials Evaluation Committee or any other government body before the Council's establishment) are recognized. However, qualifications issued after the Council decided not to accredit the institutions or programmes involved cannot be recognized. The Council maintains a list of all registered and accredited institutions and programmes in the country, and repeated failure to meet standards could lead to deregistration.

Q: Is accreditation permanent or does it have a validity period?

A: Accreditation is not permanent. Once accredited, an institution and its programmes are subject to periodic evaluations for reaccreditation at specified intervals. For example, a four-year programme will be evaluated every four years. Accreditation may be revoked if reviewers identify shortfalls in either the programme or the institution during the evaluation.

Q: Is accreditation mandatory or can institutions opt-out?

A: Accreditation is mandatory for all higher education institutions, whether public or private. The NCHE Act requires the Council to evaluate higher education institutions for accreditation at regular intervals.

Q: What is the value of accreditation?

A: Accreditation serves as a legal requirement to ensure that the standards of higher education in the country are comparable to those regionally and internationally. It also assures employers, students, and sponsors that the qualifications issued by a higher education institution meet acceptable standards. Additionally, the periodic evaluation through accreditation exercises helps institutions maintain the quality of their programmes.

Q: Some people think that NCHE selects students into public universities in Malawi. What does it mean when we say NCHE coordinates the Public University Selection (PUS) process?

A: NCHE does not directly select students for public universities. The selection process is carried out by the respective universities through their Selection Committees, guided by their institutional Acts. NCHE coordinates the Public University Selection (PUS) process by bringing together the Technical Working Group (TWG), which comprises representatives from each of the public universities. The TWG develops a calendar of events that outlines the timeline for various stages of the selection process, including data submission, application call, selection, and result release. NCHE ensures the coordination of these processes by organizing meetings and overseeing the implementation of any changes in government selection policy.

Q: Does NCHE give out loans to students?

A: No, NCHE does not provide loans to students. The responsibility of granting loans to students lies with the Higher Education Students Loans and Grants Board (HESLGB), a separate entity from NCHE.

Contact Us

Area 47 Msokera Street
Next to Chitukuko Petroda Filling Station
Private Bag B371
Lilongwe Malawi

Tel: +265 1 755 884

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the difference between registration and accreditation?

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Q: Can institutions that have failed accreditation continue offering higher education programs, or do you close them?

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