Policy and Programs Program and Sector policy
Policy and Programs

Centre for Externel Studies (CES) -
University of Namibia


While collecting information for this global distance education network, SAIDE held several interviews with organisations in Southern African countries. Impressions of each country were generated to give some introduction to distance education and technology use in the area. Each interview has also been written up separately as a case study.

SAIDE country visits conducted in 1999

Permission granted

Contact Details

Country: Namibia
Director of CES Prof JA (Tony) Dodds
Contact Person: Mr Hennie A Beukes
Position: Head, Department of Distance Education
E-mail: hbeukes@unam.na
Fax: 09264 61 206 3016
Tel: 09264 61 206 3575
Website: http://www.unam.na
Postal Address Private Bag 13245
Date: 20 June 1999


The Centre for External Studies (CES) was set up as part of the new University of Namibia (UNAM) in August 1992. It grew out of the Department of Distance Teaching of the former Academy. It is the outreach wing of UNAM, catering for the educational needs of people who, for a variety of reasons, cannot come full-time to the university campus to further their studies.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Centre is to make education accessible to all members of the community through the provision of distance education programmes. This mission is a sub-statement of the Mission Statement of the University. It can be more precisely elaborated as:

  • to develop and provide extension and distance outreach courses;
  • to identify and determine where needs exist for the provision of distance education courses;
  • to provide professional distance education advice to all faculties of UNAM and other educational institutions and providers;
  • to develop and administer training programmes for all involved in the development and production of distance education materials;
  • to design and administer programme delivery systems including materials and student support services;
  • to recruit, train, and supervise tutorial staff required for programme delivery;
  • in collaboration with other faculties to determine course contents, syllabuses, assessment and validation procedures before the writing stage;
  • to develop and administer appropriate assessment systems for programmes in collaboration with other UNAM faculties;
  • to coordinate the writing, editing and production, printing and distribution of materials required for the delivery of courses or programmes.

How CES Operates

CES operates through two departments, namely: the Department of Distance Education, which collaborates with internal faculties of the university in offering formal courses to external students by means of distance and open learning methods; and the Department of Continuing Education, which offers educational programmes not necessarily leading to qualifications. The work of this department includes short courses, public lectures, seminars, workshops, and conferences on issues of public interest and on topics agreed with or requested by institutions and organizations from the public. CES runs nine Regional University Centres to support its programmes and students.

Programmes Offered

The following courses of study are offered using distance education methods in 1999:

  • DegreesBachelor of Nursing Science (Advanced Practice)
    Bachelor of Education
  • DiplomasDiploma in Education (African Languages)
  • CertificateSchool Library Science (One Year)

CES has taken responsibility for the University Access Programme, which was introduced at the beginning of 1999. The programme, coordinated by the Department of Continuing Education, offers school leavers who were unable to get enough points (especially in Mathematics and English), an opportunity to study at UNAM. The Access Programme is partly funded by the Ford Foundation.

Target Groups

A survey conducted by CES in 1994 revealed the following characteriztics about external students of UNAM:

  • Student Profile in 1994
    • More than half of the student population was made up of adults above the age of 22 years, and 40% of the cohort were over 25 years of age. In contrast, the typical full-time UNAM campus student is between 18 and 22 years of age.
    • Most external students were employed, the majority being in the teaching profession.
    • Of every three external students, two were females.
    • 75% of external students lived in urban areas, while 25% lived in rural areas. This does not tally with the geographical distribution of the general population of Namibia.
  • Performance of Distance Students

In 1994, CES achieved a 57.7% pass rate among external students who sat for the examinations in the various courses. This pass rate compares fairly favourably with pass rates in some internal department of the university and in some overseas distance education institutions. The dropout rate, which normally occurred during the first quarter of the year of study, was 37.8%. The total number of students who successfully completed their final year courses was 259, the majority of whom were from the northern regions.

Statistics for 1998 show that a total of 2264 students enrolled. Of this number, 1791 or 79% wrote examinations. 86% passed the examinations and 68% passed overall. With a drop out rate of about 21% and a failure rate of 11%, the total attrition rate was about 32%. Even though the numbers of students have increased significantly, CES has been able to retain a bigger percentage of students, and there is a marked improvement in their overall performance.

Delivery Modes and Technologies

Distance education is a unique method of learning and teaching, in which the main medium of instruction is the written word, enabling students to study at home. A further advantage is that students can continually link their theoretical training with their work situation.

Teaching takes the form of reciprocal communication between the student and lecturer. This is made possible through the student’s interaction with learning materials (printed study material and assignment letters) that are prescribed and/or supplied to the student. The student responds periodically by means of assignments, which are based on the materials and submitted for evaluation by the lecturer. For some study units, supplementary study material is supplied in the form of audiocassettes. Vacation schools and weekend courses are also organized in the various centres from time to time.

Through its Department of Continuing Education, CES has been involved since 1997 in the radio education programme, UNAM On Air. This programme is broadcast twice a week, and consists of a series of short seminars and workshops on a range of topics of national concern.

Learner Support Strategies

The Centre is aware of the difficult circumstances in which many of its students have to study, and is therefore eager to provide assistance to enable students to derive full benefit from their studies. CES offers the following support services to students.


Assignments coming from students are used as a teaching tool and marker-tutors, who are well trained, do not just mark in a conventional sense, but also give the necessary guidance and encouragement on how students may improve and make progress toward being successful.

Telephone Tutoring

Marker-tutors are available for telephone tutoring and students are provided with a list of their tutors’ telephone numbers as well as the times/hours that they will be available for this service.

Face-to-Face Tutorials

These tutorials are organized in the nine Regional University Centres from time to time, where the number of students registered for a particular course of study justifies this. Attendance at tutorials is optional. The Student Support Officer at the regional centres provides notice of such tutorials to students.

Vacation Schools

Vacation schools are offered twice a year, in May and August, at Oshakati and Windhoek. Attendance at vacation schools is optional, but students are strongly advised to make use of this service because it is a valuable opportunity for students to meet their tutors and fellow students and to make use of library facilities. Small group tutorials are provided during vacation schools to allow for individual attention and discussion of problems.

Flexible Payment of Tuition Fees

An important service offered to external students is the flexible payment system of tuition fees. Students can pay the prescribed fees for each module or course for which they enrol. These fees and registration will stay valid for the period they take to complete the course or module, provided it is within the maximum period allowed.


Assessment in all courses is based on a satisfactory continuous assessment mark and the results of a written examination. In each course, students are required to submit a specified number of assignments, which are marked by tutors. If the average assignment mark is satisfactory, the student can progress to write the examination. A flexible examination system has been implemented for all external students, who can write examinations in January and July each year. This allows students to pace themselves according to their own circumstances. It also gives unsuccessful students the option to retry within a shorter time period.

Quality Assurance

CES is in the process of planning to establish quality assurance mechanisms. A good start was made in 1999 to improve the quality of marking assignments and provide useful feedback to students. Under the supervision of the Tutorial and Student Support Unit, full-time staff at CES are involved in the monitoring of assignments which are marked by part-tutors.

Professional Development

Regular consultation seminars and short training events are organized for part-time tutors. These events give the tutors an opportunity of interacting directly with CES staff.

Two academic staff are continuing their M.A. in Distance Education with the University of London. One academic staff member is concluding his Doctorate in Distance Education with a South African university, while two others have started their Doctoral research.

Some nine staff members, among them five part-time tutors, have completed their Certificate Course for Distance Education Practitioners with UNISA (University of South Africa). CES is planning to ask the newly qualified tutors to serve as senior tutors who can assist with tutor training and monitoring of assignments.

Enabling and Hindering Factors

Two key challenges facing CES are the need to establish and maintain good working relationships with the different faculties at the university and the need for recruiting and training writers of good distance education materials and tutor markers.

Collaboration with a number of people in organizations and centres is enabling CES to operate more effectively. The following are examples of such collaborative efforts.

  • CES shares outreach regional centres and examination centres with the Centre for Distance Education of the Polytechnic of Namibia. The two organizations have jointly carried out tutorial and student support activities, including tutor briefing and consultation seminars.
  • In collaboration with the Faculty of Economics and Management Science at UNAM, CES has organized tutorials and handled assignments for Transnamib staff studying for a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree with UNISA.
  • CES has signed an agreement to organize tutorials and handle assignments for Namibian students of Technikon SA and Vista University.

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