Higher Education

UNESCO is supporting African countries in the process of improving the quality and relevance of higher education and increase of funding for higher education.

Higher education in Africa face difficult challenges, including:

  • a rapid increase in the number of students,
  • brain drain,
  • low course quality,
  • difficulties in governance structures,
  • financial constraints,
  • a growing demand for higher education to contribute more consistently to national development etc...

Several African countries have undertaken reforms of their system in order to improve the management and the relevance of education and to strengthen the capacity of universities to engage in partnerships with local authorities and businesses in order to develop communities and the society as a whole.

A number of activities are carried out on the continent in this direction through the Inter-University Council for East Africa, Southern Africa cooperation, continental initiatives on quality assurance, as well as ADEA and African Union programmes.

In French-speaking Africa, four countries (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Morocco and Senegal) have undertaken significant reforms especially in their governance frameworks. Research on these reforms were conducted by IIEP (The UNESCO Institute of Educational Planning) and discussed in November 2012, during a conference organized by UNESCO and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

The objective of the meeting was to contribute to the strengthening of regional cooperation in quality assurance in West and Central Africa. 

UNESCO's activities

In support to countries’ efforts, UNESCO Dakar regulary organizes conferences to better understand the challenges and hence be better at tackling them.

The Office also conducts activities aiming at building policy and technical capacities among the personnel in Ministries of Higher Education, as well as universities and tertiary institutions:

  • the reform and revitalization of higher education to better address issues of access, relevance and quality;
  • capacity building in training and research for higher education institutions in order to strengthen the knowledge society;
  • the monitoring of the Arusha Convention from 1981 on the recognition of qualifications, accreditation and quality assurance; facilitating the debate on quality assurance and supporting the implementation of these mechanisms;
  • promoting inter-university cooperation including the development of centers of excellence, UNESCO Chairs and centers of expertise to create synergy between universities, colleges, training centers, and research foundations;
  • promoting the use of ICT as a tool to broaden access to information and knowledge, and open new opportunities for education.

Working hand in hand with partners

Activities are carried out on the continent through regional higher education organizations such as the Association of African Universities (AAU), The Higher Education Council for Africa and Madagascar (CAMES), the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), African Quality Assurance Network (AfriQAN), the Inter-University Council for East Africa.

These organizations are supported by the African Union, UNESCO, sub-regional and regional economic communities such as UEAMO, CEAC, ECOWAS, SADC, African and Development Bank (AfDB) and bilateral and multilateral development agencies.


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