By Mohammed Takura
African heads of states have been urged to give political and financial support to the continent’s higher education institutions and also address various infrastructural deficits facing them.
After brainstorming for five days at the 7th International Conference on Quality Assurance in Higher Education in Africa, held recently in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, participants also suggested the establishment of more higher education institutions and an expansion of the existing ones’ capacity, as a panacea for the challenges of access at that level.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, which was organised by the Global University Network for Innovation (GUNI)-Africa, the Quality Assurance Network and the Association of African Universities (AAU), the attendees also urged African governments to encourage Public Private Partnerships for the development of relevant higher education curriculum, and in conjunction with various stakeholders, come up with a policy at the continental, regional and national levels to address the broad challenges plaguing Africa’s higher education.
They contended that the disparage systems being operated in the continent’s tertiary institutions, deriving from insufficient differentiation and articulation, was indeed making students and academic staff mobility difficult.
The communique regretted the absence of quality assurance agencies in some African countries, while also acknowledging that language barrier was making the implementation of regional and continental frameworks difficult in member states.
The document recommended the harmonisation of content, degrees and certificates in African higher education institutions, in order to pave the way for student and academic staff mobility, compatibility and equivalence.
Participants also urged African leaders to appreciate the importance of research to human and national development and invest in it.
The communique further stated: “Africa should move from the concept of receiving aid, to developing partnership for internationalisation that will be beneficial to the continent. A continental system that facilitates economic integration, cultural relevance, and mobility of the growing pool of talents across various regions of Africa should be developed. Africa must change from the concept of publish or perish, to conducting research that will make the appropriate impact on the continent. Africa should go beyond national accreditation system and begin to operate the Pan African Quality Assurance and Accreditation Framework.”
The Acting Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Mrs Hindatu Abdullahi, reiterated the importance of quality assurance in higher education and presented an overview of how the federal government had been tackling access issues without compromising quality.
Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Julius Okojie, urged African institutions to imbibe technology assisted teaching and learning, for effective dissemination of knowledge.
The GUNI AfriQAN awards for distinguished contribution to quality assurance in higher education in Africa were presented to Prof. Mayunga Nkunya, Dr Stamenka Trombic, Inter University Council for East Africa and the NUC.
About 201 participants from 38 countries, including some ministers in charge of higher education, attended the conference. A total of 28 reports and papers were presented, while three plenaries, one parallel session and two workshop sessions were also held.
The objectives of the conference include, among others, a review of the national and regional developments in quality assurance in higher education in Africa up to 2015; documentation of best practices in higher education quality assurance from other regions of the world and drawing lessons for the African context for the promotion of quality culture.
The conference is seventh in the series and had the theme: Strengthening Quality Assurance in Higher Education in Africa to Meet Regional and Global Challenges.