African higher education space another step closer

from University Word News | Ard Jongsma | Issue No:336

Positive tones emerged from the 6th International Conference on Quality Assurance in Higher Education in Africa, held in Bujumbura, Burundi. As the quality of African higher education remains under severe pressure, the need for quality assurance mechanisms and institutions now appears to have been universally embraced.

The number of national quality assurance agencies in Africa has risen from a mere six in 2006 to 23 today. New initiatives are being launched to promote their further development and link them across the continent.

Supporting this, the European Union is developing a new line of support to quality assurance and accreditation in Africa.

Co-hosted by the African branch of the Global University Network for Innovation – GUNi-Africa – and the African Quality Assurance Network – AfriQAN – and co-funded by the European Union, the meeting drew 150 participants to Bujumbura from 15-19 September to discuss progress in quality assurance in African higher education.

Vanishing doubts

Just last year, at the Tuning meeting in Libreville, Gabon, which preceded the 2013 general assembly of the Association of African Universities, or AAU, many still voiced their doubts that small African countries needed national quality assurance agencies at all. These doubts seem to have all but vanished.

In the face of massification and globalisation, the quality of African degrees is so severely threatened that everyone now appears to accept that quality assurance is part and parcel of modern higher education and that the development of a continental framework for quality assurance is a matter of utmost priority.

In fact, the conference went much further than earlier meetings in that it gave plenty of space for the discussion of how private higher education and open and distance learning could be quality assured and how students could be involved.

Fred Awaah of the All African Students Union, who came close to proposing an ‘AfriSQAN’ at the event, said that students are simply insufficiently aware of quality assurance issues.

“We have a responsibility to inform and involve students, but we cannot do it without your support,” he told the gathering of senior officials.

QA and accreditation framework

The official conference statement, to be published within the next few weeks, specifically urges African countries and institutions without quality assurance agencies to establish one as matter of priority.

It will also recommend that a Pan-African Quality Assurance and Accreditation Framework be pushed ahead soon. […]

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