HIGHER EDUCATION IN THE 21ST CENTURY 

 

BY

 

PROFESSOR JEAN-MARIE DE KETELE

PRESIDENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL

ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY PEDAGOGY

 

 

 This policy pursues a threefold objective which consists in:

 

- Identifying pertinent criteria of quality that would

 promote adequate reflection on higher educational

 institutions ;

 

- analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of higher

 education in African countries at the dawn of the

 21st Century, and

 

- contributing towards the formulation of action plans

 to be implemented in response to the challenges posed.

 

 A systematic framework for analysis is proposed to facilitate deliberations. It highlights the principal sub-systems to be taken into consideration, such as missions entrusted to higher educational institutions in Africa, their structures, resources, organizational culture, their system of management as well as the institutions' influx patterns that characterize their admission and curricular validation sub-systems.

 

 The paper emphasizes the fact that these sub-systems closely interact with an environment marked by a series of phenomena including democratization, globalization, fragmentation, progressive encroachment by the new information and communication technologies, peoples' aspiration for material comfort, decent living and more responsible solidarity and interiority.

 

 Some guidelines for action are suggested for each sub-system of the African higher educational institutions. At the end of this exercise, a synthesis of priorities is proposed with focus on the four themes established for round-table deliberations during the meeting to be held in Dakar from 1st to 4th April 1997, i.e. Relevance, Quality, Management and co-operation. These four themes are centred around the main idea that : "At this dawn of the 21st Century, Africa, higher educational institutions need to develop a forward-looking quality management that will nurture high quality products to be used in promoting the continent's development in a spirit of equity and responsible solidarity".

 

OBJECTIVES OF THIS POLICY PAPER

 

1. In this paper and, on the bsasis of a document prepared by the Regional Office in Dakar (Future DIrections for Higher Education in Africa, UNESCO-BREDA, Dakar, 1994, p.97), it is agreed that :

 

 

 The term "Higher Education" covers all studies and training activities at the Tertiary level. It also encompasses the Universities offering classical disciplines (e.g. the Arts and Science Faculties) and specialized branches (such as the institutes of Agriculture, Engineering, Science and Technology). Furthermore, the concept incorporates traditional Post-Secondary Institutions such as the Polytechnics, Training Colleges and Grandes Ecoles. Consequently, Higher Education also embodies all forms of vocational training institutions enrolling trainees who have pursued various kinds of secondary studies : Military, Police and Nursing Training Schools, specialized Institutes of Agriculture, Forestry, Veterinary Schools, specialized Catering, Tourism and Secretarial Institutions, etc".

 

2. We have outlined the following three main objectives while taking account of what a policy paper should be, and more particularly, at the dawn of the 21st century.

 

 - Objective 1 : identify criteria of quality that will

  serve as a reference framework for Objectives 2 and 3 ;

  this presupposes a clear identification of the challenges

  to be met by Africa countries.

 

 - Objective 2 : Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the

  higher education sector in African countries at the dawn

  of the 21st century.

 

 - Objective 3 : Formulate, on the basis of the strong

  points identified, action plans for eradicating the

  weaknesses identified so as to address the challenges

  posed.

 

3. We have to start from scratch in our effort to meet these objectives. In fact, several preparatory works exist with rich sources of ideas concerning criteria of quality, assessements and recommendations. We will cite as particular examples among these works, the results of seminars on Higher Education on Africa (Accra, November 1991 ; Dakar, November 1992 and Alexandria, April 1993) and Issues Papers (e.g. "Future Directions For Higher Education in Africa", 1994 ; "Priority : Africa. Developing Higher Education in Africa", or even "The Final Report of the African Meeting on Social Development and Africa's Priorities ; 1995"), the proposals submitted by the International Commission on Education for the 21st century" (Delors Commission), Results of the "2nd World Congress on Computerization and Education" which UNESCO organized in Moscow in July 1996, as well as other documents prepared by various international bodies (such as the World Bank's publication : "Development in action. Higher Education : Lessons from experience", published in English and French in 1994 and 1995 respectively) together with several unpublished works accessed by the UNESCO Chair of Educational Sciences established in Dakar. The deliberations scheduled for 1997 are expected to complement and highlight the issues developed hereafter.

 

 

A FRAMEWORK FOR ANALYSIS

 

4. To organize the information culled from the above-mentioned works and orientate the 1997 activities, we consider it important to establish a framework for analysis. A higher educational institution may be considered as a system composed of interacting sub-systems that could depend, in several respects, on a larger entity but which can also influence such an entity in a relatively conscious and voluntary manner.

 

 This analytical framework can be formalized in the following diagram which will serve as a reference medium throughout this paper.

 

5. The analytical framework should be reviewed and understood as follows, considering that it was initially inspired by Kast and Rosenzweig's famous systemic diagram (Systems Theory, Planning and Management ; Paris : Dunod, 1970) and complemented with the works of demographers who adapted the patterns of population and student influx patterns through the training systems(1)

 

6. The higher educational institution is transversally composed of 5 interacting sub-systems and comprises two dischronic sub-systems related to the influx patterns intersecting them.

 

7. The first five (5) transversal sub-systems respectively pertain to institutional missions, organizational structures, resources allocated and employed, institutional culture (its relational environment, operational procedures, practices and customs, standards, reflexes, etc.) and the sub-system of administration which covers the organization and management of all the sub-systems.

 

8. From a more diachronic point of view, two other sub-systems influence the transformation process, i.e. the sub-system on student admission which constitutes the "raw material" of higher educational institutions and the validation sub-system which defines the system's outflow characteristics.

 

9. If the higher educational institution can be considered as representing all these seven (7) relatively interrelated sub-systems, it should also be envisaged as an institution that constantly interacts with a close environment we have called "meso-environment", that imposes certain requirements which in turn can be influenced by the institution.

 

10. In a broader sense, the higher educational institution operates in an environment we have designated as the macro-environment, which conveys a number of geo-political phenomena exerting pressure on the higher educational institution either directly or indirectly through the meso-environment. That being the case, we should first characterise this environmental framework of our reflection. We can then identify and define the criteria of quality which will condition our options and decisions. All these aspects will find expression in a series of guidelines established around the sub-systems that make up higher educational institutions.

 

A CHANGING MACRO-ENVIRONMENT

 

11. This end-of-century is marked by a series of developments that will certainly be amplified in the coming years or are going to generate reactions underscored by the desire to change the way of life. It is therefore necessary to focus our reflection while taking account of the features of the macro-environment in which the higher educational institutions operate, especially since the latter are established to help transform the meso- and macro-environment in the context of a genuine sustainable human development.

 

12. Socio-economic realities have great impact on the developments taking place in our environment. For instance, the economic globalization process continues to develop, thereby revolutionizing sectors for the production of goods (and even certain services) as well as those involved in product design operations, distribution and management patterns. Under the circumstances, certain production zones which flourished in the past are now giving way to other low-wage entities governed by more flexible legislations concerning the employment of unskilled or skilled staff, adults or children.

 

 However, such relocations are slightly witnessed in the African countries which the financial administrators often consider as politically unstable and lacking the skilled manpower to train and supervise unskilled labour force. In the so-called developing countries, a Fourth World is rapidly developing while, in the Third World countries, whole masses of people live exclusively on an underground, informal economy accompanied by all kinds of potentially pernicious effects. Fortunately, even if much remains to be done, the ravages of a savage liberation are countered with remedial measures and isolated expressions of solidarity and hegemony. This is rendered all the more necessary as the State is less capable of arresting the situation and is even obliged to adopt certain structural adjustement policies. Hence, several of the more affected African countries have established a culture whereby the higher educational certificate is considered as an automatic prerequisite for employment in the civil service, the guarantee of prestige and solidarity. Whereas such beliefs die out, a cultural change entails the work of a whole generation. The economic globalization and relocation processes were rendered possible as a result of a rapid flow of capital and information as well as the free movement of people. The big towns and cities play an increasingly important role as focal points in a vast network of exchanges. That is why they attract more people migrating from the rural areas who consider such urban centres as places of refuge (the hope of securing employment, better living conditions and a variety of available opportunities which tend to become, in reality, the fascinating decoys presented by the media). Africa also has its dose of this growing urbanization. In fact, contrary what many people think, Africa is becoming less and less rural(2).

 

13. Scientific and technological developments have increased exponentially in Africa in recent years. The wealth of knowledge in science and technology has more than doubled in comparison with the package acquired from time immemorial. This phenomenon is expected to foster a radical change in the curricular planning and training methods employed in the higher educational institutions : initial training should be considered in terms of the indispensable lifelong education, i.e. efforts should be made to inculcate the constant desire and concern for continuing education ; consequently, training should address the mental faculties, know-how and skills required to enable trainees to easily assimilate new concepts arising from the changing trend of knowledge and related contexts. Over the last three years in particular, we have been witnessing the emergence of myriads of new information and communication technologies which have influenced or will influence all aspects of life, including the higher educational sector if it is lucid enough to adopt a relevant and well-defined training policy. Therein lies a challenge to the African continent which now has the chance (if it has the inherent will) of joining a network with the most prestigious data bases, forming "potential" task forces at national and international levels, establishing "cross-border" training programmes and local, national and international resource centres. In this context, however, there are numerous obstacles to overcome in Africa. These include the small number of potential users who now have the capacity and equipment to access electronic information networks, the scarcity and high cost of equipment, software and information in comparison with the North, lack of accessible telecommunication infrastructure, monopoly of telecommunications and application of excessive regulations and the attendant high cost ; other obstacles are the unstable supply of electric power in most of the African countries and lack of networks and inter-regional co-operation. Beyond the purely technical and material aspects, one of the major conditions for establishment lies in feeding servers with adapted and significant educational programmes of adequate quality.

 

 

CRITERIA OF QUALITY TO BE CONSIDERED

 

 As repeated in the above-mentioned preparatory works, higher educational institutions should comply with the criteria of quality, namely, effectiveness, efficiency and equity.

 

14. Effectiveness should be understood as the relationship between influx and outflow patterns. But what are the influx and outflow patterns. But what are the influx and outflow patterns of the higher educational system to be taken into consideration at the internal and external levels ?

 

15. In terms of internal effectiveness, a first relationship to be considered concerns the enrolment and graduation patterns. Judging by the classic administrative output indicators such as the number of certificates issued as compared with the number of students initially admitted, the rates of successes and failures, repetition and withdrawal in the intermediate years, it can only be inferred that the output of African higher educational institutions is very heterogeneous depending on the institutions and their curricula : it is often disastrous in the University Faculties with substantial enrolments but it can be good in certain professional training institutions that organize competitive examinations before admitting students.

 

16. This first observation allows us to state that particular attention should be paid to the "Admission" sub-system. This implies, on the one hand, that students' qualifications and aptitudes should be clearly defined at the time of entry according to the types of courses ; on the other hand, relevant decisions should be taken on admission regulations in consultation with the institutions that offer students (often the Secondary Schools). Measures should be taken to avoid the situation whereby certain Faculties are crammed with students who are not adequately prepared thereby making it impossible to offer high-quality training and saturating the employment market with poorly trained or "deformed" labour force.

 

17. Ensuring a better planning of the admission sub-system presupposes that the process should not be limited to defining conditions for admission to the first year in the higher education sector but that more longitudinal processes of orientation and admission should be considered as well. Thus, certain categories of students can initially be offered short-term courses allowing the most brilliant ones to subsequently pursue longer and denser courses on account of the intellectual capacity and efforts to be made for positive results. Such a recommendation also calls for the fulfilment of certain requirements enhancing the value of selected courses. It also presupposes the establishment of statutory modifications providing for reorientation classes between course streams based on relevant and well-defined criteria.

 

18. Whereas decision-makers are furnished with useful information through administrative output indicators in the management sub-system, such indicators mask a great deal of disparities in terms of what is often referred to a "product quality". Is the quality of training really guaranteed when graduation rates are pegged at 2% (of the number of students enrolled in the first year for a given batch of students) and the average number of years required to achieve a good mastery of training courses is established at more than six (6) years in the higher educational sector ? An analysis of the content of final year examinations and dissertations could certainly help in determining the quality of training and in proving that it is not necessary expedient to transfer a student from one institution to another one forming part of a co-operative network if the products expected are not well defined and examined.

 

19. However, after these preliminary quantitative and qualitative indicators of internal effectiveness, the most important aspect consists in assessing internal effectiveness in terms of indicators external effectiveness, as stipulated under Recommendations 23 of "Priority : Africa" : "The point which should not be overlooked is that the efficiency of every enterprise is determined exclusively in terms of its external achievements. An effective business is one that gives satisfaction to its clients. An efficient hospital is one that heals its patients. An efficient African University is one whose students acquire knowledge and immediately apply to their work. Indeed one cannot overstress the important role it plays in meeting human development needs of the African continent".

 

 Defining an institution's mission in terms of external results to be achieved constitutes a prime objective of all higher educational institutions. the "mission" sub-system is therefore a first sub-system because it conditions the action underlying the other six sub-systems cited previously. To guarantee is relevance, this sub-system should not be considered in isolation but rather in relation with the external environment, be it micro - (the African University should be authentically African) or meso-environment (in the same country, two different institutions will be assigned two specifically different missions to meet the needs of two specific environments). A pertinent analysis of requirements of the environment in which the institution operates is therefore of crucial importance. In most cases, the training programmes of higher educational institutions are those imported without considering the priority requirements of the target environment. If the basic principles of physics are universal, the problems to be resolved and the procedure for resolving them with such basic knowledge are far from being the same.

 

20. External effectiveness therefore constitutes the first issue at stake : an institution could achieve a high rate of internal effectiveness while carrying out irrelevant training activities. The "mission" sub-system will therefore be attentive to the two facets of external effectiveness. The qualitative facet refers to certain indicators such as the number of engineers to be trained as well as to the actual number of graduates, the number of self-employed graduates as compared to those employed in the civil service in a structural adjustement policy context and the number of unemployed graduates.

 

 

 On the other hand, the qualitative facet refers to the qualification of the prospective trainee and the proof that the graduate is capable of performing duties assigned to him or those he had to carry out on his own initiative.

 

21. It is even at the time there is a crisis and resources become scarce that African higher educational institutions should be both effective and efficient. Efficiency is defined as the ratio between outflows in the system and the resources invested. Such resources are of different kinds : financial, material and human. The last two resources can be examined quantitatively at two levels. First, one can raise questions such as : how many persons or how much of equipment do we need ? How many/much do we actually have ? On the other hand, all material or human resources can be expressed in terms of financial costs. However, they should also be considered in qualitative terms : what qualification should such a person have to fulfill his mission? What is the actual qualification of the person I have admitted and what objective am I allowed to pursue with such a qualification ? What are the characteristics of the equipment necessary for the execution of the missions assigned ? What are the characteristics of the available equipment and what objectives can we achieve with such equipment ? Finally, what objectives am I really achieving ? Do such products correspond to those envisaged in the context of the "mission" sub-system ?

 

22. Efficiency therefore poses a problem of resource optimization and this pre-eminently entails a policy that consists in making choices in allocating resources to the various budgetary items. Thus, should the sub-system on resource management at the University level not raise the question as to whether it would not be advisable - in finding solutions to the problem of physics courses that are not properly assimilated in the Faculties of Science or Medicine where course contents or lectures are dictated orally and incomplete as well as incorrect notes are taken down - to sacrifice a lecturer's post and use the corresponding funds to purchase a good and internationally recognized treatise on Physics that students could use during their courses and even throughout their professional career ? In most of the African higher educational institutions, efforts are not often made to analyze the procedure for allocating resources to the various specific budgetary items and no attempt is made to imagine other possible methods of allocation.

 

23. Efficiency also underlies the search for other funding sources apart from those provided by the public authorities. Higher educational institutions constitute a human resource capital with a high level of competence that could be utilized in partnership with external, private or public enterprises. Various experiments have shown that the transfer of technologies developed in university research laboratories can have considerable financial impact provided they are genuinely conducted in partnership with external enterprises which are more conversant with financial resource management, under well-establish agreements stipulating the profit each partner can draw from such joint ventures as well as each party's obligations. A clear policy should also be formulated on the profit that could be drawn from paid consultancy services. Such activities should be encouraged by the academic authorities for two basic reasons. The first one lies in the fact that, through those activities, lecturers and research fellows of the higher educational institutions acquire a better knowledge of problems raised in connection with the institutional environment and this helps improve the sub-system on institutional mission and relevance of the training provided. The second reason lies in the financial contribution from such appraisal missions, provided that clear and strictly rules are established in respect of the share reserved for the institution that provides a time budget of its staff or even some logistics as well as the share for the lecturer/research fellow who is entitled to some benefit. A similar argument should also be advanced for lucrative lifelong educational activities which offer the same advantages if they are well conducted. In other continents, lifelong educational activities fetch in substantial funds to cover part of the University budgets.

 

24. Finally, efficiency is enhanced by forward-looking management procedures with a constant focus on expected results as defined under the "mission" sub-system. A good forward-looking management entails the existence of an institutional department that updates quantitative and qualitative flow indicators (cf. Admission and Validation Sub-system) for the internal and external effectiveness of the training system, the various budgetary items, the state of facilities and equipment, quantitative and qualitative human resource capital and for its utilization. It is interesting to note that some universities having Departments of Economics that offer management training courses often fail to apply rules they teach to themselves and also forget to train their own administrators. African higher educational institutions can no longer content themselves with short-term management based on archaic rules ; they should implement, as a matter of urgency, a forward-looking management based on pure quality in all the institutional sub-systems including, and especially, its own management sub-system.

 

25. However, a higher educational institution cannot be an instrument of peace, democracy, human and children's rights, in short, it cannot be an authentic tool for the sustainable development of the African continent unless it shows a real concern for equity in addition to being effective and efficient. Five complementary aspects of equity are therefore worth considering : equal access opportunies, equality of educational comfort, equal educational standards, equality of output and equality of achievements or external equity. These five elements constitute important criteria for evaluation.

 

26. "Equal access opportunities" raises the question as the whether people with the same level of aptitude but sharing different socio-demographic characteristics have the same chances of access to higher educational institutions and their training programmes. It therefore consists in enforcing the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention Against Discrimination on Education (1960) which stipulates in its Article IV that States signing the Convention undertake "to make higher education accessible to all citizens on an equal basis according to the capabilities of each individual". The socio-demographic aspects to be taken into consideration in the context of the African continent include, especially, sex, geographical region (particularly the distance variable and the rural or urban feature), family economic status, cultural standards, religion and ethnic group. It should be noted that in most of these considerations the criteria for equal access are not fully enforced by African higher educational institutions ; this is the particular case of certain institutions or training courses perceived as noble entities. This practice is due to lack of an inherent voluntarist policy needed to counter the real handicaps and pervading prejudices. The example of women's access to higher studies is quite explicit : only 30% of African students in the higher education sector are females. In most African countries, the majority of university students stay in the capital cities or within their suburbs in a proportion higher than the established population statistics. Yet the African higher educational institutions are allocated social budgets that are particularly substantial in comparison with the other budgetary allocations. Can a voluntarist policy of "positive discrimination" not be developed to stem such inequality of access which is strangely often reinforced by the current social policies ?

 

27. "Equality of educational comfort" raises the question as to whether students with the same aptitude at the time of admission into an institution but sharing different socio-democratic characteristics and pursuing different courses of study have the same chances of enjoying a similar educational comfort in terms of facilities, instructional materials, number and quality of trainers, and supervisors for that matter. Here too, it is clearly noticed that educational comfort greatly varies from one institution to another even if they are similar ; it varies between different courses of study even in the same institution. Higher educational institutions tend to reproduce at their level the same divisions they denounce in society : thus, corporatist reflexes often overtake the concern for the common good, which constitutes the sole guarantee of peace.

 

28. "Equal educational standards" raises the question as to whether the higher educational institution reduces or rather increases the imbalance that initially exists between the more brilliant students and the weakest elements. A training system is all the better if it improves the overall average of the group of students covered under the system (when it is effective) and gradually decreases gaps initially existing between the most brilliant and the weakest groups of students (when the system is equitable). A training institution can be effective but inequitable : it only suffices to impart the requisite knowledge, without considering whether students understand what is imparted, while focussing attention on the few students who are less in need of the teacher. Is that not a frequent practice ? All the same, there certainly exist ineffective and inequitable educational institutions that have particularly disastrous repercussions on their countries which they plunge in a vicious circle of underdevelopment. Some self-assessment and external evaluation strategies have to be implemented to avoid such a vicious circle. Whereas many countries have understood this necessity in other continents, Africa presents a different level of awareness in this respect.

 

29. "Equality of output" raises the question as to whether students of equal aptitude upon admission to an institution have the same chances of graduating within a given period if they share different socio-demographic characteristics. Here too, variables such as sex, area of origin or economic environment often play a discriminatory role. A voluntarist policy of positive discrimination, instead of a policy marred by precedence or corruption, should be maintened and its results have to be evaluated.

 

30. "Equality of achievements or external equity" also calls for the consideration of the extent to which students holding equivalent certificates upon graduation from the higher educational institution have the same chances of asserting themselves professionally (securing employment and making use of acquired skills etc...), socially (enjoying various social benefits such as health care, political responsibilities, etc...) and personally (achieving objectives in life). Truly speaking, external equity is obviously not contingent on the higher educational institution alone but, in most cases, the latter tends to show less concern for its certificates ; it becomes withdrawn and therefore neglects its mission of helping to build a more equitable society. The higher educational institution is not only and institution for imparting knowledge and know-how ; it also has to educate its products to become responsible citizens and this underscores the behavioural and career aspects of the training mission. The austere structural adjustement policies that put an embargo on engagement in the civil service have generated disturbing phenomena such as doctors without jobs while their countries are contending with increasing health problems ! What role do the higher educational institutions play in such a situation ? Under the circumstances do they train development agents ?

 

SOME GUIDELINES FOR ACTION

 

 We could offer some guidelines for action in the light of the foregoing analysis. The suggestions will be complemented during the Regional Meeting in Dakar where they could be presented as recommendations ; in this regard, the other recommendations already formulated during the above-mentioned previous seminars should also be taken into consideration.

 

Reinforcing the "mission" sub-system

 

31. If many international meetings have on several occasions stressed the need for higher educational institutions to review their mission and translate it into visible results, it is because that necessity has remained a fervent desire. Which African institutions have formalized their strategic plans in written documents ? And yet, they often have personalities with the requisite skills and power to do so ; some of them are even known to have put such "power" in the service of other institutions instead of theirs. Should higher educational institutions not urge their own experts to conduct studies and research on the priority needs of the environment in which they are located ? As in the case of the world - famous universities, should higher educational institutions not establish "Studies Departments" to prepare and regularly update longitudinal data bases on external and internal trends to enable the "management" sub-system and experts consulting them to define the priority concerns of their mission, adjust them with time, translate them into visible results and have them evaluated ? Competent experts selected to carry out such functions should be provided with substitutes through bilateral or multilateral co-operation projects in order to eventually ensure the entrenchment and continuity of their co-operation projects.

 

32. In the framework of macro-environmental analyses, such Studies Departments could be federated into networks to enhance their capacity to analyze common problems. The possibilities offered by UNITWIN and the UNESCO Chairs should serve as a basis for such a proposal since each unit could become a centre of excellence in a specific sphere of analysis. In this regard, the flow of information is of crucial importance and the allocation of facilites offered by electronic mail therefore becomes a prime concern that should be accorded priority. Moreover, another important aspect of such and operation consists in writing short but pertinent abstracts for the authorities entrusted with institutional management, since it is very important that these units be prepared to furnish timely information required for decision-making purposes. Such networks should serve as databases comprising multiple indicators facilitating the study of the trend of major problems facing the African society, their areas of concentration, periods of aggravation or resolution. We would cite, for example, a variety of elements such as the impact of structural adjustment policies on the various sectors of economy, nutrition, health, education, culture, environment... or even the indicators for population trends, patterns of urbanization in the African continent(3), development of the informal economic sector and the accompanying "savings and investment" networks... or the educational and literacy indicators... and even those pertaining to the States' moral (various conflicts, instances of bribery and corruption, etc). Such databases should provide higher educational institutions with material for defining their priority missions, for it should not be forgotten that they are assigned a twofold mission : training future executives who will have to address such problems and training teachers who are supposed to educate the future responsible citizens of the African continent.

 

33. However, beyond the analysis of the macro-environment, each higher educational institution is expected to collate indicators for the meso-environment or the nearest environment it is supposed to serve : this task therefore consists in identifying external effectiveness and equity indicators that will enable the institution to translate its training activities into tangible results in the nearby environment.

 

 

34. Moreover, the institution will also have to identify its own internal effectiveness, efficiency and equity indicators that will enable it to make a self-assessment of its training activities and improve them regularly.

 

35. All these instruments should enable each higher educational institution to prepare genuine "strategic plans" which the entire community would use as a reference framework for evaluating and improving actions taken.

 

36. Such mission-defining processes are certainly expected to help in modifying the contents and essence of training courses in the higher educational sector which often and almost exclusively consist in harmonizing and imparting the contents of knowledge whereas higher education is expected to reflect further on problems to be resolved in family terms and should therefore orientate training towards skills to be acquired (i.e. the capacity to mobilize a set of knowledge, know-how and behaviour required in finding solutions to situations and problems facing a given "family"). It is also interesting to note that more than a hundred Faculties of Medecine have adopted the "problem approach" but almost all of these units are located outside the African continent which rather needs to do so as a matter of urgency.

 

Adapting the "Structures" Sub-system

 

37. Very frequently the structures operate as if they constitute an end in themselves and they continue to exist as such even though their missions have undergone some changes. At any rate, they should fulfil the priority missions of the institutions. They should therefore be flexible enough to adapt quickly to changing trends in their missions. A sufficiently permanent basic administrative structures established for a specific purpose according to well-defined and clearly identified missions to which staff can be assigned without the latter compromising their status within the original structure.

 

38. Since the higher educational institution is a global structure with well-defined priority missions and is accountable to external institutions to which it delivers its products, while enjoying some autonomy in managing the process, each internal structure (example : the Faculty vis-à-vis the University, and the Department vis-à-vis the Faculty) should be considered as a system equally composed of the above-mentioned seven sub-systems: it therefore has missions that should be well defined in harmony with the global missions of the institution to which it is attached ; it has its own recognized structures, it manages resources ; it has its own specific culture ; it is characterized by any influx of students to be trained and an outflow of students presenting a certain qualification at the time of graduation ; it has its own system of administration or management. Each internal structure is therefore equally accountable for results obtained, in terms of effectiveness, efficiency and equity, and for specific indicators initially planned for the fulfilment of priority missions. As observed in the efficient enterprises, it is expedient to anticipate, beyond such accountability to the immediate hierarchical structure, a procedure for information and recourse to a higher authority to avoid certain pernicious effects (excessive dependency, power stakes, inhibition of initiatives, etc) and allow for the evaluation of actions taken, and of their results, by a more experienced and far-sighted authority.

 

39. Institutional structures should be planned to realize the highest possible rate of internal and external effectiveness (in quantitative and qualitative terms) efficiency and equity. That is why it is recommended that short- and long-term courses be organized within the same institution or in consultation with other organized within the same institution or in consultation with other institutions so as to encourage the influx and outflow of several catagories of students : long-term courses modulated into short-term courses for weaker students or those in difficulty ; short courses prolonged for the most brilliant students and professional careers punctuated with further training courses. Such initiatives entail the establishment of flexible reorientation classes defined to enable students to pursue a recognized course of study spanning the shortest possible period (acquiring effectiveness and efficiency at the least costs). Training structures should accord priority to the problem approach so that they can better promote a sustainable development policy. In areas where teaching staff for important courses are lacking, distance education strategies should be experimented with the assistance of co-operation agencies and networks.

 

40. For institutions where the third cycle courses can justifiably be organized, it is recommended that some flexible research structures be set up, with some temporary teams covering a specific subject and promoting interdisciplinary research in their capacity as centres of excellence, and this implies meeting the following criteria : an adequate provision for senior and junior researchers ; a standard scientific environment demonstrated by some indicators, such as recognized scientific publications, training in research methodology, availability of research tools that can be used on a regular basis, a genuine supervision, presentation of doctoral theses in sufficient numbers, and membership of some quality international networks. The activities of CAMES should strengthened in this regard, bearing in mind, of course, the need to supplement them with assessments that make if possible to officially appear and recognize centres of excellence for a given period. It is preferable to establish 3rd cycle training where the above-mentioned conditions have not been met, because this accounts for the entry off persons who are not sufficiently prepared and credible into the academic body. It is better to operate in networks (see UNITWIN and UNESCO Chairs) : each partner institution provides to the others the skills derived from its centres of excellence and solicits the skills derived from its partners' centres of excellence.

 

41. The rules and regulations of higher educational institutions should not be an obstacle to the pursuit of priority missions. This implies that they meet a certain number of effectiveness, efficiency, and equity criteria : they should promote creativity (too many rules and regulations are rather inappropriate) ; they should avoid time wasting (1 hour wasted on administrative procedures equals one hour of salary lost for the mission) ; they should at the same time promote rapid commitment and be based on accountability (justifications after commitment are preferable of justifications before commitment, with certain exceptions ; the experience of institutions which operate in this manner that there are less diversion strategies) ; they are therefore contingent on autonomy, responsibility and accountability ; they should be sufficiently coherent and flexible in relation to the rules and regulations of other structures or institutions with which they are supposed to interact.

 

42. Where profession-oriented training is organized, it is imperative that the structures envisage frequent field visits for both trainers and trainees to enable them to acquire some expertise and skills in the resolution of socio-professional problems. These interactions are carried out through training programmes, alternating training schemes, experiments, continued training programmes, etc. Such requirements are more than imperative for the teacher training programmes, which are too exclusively theoretical, and call for recourse to active methods that are not implemented by the trainers themselves, not to mention that they are excessively "cut" from the reality of the classroom and field methods that give prior consideration to an approach based on content rather than a problem approach. In teacher training it is not the length of the initial training that obtains the best results, but rather alternative training and follow-up with continued training, punctuated with reinforcements through progressive career plans.

 

43. The quality of training is too important to be left to persons without authentic pedagogic training, recognized as well as credible skills. It is therefore recommended that a "pedagogic resource unit" be established in every higher educational institution ; the missions of such a structure would be to assist as a matter of priority, young teachers or experienced teachers wishing to : improve their teaching methods through a revised curriculum, resolve certain difficulties encountered in teaching, organize more relevant, valid reliable and economically formative or certificatory evaluations, promote the training of new teachers and assist the institution to carry out education-based missions. To be credible, such units should have some degree of independence vis-à-vis academic authorities in matters concerning teachers and should demonstrate their efficiency through concrete results. Furthermore, the persons representing such units should periodically be involved in teaching so that they are not totally "excluded" from practice. Such units should be capable of establishing exchange networks and participating in this regard, in continued training sessions (here again, UNITWIN should be able to play its role).

 

Strengthening the "resources" sub-system through

increased diversification and improved allocation

 

44. The "resources" sub-system depends on the "mission" sub-system and the priorities defined therein. This is true at the following levels : the search for and the diversification of resources, their allocation to the different items, the procedures for their management and control, and for the evaluation of their productivity (that is efficiency), and use in terms of equity.

 

45. Given that it is impossible for the State to completely finance a quality education and research, and given a liberalization of the economy and even service structures, and the urgent need for establishing quality management, higher educational institutions should increasingly act as service entreprises entering into constructive competition with other higher educational institutions which will be judged or assessed on the basis of their results and ability to generate their own resources. Various possible ways exist and have already been experimented in certain places and are yet to be experimented in other contexts :

 

- participation of students and families in training

 costs ; a variety of mechanisms exist, ranging from

 direct contributions, in terms of minerval, to

 mechanisms for loans repayable with funds or through

 services ; the problems of equity appear to us here

 as a crucial aspect which should not be overlooked ;

 

- a provision of paid services on the part of the higher

 educational institution in external, private or public

 institutions or enterprises : provision of consultancy

 services ; establishment of continued training

 programmes ; use of technological or development

 research... Establishing the right balance between

 the provision of education and other services will

 always be a delicate problem to be resolved because

 an imbalance between these two poles could, in the

 end, compromise the survival of the higher educational

 institution. Excessive provision of services could

 lead to neglecting the mission of education and would

 jeopardize internal efficiency ; while too few

 provisions of service would isolate the educational

 institution from areas of practice and jeopardize

 external efficiency.

 

46. The allocation of resources to the different items is often done automatically and routinely in certain cases and on a daily basis in other cases. This is one of the most important elements that reveal the real degree of orientation of an institution towards the pursuit of clearly identified and specified priority missions. Therefore, it is worth recommending that the emphasis be laid on the following points :

 

- training for resource management officials not only in

 the accounting aspects but also in their role as "mission

 officials" ;

 

- imaginative efforts on the part of management officials

 in the study of the range of the available resource

 allocation scenarios and their degree of efficiency in

 relation to priority missions ;

 

- some research should be conducted to reduce the

 magnitude of recurrent budgetary items and increase

 that of flexible items that will foster creativity,

 reflect the trend of needs and missions and promote

 activities for enhanced effectiveness, efficiency

 and equity.

 

47. A culture of peace also implies that a criterion of solidarity of the institutions or richer structures be taken into account by promoting the poorer institutions or structures ; if it is accepted that higher eudcational institutions have a role to play in the development of this culture of peace, then it is important that they conciously, explicitly and visibly demonstrate that they themselves apply this solidarity criterion.

 

Giving greater attention to the institution's "culture sub-system"

 

48. Several works on efficiency, effectiveness and equity have shown the impact of entrepreneurial or institutional culture on the results evaluated in these terms. There are cultures which lead to underdevelopment while others promote development. The former are based on individualism, the lack of concern for public assets, the search for maximum benefits on the part of Civil Service structures, a culture of assistance and a culture of corruption. The latter are nurtured by a keen awareness of the important missions pursued by the institution to which one belongs, a concern for public assets as a joint property, an awareness of the need to contribute to a better future for future generations, a pride for assuming full responsibility for oneself, a culture of solidarity, the will to share the same norms or standards, and an awareness of complementarity and respect for differences in a spirit of complementarity.

 

49. In creating a shared culture, the mechanisms for improvement are particularly important and it has been demonstrated that the absence of positive improvements within the institution diverts teachers from their priority missions or tasks, that specific intensive courses (you have completed 3 doctoral degrees over a two-year period") are more effective than general ones ("you have done your work well") that negative mechanisms are effective only if they are specific ("your course is dictated so only the first half of the audience hears it "). Any higher educational institution should think of a course reinforcement policy for its personnel (and particularly, of a career plan policy) which develops a shared culture geatred towards the exercise of priority missions.

 

50. To develop such a culture, it is necessary to conduct a series of activities :

 

- associating stakeholders with the definition of

 priority missions and tranlating such missions into

 precise indicators based on some objective studies,

 and not simply on mere opinions ;

 

- disseminating among all members of the community, the

 documents that spell out and operationalize the

 priority missions ;

 

- constantly reminding the different internal structures

 of terms of their missions and their role in the

 global mission ;

 

- making compulsory the annual activity reports prepared

 with reference to missions ;

 

- establishing a positive culture of evaluation, mutual

 accountability, etc

 

51. However, the development of a culture geared towards promoting effectiveness and efficiency should not play down the related importance of developing a culture of peace and democracy in which there is a great need for equity and "positive discrimination strategies" implemented with mechanisms for solidarity established in aid of sectors or people in difficult situations through assistance units, training projects, etc.), and in which greater importance is accorded to attitudes reflecting commitment to the institution rather than those suggesting indifference, co-operation instead of competition, and team spirit instead of individualism, etc.

 

Developing a "management" sub-system on total quality

 

52. Higher educational institutions are expected to be entities administered in line with total quality management principles, like efficient enterprises, and this entails choices governed by the priority missions.

 

53. Above all, such a management calls for administrators who have received training and/or are placed under supervision. This also implies that before administrators are designated or elected, their qualifications should be clearly specified ; in cases where they are elected, their qualifications should be known to the electorate ; provision should be made for training in administration and management before the assumption of responsibilities if need be ; the auxiliary staff working with the administrator should also be trained and offered opportunies for in-service training purposes, other forms of substitution should eventually be envisaged through co-operation.

 

54. One of the principal tools of management consists in preparing a "strategic plan" for the sector that is managed. A strategic plan embodies a number of fundamental elements governing decision-making processes and actions to be taken for a given period. The most important of these elements are :

 

- priority missions of the establishment in question,

 their linkages with priorities of the entire institution

 and procedures for translating them into priority

 missions of the sub-structures ;

 

- entry, intermediate and outflow indicators that

 allow for evaluating and regulating actions

 undertaken (this refers to the essential

 components of the performance indicators) ;

 

- priority actions and the respective structures ;

 

- the most important stakes ;

 

- resource allocation procedures ;

 

- regulation and evaluation periods.

 

55. Mechanisms for regulation are therefore important in management. Consequently, it is expedient ot call for the implementation of different plans ; it is also necessary to analyze, at regular intervals, the differences between expected results and outputs achieved. It is on this basis (and not merely on the basis of opinions or impressions) that solutions should be found together with partners concerned in a constructive spirit.

 

56. As we emphasized during the discussion of the sub-system on culture, it is of crucial importance to develop a management policy by strengthening the system's stakeholders in a management governed by total quality principles. Strategies entailed in the strengthening process constitute the dynamic elements of human activity. They are mainly based on strategies for social recognition, mechanisms for promotion and career patterns that change according to the related criteria for validating training activities and achieving proven results ; the strategies also include attachment courses and missions, integration in a team that gives satisfaction, possibilities of publishing the results of individual works and sharing proceeds of consultancy services.

 

57. At the central level of a higher educational institution expected to be efficient, in terms of the criteria for effectiveness, efficiency and equity, it is important for administrators to be provided with a "studies department". Such a department establishes performance indicators which will not only enable administrators to identify and validate priority missions but also provide elements for regulations and facilitate the evaluation of actions undertaken in the framework of the strategic plan. The performance indicators will include elements connected with admission and validation patterns, internal and external efficiency indicators, those related to resources and the attendant efficiency ratios, socio-demographic indicators for enrolments and the various equity indicators.

 

58. The importance of the "management" sub-system is overstressed if the focus is placed on total quality management rather than providing for the modern tools indispensable for good management. An efficient studies department and daily management functions call for adequate computer equipment, networked, if possible, connected to electronic mail systems and capable of accessing certain external data bases. That requirement should therefore be one of the priorities to be addressed eventually by the institutions through bilateral or multilateral co-operation.

 

Enhancing the validity of the "Admission" sub-system

 

59. As the quality of the system's outflow patterns does not depend solely on the quality of the training process but also on the quality of the raw material at the time of admission, it is important to have a clear vision of entry requirements. Qualifications should not be based on mere speculation, they should be validated on the basis of a regularly updated statistical analysis. Indicators for internal effectiveness (quantitative and qualitative) and those for equity will be examined differentially in relation to the characteristics of students' qualifications at the time of admission.

 

60. With such information, consultations at the level of institutions upstream (Departments in charge of Baccalauréat/Sixth Form Courses, authorities of the Ministry of Education in charge of Secondary Education, teacher trainers, etc.) will be made easier and more effective, at least if they are held in a mutually constructive spirit.

 

61. It is also good if the "Admission" sub-system does not limit itself to collecting information in qualifications after admission into the higher educational institution and if efforts are made to reflect on and organize a system of progressive admission and validation comprising the following elements, if possible :

 

- An aptitude test on the mastery of the fundamental

 prerequisites for the commencement of new courses

 whose results would allow for the organization of

 refresher, intensive and remedial activities in the

 early stages as done in some efficient institutions.

 

- At the end of each academic year, steps should be

 taken towards establishing progressive promotion -

 validation procedures that would help in orientating

 students in difficulty from long-term courses to

 short-term streams and vice versa for the more

 brilliant students.

 

 Such strategies would improve the indicators for the system's internal effectiveness and reduce costs engendered by repetitions and dropouts after several years of studies (enhanced efficiency) with positive impact on social and psychological costs. The "Admission" sub-system should also examine the positive and negative effects of the numerous cases of dispensation and regulations practised in many African higher educational institutions. Only some rare examples of dispensations that yielded positive results after the statistical analyses should be pursued. Moreover, such an attitude would be a good sign of the institution's quality management.

 

62. The "Admission" sub-system should particularly be attentive to problems posed in terms of access for certain segments of the population. The problem of women's access is particularly crucial, as illustrated in the following statistical table showing the total number of students enrolled in (thousands) and the number of female students recorded between 1980 and 1992.

 

 

 Improving the qualities of the "Validation" Sub-system

 

63. In a higher educational institution, the "Validation" sub-system focuses attention on the certificatory assessment of skills acquired at the end of training. Four basic qualities should be guaranteed : relevance, validity, reliability and economy of the evaluation exercise. Relevance presupposes that the certificatory assessment sanctions the skills required for entry into professional practice and/or into a subsequent training cycle in conformity with the qualifications defined in the priority missions. Validity presupposes an effective assessment of what is claimed to have been evaluated which implies the adoption of an adequate evaluation and questioning process (a written examination does not make it possible to assess the same trends as those observed in the course of attachment sessions ; on the other hand, multiple-choice questions to do not allow for a paper evaluation of students ability to deliver a message adequately). Reliability relates to the confidence that can be confirmed whenever assessment tests are marked by various examiners or are organized under different circumstances. The economic character of an evaluation exercise refers to the time required and the resources employed in the certification process (some institutions take more than two months to produce examination results while others with similar enrolments conduct the entire operation in four weeks).

 

64. Even though all the qualities have their respective importance, the most important quality is indisputably that of relevance. in fact, the quality of training is assessed on the basis of its external results (external effectiveness). It consists in considering to what extent training and assessment reflect genuine skills (and not merely with "disembodied" knowledge and know-how, but also focus on finding solutions to problems) which also correspond to situations and problems necessitating the mobilization of knowledge and know-how or even the behavioural qualities that will be required subsequently. It is therefore recommended that institutions conduct a regular analysis of the content of authenticated examinations in order to ascertain their consistency with qualifications at the end of training. It is also expedient to recall that certificatory evaluations form part of social validations and are therefore public in character ; hence, they constitute the basis of the principle of accountability.

 

65. Besides the conformity of the assessment or questioning mechanisms, the element of validity also poses the delicate problem of excessive failures and excessive successes. Failing a student wrongly means retaining a student who could either have pursued his/her studies smoothly the following year or could have entered into normal professional life. Passing a student wrongly also means promoting a student or making it possible for him/her to enter into professional life whereas the student lacks the requisite aptitudes. It is easier to detect wrongful promotion as the following year reveals the student's weaknesses. Wrongful failure is not easily detected as the repeating exercise is aimed at weeding out most of the students in such a situation. This observation further emphasizes the need for progressive admission and validation strategies, as highlighted previously.

 

66. The numerous research works on examination results analyses have shown that it is very difficult to award reliable marks ; a large number of teachers or sometimes great scientists who are aware of the reliability problems posed by certain measures in their research are convinced that the problem of reliability does not arise in matters concerning their own marks. Consequently, it will never be repetitious to recommend that higher educational institutions organize further research on problems connected with academic assessments. Similarly, the decision-making authorities should be urged to prepare their proceedings with great care and bring out the apparent and real "anomalies" that need to be clarified. In this connection, the data processing software used in research laboratories can facilitate and simplify such operation, thereby saving time and rendering the deliberations more effective. The credibility of higher educational institutions depends on such measures, especially since the law courts and newspapers have begun to focus increasingly on the malfunctioning of the certificatory assessment procedures which has become rampart over the years. Total quality management can also materialize through this process.

 

67. Certificatory assessment and validation procedures cannot take too much time at the expense of training and other functions. The link established between the time devoted to training and assessments is not reasonable for certain institutions. If such a practice were tranposed into the private institutions, the latter would collapse in no time. In most cases, it is lack of technical skills in the assessment and testing methods that makes the teaching staff spend too much time and energy on assessments and even come up often with low reliability ratings. Here too, the teaching staff should be trained to conduct assessments since such orientation exercises constitute a starting point in efforts geared toward addressing other basic issues connected with training. In this regard, it is also necessary to consider the possibility of establishing an academic resource assessment unit.

 

Relevance, Quality, Management and Co-operation :

Four major Themes for Reflection and Action

 

68. At this dawn of the 21st Century, the African continent is more than ever expected to meet a series of challenges. Such challenges are linked not only to economic globalization, invasion of new information and communication technologies, relocation of production activities and development of a "cognitive society" 'cf. Delors Commission) but also to the need for differentiation and identification, the desire to live in a decent physical environment and the search for referents to give life its meaning and interiority. In spite of the indications of a whole series of events used in proving the contrary, all the above-mentioned aspects express man's fervent desire to develop and enjoy a culture of peace which Africa needs now, more than ever. Will the higher educational institutions contribute towards meeting the challenges posed ?

 

69. The institutions will do so if they do not stray from their mission. They will contribute by producing, for the employment market, women and men ready to meet such challenges and continue training towards that end : it is a question of quality. They will help in meeting the challenges by establishing among themselves effective, efficient and equitable structures and forward-looking management processes. The institutions will contribute to that effect if they implement with their external partners co-operative strategies "without losers" aimed at developing a culture of peace.

 

70. Relevance is the first problem because if higher educational institutions in Africa stray from their mission, they will become an obstacle to the continent's development since they are training the professionals and leaders of the 21st Century. In a world where scientific and technological knowledge is increasing exponentially, in a world where databases and servers are being created to structure such information, in an Africa with numerous and diverse problems of development (often including the most elementary ones) do we need crammed graduates or well-trained intellectuals ? Do we need armchair experts or those capable of analyzing and finding appropriate solutions to the concrete problems arising from the state of underdevelopment? Do we need civil servants established within the machinery of an administrative system governed by immutable rules or intellectuals who can analyze situations, creative personalities who can think up solutions, realistic men of action to adapt such solutions to the given contexts or leaders who can motivate the men and women expected to implement such solutions ?

 

71. Apart from the relevance of missions, there is also the relevance of institutional structures, methods used and resources mobilized. In fact, is it relevant to orientate the majority of university courses towards the long-term training sector as if Africa is now in dire need of holders of second or even third university degrees and could afford such a large number of failures, repetitions, dropouts and student-years in training such graduates ? Would it not be more expedient to establish more short-term streams that can be operated, developed and replaced easily according to the needs identified under specific circumstances ? Would it not be more relevant to enrol in such sectors students who do not offer sure signs of normally accomplishing longer and more involving courses ? Is it not more pertinent to establish reorientation classes for the most brilliant and motivated students pursuing such short courses to enable them to take on longer courses ? Should we not give more attention to encouraging and facilitating access to higher education for the benefit of women an people in more difficult conditions who have qualifications and the motivation needed by the African society ? For these reasons, should mechanisms not be established to monitor the movement and academic performance of students in order to develop total quality and equity as done in many universities of renown ?

 

72. Is it consistent with the set missions to focus almost exclusively on lectures, if not on dictated notes, as done in most cases, and to conduct assessments and examinations mainly based on the restitution of knowledge that could be acquired through correct memorization ? Is it consistent with the set missions to claim developing the scientific and experimental approach and organize practical course modules which actually tend to be a mere repetition of theoretical courses if they are not supplementary theoretical courses ? Is there no means of imagining mechanisms that will not only take account of the material constraints but will enable students to do purely experimental work as well (manufacturing small equipment, drawing on life experiences, observing natural phenomena, etc... (cf. the numerous UNESCO publications on this issue) ? Is it reasonable and relevant to create or continue running certain graduate courses whereas the number of lecturers adequately qualified to conduct a high-level research and the requisite logistics are lacking ? Is it not more relevant to establish networks of educational, training and research structures around centres of excellence with each institution developing its own centre(s) of excellence accessible to the other institutions in a mutual context ? Consequently, is it not expedient to establish in each higher educational institution or group of similar institutions a plan for the installation and management of new information and communication technologies that could promote high-quality distance education projects along with the establishment of "potentially" active research teams ?

 

73. Is it proper for lecturers and research fellows in higher educational institutions to remain closeted in the offices of their institution and avoid contact with field problems ? Is it normal for teacher trainers to remain for years without teaching or even entering a classroom ? Is sociology developed by the mere reading and analysis of the same basic textbooks or is it also developed by observing and analysing behaviours, representations and norms governing social groups, organizations and institutions ? Can one decently offer a course on environmental sciences while remaining within the four walls of the amphitheatre ? Can a chemistry course on dyes be given without studying and handling the colouring matter found in the local flora ?

 

74. Quality is a second theme for reflection and action and it is closely linked to the problem of relevance. However, it presupposes a sustained effort at ensuring the resourcefulness of targeted "products" (which relates to the system of validation), the "raw material" on which the institution is going to work (which reflects the admission system) ; it is also linked to the operational process and mechanisms whereby the raw material is transformed (which involves the articulation of structures through the management system in order to achieve the expected results). A policy aimed at ensuring total quality can therefore be implemented by establishing a constant relationship between products at hand and those expected and analyzing the sources of dysfunction on a regular basis ; this procedure calls for a culture based on the autonomy (of higher educational institutions as well as the autonomy of internal sub-institutions vis-à-vis one another). It also entails mutual responsibility for a genuine institutional project aimed at developing the local context and subsequently, at national and regional development, through the local context.

 

75. The task of developing total quality induces the institution to raise a series of questions. Does it have a method of organization based on a regular operational system i.e. one based on the settlement (provisional in most cases) of numerous issues brought before the authorities concerned ? Does it have at each level of responsibility a strategic plan defining objectives to be achieved within a period of time and in a given context ? Are such objectives translated into concrete and assessable products?

 

76. Are there any specifications concerning syllabi and curricula ? Is there any coherence between their various aspects? Are such specifications aimed at a progressive development of skills required in finding solutions to problems rather than a mere accumulation of knowledge ? Do they inculcate in students the concern for a continuing education and do they develop the aptitudes and skills required to prepare them (students) towards that end ? Does the institution promote lifelong educational activities for its old students and for the practitioners, in the broad sense ? Does it draw lessons from such activities for the improvement of specifications pertaining to its initial programmes and refresher courses for its own teachers ? More particularly, are the higher educational institutions directly or indirectly assigned to train future teachers (most of them are assigned such a mission, at least indirectly) who are aware of this heavy responsibility (training future generations including the "raw material" it will have to train directly) ? Is that awareness reflected in the initial training or continuing educational process ? Is the institution aware that it trained the executives it is often forced to criticize and that it is training the future professionals ? Are qualifications, syllabi and training programmes defined and properly selected ? What relationship exists between the institution and the elements it trains ? What are the mutual benefits and results ? Finally, and above all, is it not through continuous assessments that the institution can determine the actual standards and skills acquired by its students ? Is it not necessary to make a regular analysis of examination questions and instructions regarding the other forms of certificatory assessments (since certificates are theoretical public instruments) in order to make necessary adjustments for the development of high-quality standards ? Is it not essential for African Universities, like the ones renowned for their quality, to establish "pedagogic resource centres" (or a similar authority) with responsibility to revive educational systems so as to improve the quality of education in conformity with the missions assigned ? Is it not necessary to network African Universities in order to promote the exchange of experiences and mutual training for their members ? Would it not be advisable to promote other forms of distance education, for instance, in certain cases where the institution lacks qualified staff or even in cases where the most qualified staff are found elsewhere and can be accessed through a network ? Does the same situation not apply to research, and for that matter, to the graduate studies which constitute the potential cradle of the centres of excellence ?

 

77. Should more attention not be given to the system of admission through regular contacts with secondary schools and with authorities in charge of national examinations and officials entrusted with student orientation ? Is it not necessary to establish a permanent mechanism to monitor the student influx and outflow patterns in addition to assessing conditions influencing academic performance per course stream and which can also serve as an instrument for promoting high-quality standards among persons entrusted with the management of admissions upstream and within the institution ? Is there no need for a monitoring mechanism that studies the future of graduating students through whose external effectiveness the impact of an institution is assessed ?

 

78. Management is the third theme for consideration and action: even though an institution may have conducted the relevant review of its objectives and turned them into quality product and process indicators, it will only obtain poor results if it does not establish directives, structures and processes for quality management ; moreover, that management should be future-oriented if the institution wishes to carry out timely reforms. As we tried to illustrate in the reference framework, the "management" sub-system lies at the heart of the complex system represented by the higher educational institution. It is this sub-system that administers the various interactions between the sub-systems and the various forms of interdependence with the external environment. It is the higher educational institution which has (or should have) the capacity and the necessary tools for anticipating the evolution of science, technology and society. It is the one that is (or should be) capable of developing within itself, the tools and mechanisms to be popularized in society. This sub-system is (or should be) capable of making a critical review of progress in science and technology and deciding on what is socially acceptable rather than simply what is technically possible". it is supposed to manage the inward and outward flow of students based on the criteria of effectiveness, efficiency and equity. It is expected to adopt "positive discriminatory measures" with a view to promoting access to higher education for certain social groups such as women. It is expected to guarantee quality training for future generations. It is therefore the system which, in most cases, it at the base of the set of values established for tomorrow's society : is it going to develop a culture of democracy and peace ? Is it going to develop values oriented towards individualism or those geared towards the public welfare or equity ? Or will it step aside, considering that its role consists in producing and imparting knowledge ?

 

79. Certainly, the higher educational institution needs accountants and other staff capable of implementing decisions taken. But it mostly needs intelligent, competent, imaginative and dynamic and administrators for relevant and shared missions. It is through them that African institutions will find a new lease of life.

 

80. Besides the qualified staff, a quality administration system has to meet a number of conditions. Should these administrators not be granted autonomy and freedom to analyze situations to be managed, and possibly assisted to work towards common objectives since the specific goals of a sub-system are closely linked to such common objectives ? That being the case, should the institution not be provided with communication inputs and mechanisms for regular consultations in order to maintain such coherence ? Is each "management" sub-system not accountable to society ? Is it therefore not necessary to plan a system of management which produces activity and prospective reports ?

 

81. Is it not also essential to provide administrators with the requisite means of ensuring such a management ? Hence, is it not necessary to eventually provide the various units with the technological tools for establishing networks, to facilitate communication and work towards a management culture that is more modern, more dynamic, more coherent, more outward-looking, more future-oriented and geared towards promoting co-operation ? On the other hand, is this concern not a priority that is worth addressing through various co-operation projects and procedures?

 

82. Co-operation will therefore be our fourth theme for consideration and action. Too often, cooperation projects emerge from simple, juxtaposed opportunities that are not adequately co-ordinated through global strategies presenting priorities and stakes (in distinguishing those which are imperative from the flexible ones) and the constraints linked to the relationships between the various projects (for example : should a given activity necessarily precede another one.). For each higher educational institution, it is therefore imperative to maintain coherence between missions and such a strategic plan which spells out priority actions to be undertaken in developing quality products through forward-looking management. This initiative will make it possible to identify priority actions that can be taken in the framework of national, South-South, North-South or South-North co-operation.

 

83. Possibilities offered by the new information and communication technologies have changed the patterns of such a co-operation. The concept of potential network increasingly becoming a reality. Teams of researchers working in different places can now operate through electronic mail, conference calls and data exchange systems (thus, a researcher can ask another competent colleague in the "potential" team to treat his data by using a method in which the latter is the sole expert),etc.. Similarly, higher educational institutions can establish a network to organize post-graduate distance courses, with each institution responsible for a type of education or a section of education for which it has renowned competence ; this could reduce the volume of paper work for various post-graduate courses, which are impossible to handle under the best of conditions; in the same connection, certain essential units required in the management of higher educational institutions oriented towards total quality (existing or to be created, such as the departments which study, analyse or manage the admission of students or staff recruitment, such as the pedagogic resource departments) need to federate into networks for exchanging their experiences and train one another on the basis of the experiences acquired. Do all these considerations not suggest a new impetus to co-operation policies on programmes such as the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs, UNISPAR (Partnership between University, Industry and Science.

 

 Most (Management of Social Changes)..? Is it not necessary to also promote other types of networks, including technical assistance networks for users of new fast-developing technologies. Is it not necessary to develop more potential computerized libraries as well as strategies for the distribution of scientific publications through servers to resolve the enormous problems posed by the distribution of documentary materials ? In short, is it not necessary to redefine a new co-operation policy which revolves around inputs made by the new information and communication technologies towards promoting a forward-looking total quality management for the sake of quality? Is this priority co-operation among African higher educational institutions not rightly meant to contribute to the redefinition and implementation of that new policy ? Moreover, does the creation of such networks, not constitute an important contribution to the development of a culture of responsible solidarity and a culture of peace, for that matter ?

 

 All the-mentioned guidelines for consideration and action could revolve around a priority theme for African higher educational institutions which appears as a leitmotif in seminars organized in Africa from the Accra meeting in 1991 up to the 1995 final report on "The African Meeting",which can be summarized as follows : "At this dawn of the 21st Century, higher educational institutions in Africa need to promote a standard forward-looking management in order to provide quality products for the development of the continent in the spirit of equity and responsible solidarity".