Today, more than ever before, higher education is recognized as a means by which the human resources of nations are developed for cultural, economic, political and social development. For example, higher education produces the scientists who do basic research and generate new things. Higher education produces the scientists who do applied research and come out with new products and techniques. Higher education produces the scientists who adopt and adapt appropriate technologies from elsewhere. Higher education also produces the diplomats, the envoys and the ministers who represent nations at international fora. Business at such fora, definitely, are governed by certain laws, rules, regulations, conventions and etiquettes which are all acquired through higher education. Above all higher education produces the teachers and educational managers who contribute to quality human resource development at all levels of education.
Apparently, it was in recognition of these realities that Ibukun (1997) pointed out that the relevance of higher education today is that it provides the right numbers of human resources that are so crucial in the development of nations. It is also in recognition of the role of higher education in national development that nations today spend large chunks of their budgets on that sector. Indeed Ajayi and Ekundayo (2007) have rightly stated that governments do not consider the funds allocated to higher education as mere expenditures, but as long-term investments in human resources.
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Today all levels of education have assumed a global character, and as such, the narrow focus on the focal nation is giving way to a focus on globally-oriented contents, practice and management (Middlehurst, 2001). Higher education in particular is becoming more and more a commodity at the global market, following the increasing mobility of scholars and students across national borders. Ali Mazrui (1994) refers to this phenomenon as horizontal interpenetration and vertical counter-penetration.
Today higher educational institutions aim at producing graduates who have knowledge, skills, qualities and attitudes that will enhance their capacity for mobility at both the local and global markets. The graduates' performance must be of comparable quality and standard as those produced elsewhere so that they can easily find placement in foreign institutions of higher learning (ENQA, 2006). Besides, higher educational institutions open their doors to cross-border scholars and students. Therefore without a higher education system global in character, that commonality and ease of mobility cannot materialize. Thus any institution of higher learning that seeks recognition in the global community must put mechanisms in place to ensure commonality in content, practice, management and quality. The institution of effective internal quality assurance systems that are consistent with international standards is therefore absolutely necessary.
Higher educational institutions as organizations and human institutions as that are made up of complex webs of individuals and groups with diverse orientations, perceptions, values, goals and aspirations. Getting all such individuals and groups committed to a vigorous pursuit of the quality standards aspired for is a herculean task for leaders of higher educational institutions. What effective measures can leaders of such institutions put in place to ensure that quality assurance is accepted and pursued by all or most consequential actors? A sustained organizational commitment of all or most actors seems to be an answer.
Organisational commitment as seen by Herscovitch and Meyer (2002) is the degree to which an employee identifies with the goals and values of the organization, and is willing to put in efforts to help the organization to achieve these goals. Muthuveloo and Rose (2005) also see it as the willingness of employees to accept the goals and values of the organization, and to work towards the achievement of these goals. Suffice it to say that a committed member of an organization is the one who has internalized the values and goals of the organization and is willing to participate fully in all that the organization does towards the achievement of its stated goals.
Meyer and Allen (1991) identified three types of commitment, namely, affective commitment, normative commitment, and continuance commitment. In the business before us today, however, the commitment of relevance is affective commitment. Affective commitment is:
the belief in and acceptance of the organization's values and goals.
a willingness to focus effort on helping the organization to achieve its goals, and
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
a desire to maintain membership in the organization.
Affectively committed employees are loyal to the organization and its goals because they want to do so.
Given the crucial importance of organizational commitment, the onus lies on the leadership of higher educational institutions to secure the commitment of all consequential actors to the goals and aspirations of the institution. Such actors include senior administrators, lecturers, heads of department, deans, directors, and students. The leadership must be able to influence all or most consequential actors to be committed to the institution's efforts to attain global standards.
Once again the question is how can commitment of such actors be nurtured and sustained? This is possible when there is a corporate culture, or generally accepted ways of doing things. Corporate culture is thus a set of values, beliefs and behaviour patterns that form the core identity of organizations, and which help in shaping the behaviour of members. Deal and Kennedy (1982) put it simply as a set of values that underlie how we do our things around here.
One type of corporate culture that has gained popularity in the human resource management literature is consensual corporate culture. Because of its nature I prefer to call it cooperative corporate culture. In that type of culture loyalty to the organization, personal commitment to the values and goals of the organization, teamwork and socialization are important (Deshpande & Farley, 1999). They are what Achebe calls the palm oil with which they eat their lives in the organization. I wish to use this platform to recommend cooperative corporate culture to higher education institutions seeking commitment to quality moves.
Following a close scrutiny of Kurt Lewin's (1948) group dynamics, Johnson and Johnson, (1978; 1983) identified certain features of the internal dynamics of groups and organizations that have the consensual or cooperative corporate culture.
These features are;
Equal participation, and
Consequential actors in the higher educational institution must all perceive that the organization in which they are embedded is characterized by these conditions. This perception naturally, will energize and motivate them to gear their efforts to achieve the goals of the institution.
Interdependence, or positive interdependence, is the recognition that no one actor can succeed in their tasks unless every other actor succeeds in theirs. Most or all actors must accept the fact that as they strive to achieve and sustain quality in academic standards and output, and as they strive to achieve effective management of their institution, they are in a position where they can swim together or sink together, depending on the total effect of their individual efforts.
Interaction or promotive interaction is the mutual help that members offer to one another as they interact as members with a common objective. There should be a platform for actors to share camaraderie and experiences, ask questions, offer or receive explanations and seek clarifications. In other words, consequential actors in the institution must as a habit discuss their activities, experiences, problems, and successes with colleagues so that they can learn from one another. Meetings at the staff club or the senate/academic board can be suitable fora for such formal and informal interactions.
Group processing is the monitoring of the performance of the institution as a whole, as well as monitoring of the performance of groups and individual actors. Members of the institution must occasionally and periodically meet and reflect on how well they are achieving their goals. There is the need for periodic self-appraisal to determine the extent to which the institution is making success both as a corporate entity and as individual actors.
Accountability is the acceptance of the fact that each consequential actor in the institution is accountable to the group for tasks assigned to them. The lecturer, the head of department, the director, the dean, the senior administrator, and the student must recognize that they are individually and severally accountable to the institution for the roles they are supposed to play in the quality direction. By holding actors accountable, and by monitoring one another, free riders and social loafers can be identified and made aware of their non performance.
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Social skills are the tact and diplomacy with which actors monitor and thereby reprimand non performing actors. Reprimands and awareness creation must be made so tactfully that the pride of those in question will not be hurt. Therefore social skills must be applied when reprimanding actors for non performance.
Equal participation is a condition in which all or most actors perceive that no one acts as a free rider, a social loafer, or a sucker. There should be no room for anyone to brood the idea that some actors are working while others are goofing. Nor should others see themselves as doing almost all the work. All must be perceived to be involved.
Finally, shared leadership is the condition in which all or most actors perceive themselves to be leaders at their levels of operation. They must feel that each actor has a role as a leader in the local constituencies they operate. Each incumbent of a position must have initiative to offer the leadership that will contribute to the achievement of the goals set by the institution. Therefore, even though leadership is reposed in the Vice-Chancellor or President, in actual practice, leadership must be perceived to be diffuse and contextual (Opare, 2007).
I present my theory in the model below:
Sense of belonging
Adherence to quality standards
Fig. 1: Model explaining how the internal dynamics of a higher education institution can contribute to commitment and achievement of quality initiatives.
The model simply says that:
The items listed on the left represent features of consensual corporate culture. When consequential actors in the HEI perceive that these conditions are prevailing in their institution, they tend to feel a sense of belonging; that sense of belonging will boost their job satisfaction, and the enhanced job satisfaction will make them committed to the ideals of the institution. In the final analysis commitment will make the actors adhere to the quality procedures put in place in the institution.