INFORMATION ON THE WEBINAR PRESENTATION
Date: Tuesday, 8th November 2016 Time: 12:00 GMT Venue: Online (Adobe Connect Platform)
Organizers: This Webinar is organized by the Association for Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) through its Working Group on Higher Education (WGHE), hosted by the Association of African Universities (AAU).
Target Audience: The Webinar is open to all higher education stakeholders including vice chancellors, rectors, registrars, personnel in Higher Education Quality Assurance, personnel in Higher education in general, lecturers, university scholars, students, curriculum reviewers, curriculum specialists, academia, educational policy makers, government officials, civil society, diaspora and others.
THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
The issue of the harmonization of higher education quality assurance and accreditation started way back with the Arusha Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Certificates, Diplomas, Degrees and Other Academic Qualifications in Higher Education in African States (5 December 1981) which is now commonly known as the Addis Ababa Revised Convention (12 December 2014). These three have one thing in common which is a call for collectivization through having common principles for everyone. The African passport is one way that has been suggested at continental level and major steps have already been taken towards that direction. This will also assist the smooth mobility of higher education staff and students. In higher education, the aspect of harmonization comes in but everyone is obviously interested in what needs to be harmonized. A few examples are given below:
- Having the same time period to complete same qualification e.g. a degree in Accountancy should not take some students 4 years to complete while in other universities it takes 3 years,
- There should be a minimum body of knowledge for each programme that is applicable to all with the same number of courses, the same courses and content that can vary slightly by context by everything else would be the same.
- Well known objective way of promoting lecturers with clearly stated measurable unlike having some universities with such instruments while others do not have such that lecturer promotion is done haphazardly.
- The same accreditation criterion for new universities.
- The application of standards to both public and private universities and not only on one type.
- The same conditions of service e.g. salaries particularly in state universities in the same country even if these are often different.
- The same system of credit accumulation and their transfer.
All the above would then bring in equity and inclusion as also noted by Zhang (2016). The rationale behind all these and other aspects not listed here would be to enable easy comparability of students and staff qualifications before they are accepted into another institution with them being mostly downgraded and rarely upgraded by the receiving institution, mostly to their disadvantage. The absence of such common quality assurance standards and guidelines have even prevented students to move from one state university to another and continue their studies as if they never moved. This shows the degree to which the situation is bad on the continent. State universities in the same country cannot exchange staff and students without negative impacts. If a student moves to another university, he/she may have to start again because the guiding principles are different.
At global and continental level, in terms of education in general and higher education in particular, universities have been realized as key players and the main vehicle for socio-economic growth and development in all societies. This is due to the fact that it is in these universities that citizens get equipped with vital knowledge and skills sets to enable them to contribute to their own development as well as that of the organizations and institutions that they work for, their nations and the world at large. In relation to that, it is also a well-known fact that of late there has been an increase in regional and international university students and staff mobility due to a variety of academic related schemes like the Erasmus Mundus’ scholarships, the Germany Academic Exchange Services, staff exchanges or mere personal initiated movement by university staff to greener pastures as they drift away from war-torn zones and non-performing economies, among other things. In the process, many miss great opportunities for socio-economic growth and development as they come across quality assurance and accreditation hurdles when they try to cross over from one academic institution and/or zone to another.
Beyond the national level, there are numerous attempts to organize quality assurance activities in Africa’s higher education, both at continental (driving to a large extent by the African Union) and at regional levels (East, SADC, Northern, etc). The continental activities are newer and are linked to the objectives of the African Union (AU) and the only relevant continental higher education organization, the Association of African Universities (AAU). The AU, in particular, aims to create a harmonized quality assurance and accreditation framework that can facilitate transparency between countries and better enable staff and student mobility across the continent. The African Union Commission’s newly endorsed Pan African Quality Assurance and Accreditation Framework (PAQAF) outlines a vision for how African Quality Assurance systems would relate, and how common standards would be promoted and applied (Woldetensae, 2016). Several tools are also endorsed for this purpose, such as the African Quality Rating Mechanism (AQRM). At the level of agencies, the African Quality Assurance Network (AfriQAN) is meant to provide a support platform to share ideas and good practices across national agencies.
Of note and of particular importance are regional quality assurance organizations and associations which include the Inter-University Community of East Africa (IUCEA), the African and Malagasy Council for Higher Education (CAMES), the Association of Arab Universities (AArU), the Arab Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ANQAHE), the Middle East and North African (MENA) Quality Assurance Network and the recently formed Southern African Quality Assurance Network (SAQAN). IUCEA is made up of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda while CAMES is made up of 16 French-speaking African countries including Burundi, Congo, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Togo and Rwanda. These associations and networks have a significant impact in shaping the African Standard Guidelines (Colucci, 2016; Kotecha, 2016). This is because the just launched the Harmonization of African Higher Education Quality Assurance and Accreditation (HAQAA) Initiative is already at an advanced stage in working with them to bring out their countries’ quality assurance standards and guidelines for internal and external institutional quality assurance as well as for assuring the quality of the quality assurance agencies (QAAs) that offer external quality assurance of universities. Common standards guidelines are being identified and put together as a way of compiling the common African Standard Guidelines (ASG) which will be similar to the European Standards Guidelines (ESG) that form the backbone of quality assurance in Europe. Thereafter, the green paper of the ASG will be sent out far and wide through various means including online to African higher education stakeholders including students for their comments and input before they are revised and endorsed by all the African higher education ministers who proposed their formulation and existence.
It is against this background that continental and international harmonization of higher education quality assurance and accreditation in the knowledge and skills economy should be a must in order to create an enabling environment in the context of the rampant and ever escalating university students and staff mobility. This mobility also brings about a lot cross-pollination of numerous and diverse ideas that can propel Africa’s socio-economic growth and development to greater heights in view of the global village concept. It is also a fact that this mobility indirectly enables cultural understanding and reduces suspicion among nations as people get to understand each other’s cultures better. However, all the above listed can only happen if staff and student mobility are enhanced through an enabling environment where quality assurance and accreditation in the African continent has been realized.
JUSTIFICATION FOR THE WEBINAR
Through the various workshops, conferences and training courses that AAU has been hosting, it came to light that the majority of various stakeholders in higher education are not aware of the contemporary issues and current trends in African higher education as well as key documents and continental resolutions and strategies that should inform their day-to-day practices, strategic plans and major goals they should work towards. The AAU then realized the need to appropriately address such issues in relation to the harmonization of Quality Assurance and Accreditation in African Higher Education so as to enable smooth international students and staff mobility.
In the same vein, despite the need and importance of harmonizing Quality Assurance and Accreditation in African Higher Education as well as the need to quickly address related issues, a lot of key stakeholders are either unaware, partly aware or aware but unwilling to harmonize or aware but have not thought of any steps or action to take towards contributing towards the realization of the harmonization of Quality Assurance and Accreditation in African Higher Education in order to increase students and staff mobility. In addition, some countries have not taken any strides towards practicing quality assurance at the lowest levels (institutions) such that without robust quality assurance systems from the lowest to the highest levels, no harmonization can be realized. There are huge disparities from individual institutions with no quality assurance units to countries without quality assurance agencies and to African regions that have got well-established quality assurance systems like the Inter-University Community of East Africa (IUCEA) and the African and Malagasy Council for Higher Education (CAMES). The disparities are further seen in the dimension of having the knowledge and awareness of what is going on in the African continent and the global higher education sector regarding the harmonization of quality assurance and accreditation. It has been noted that there are people aware of what is happening and up-to-date in terms of information and events while others are not even aware of what is going on. Such scenarios do not provide a conducive environment for the proposed harmonization.
It is against this background that the Working Group on Higher Education (WGHE) hosted by the AAU has developed an interactive webinar to highlight the existence of such moves and the need for harmonization in order to promote staff and student mobility in African Higher Institutions. This is being done in the hope that higher education stakeholders will readily cooperate and contribute towards the noble goal once they get educated on the what, why and how of the harmonization of Quality Assurance and Accreditation in African Higher Education.
The main objectives of the WGHE webinar on promoting continental integration through the harmonization of Quality Assurance and Accreditation in African Higher Education are to:
- Describe and explain the existing continental Pan African Quality Assurance Framework (PAQAF) upon which the harmonization of Quality Assurance and Accreditation in African Higher Education will be anchored.
- Bring to the attention of higher education stakeholders the existence and purpose of available tools that will be used to realize the goals of PAQAF and these include the African Quality Rating Mechanism (AQRM), the HAQAA Initiative and Tuning Africa.
- Inculcate a positive attitude among all higher education stakeholders in Africa towards the harmonization of African Higher Education Quality Assurance and Accreditation.
- Encourage African Higher Education to create an enabling environment through establishing viable quality assurance systems from individual institutions, regions and the continent at large.
- Educate African higher education stakeholders on the need, importance, and relevance of harmonizing Quality Assurance and Accreditation in African Higher Education.
The deliverables of this WGHE webinar are:
- Presentation on the theme.
- Interaction with various stakeholders on the presentation.
- Question and answer session (with stakeholder participation).
The expected outcomes of the webinar are:
- An awareness of the need to harmonize higher education quality assurance and accreditation against a background of the ever escalating student and staff mobility nationally, regionally and globally.
- A change of mindset from resistance to harmonization of higher education quality assurance and accreditation to one of willingness to work towards achieving goals in such an important and topical contemporary issue in the realm of current global higher education trends.
- An improvement in Higher Education stakeholder collaboration on issues to do with the harmonization of quality assurance and accreditation in Africa.
- The creation of enabling environments by managers in Africa’s higher education and other key stakeholders like QAAs for the realization of the so much needed continental integration through the harmonization of quality assurance and accreditation.
- The establishment of quality assurance units/departments in institutions which did not have them in order to create lower level platforms on which to start the harmonization process.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE
- Register at aau.org/webinars
- Webinar will be streamed live at https://meet53484183.adobeconnect.com/wghetalks/
- Make sure you have Adobe flash player installed on your device (computer, smartphones etc.)
- Live Tweeting and Event Hashtag
- Join the conversation following #WGHETalks and share your comments and questions.
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