12.11.2012 - UNESCO Office in Dakar

Higher Education in West Africa and Central Africa: How to ensure the quality?

The University of Bamako, Mali ©photo AMAP-Mali

Reform of governance and quality assurance in higher education in West and Central Africa will be discussed in Dakar, Senegal, on 14-17 November 2012.

UNESCO Dakar, DAAD (the German Academic Exchange Service) and the International Institute for Educational Planning are bringing together some hundred experts and regional and international decision-makers from Central and West Africa.

Participants will include representatives from ministries, agencies and universities, students unions and employers.

They will reflect on the theme: The reform of governance and quality assurance  in higher education: Which policies to which effects?

"The objective of the Dakar conference is to allow discussions between national and regional policy-makers and stakeholders in the field of higher education on how a shared vision for Quality Assurance can be developed in the whole area of West and Central Africa, "says Hassana Alidou, Chief of Section, Higher Education at the UNESCO Regional Office in Dakar.

"Quality assurance," adds Stefan Bienefeld of DAAD, "must not be seen as an aim it itself, but as a tool to enhance quality, to increase transparency and to create trust among stakeholder and institutions of higher education. It can facilitate the cross border mobility of staff, students and workforce – it is an asset for the competitiveness of a whole region."

A platform for exchange

The event provides a platform for exchange of experience (to exchange experiences) with high-level experts and practitioners of quality assurance from other parts of Africa as well as from Europe.

The DAAD can build upon extensive experience in such processes. Within the frame of its DIES Programme (Dialogue on Innovative Higher Education Strategies), DAAD has been closely cooperating with partner institutions in both Central America and East Africa in setting up and expanding regional quality assurance systems in these two regions – working towards joint standards, procedures and guidelines. A regional approach to quality assurance could hence be fostered and strengthened. 

Presentation of examples of good practices and joint Europe-Africa initiatives should pave the way for joint actions to strengthen the harmonization of reform efforts and to improve quality in higher education in Central and West Africa.

A crucial role

The DAAD / UNESCO Conference will identify specific requirements for capacity building in quality assurance and intends to develop a common vision for future stages.

"This meeting is very important," says Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, Director of UNESCO Dakar. "In the new global dynamics of creating a knowledge-based society, it is clear that higher education, including research in universities and institutes, plays a crucial role in the development of nations,” continues Ndong-Jatta.

Many challenges 

According to Michaele Martin of the International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP), higher Education in Franch-speaking African countries faces many challenges. The include:

  • Strong increase in numbers of students,
  • A significant decrease in average spending per student,
  • Government badly or poorly equipped to define sustainable policies for the medium and long terms;
  • Rising expectations on the contribution of higher education to national development.

To remedy this situation, many countries have initiated governance reforms for more efficient management, more relevant training offers, and a better ability of universities to contribute to the development of both individuals and the country.)

Research in four countries

This is why IIEP has carried out research in four countries (in French) - Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Morocco and Senegal – which are engaged in major reforms of their national governance frameworks.

IIEP research aims at investigating the nature of governance reforms undertaken by these countries and their impact on the management and the functioning of universities. It also focuses on determining if the outcomes of the reforms have been achieved, which would allow to assess their effectiveness and to identify conditions facilitating their implementation.

This conference is the result of the cooperation between UNESCO's Regional Office in Dakar and DAAD. It promotes North-South cooperation and South-South in higher education in Africa.

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