The 8th International Conference on Quality Assurance in Higher Education in Africa (ICQAHEA) with the theme: “Multidimensions of Innovation in Higher Education in Africa: Towards Enhancing Quality and Accelerating Regional Harmonisation” was held on September 19-24, 2016 in Windhoek, Namibia with financial support from the European Union and Peregrine Academic Services. Gillette, WY, USA, and the Government of Namibia. The conference was designed as an integrated package made up of plenary and parallel sessions; six parallel practical and hands-on capacity building workshops; special sessions; the African Quality Assurance Network (AfriQAN) General Meeting; and a Symposium of Rectors, Vice-Chancellors and President of universities on the theme: “Preparing Higher Education Managers in Africa for Multidimensional Innovations in Quality Assurance and Regional Harmonization”.
The conference reviewed different dimensions of innovation in African higher education that address quality and regional harmonization; and discussed recent developments and innovative practices in accelerating regional harmonization, especially under the Africa-EU partnerships. It also provided a platform for the formal launch of the (a) Harmonisation, Quality Assurance and Accreditation (HAQAA) initiative, (b) the Virtual Institute for Higher Education in Africa (VIHEAF) and (c) two AfriQAN initiatives in quality assurance, namely, Quality Assurance for Higher Education Leaders (QAHEL) and Quality Assurance for Higher Education Personnel (QAHEP).
The conference adopted several recommendations that should help to further enhance quality and accelerate regional harmonization.
The 9th ICQAHEA that is organized under the theme “Quality Higher Education, Harmonisation and Attainment of Sustainable Development Goals in Africa”, will take stock of the progress made in implementing the recommendations of the 8th Conference and identify the strategies required in order to consolidate the results achieved in enhancing quality and accelerating regional harmonization. This conference is therefore a follow up to the 8th ICQAHEA. The conference will also address the role of quality assurance and regional harmonization in higher education in attaining the sustainable development goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015 in order to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.
It is now agreed that since the advent of the knowledge-based economy, higher education institutions all over the world should play a major role in the development processes and therefore in achieving the SDGs. The contribution of higher education institutions will be provided mainly through training of high-level human resources and creation of new knowledge required by the development through modern innovative teaching and learning techniques and research and innovation respectively.
Recognition of the role of higher education in achieving the SDGs was one of the major conclusions of the World Sustainability Forum held in January 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa. According to a Statement made at the Forum by Dr Jeffrey D Sachs, a world-renowned Economist, who is the Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in the United States and Senior United Nations advisor, “achieving the SDGs would be impossible without the leadership role of the university sector. I do think the academic and university sector have a unique role to play. I do not believe the SDGs can be achieved without the university sector.” The participants to this Forum also recognized that “Africa’s ability to meet the SDGs is closely tied up with its research capacity”, which confirms the central role of universities in the implementation of the SDGs.
In addition to the emphasis made on research, higher education institutions are challenged to enhance quality and accelerate harmonization in order to contribute more effectively to achieving the SDGs. For at least two decades, quality assurance has been at the heart of higher education policies at national, regional and institutional levels all over the world. In Africa, several initiatives have been launched to take up the challenge of quality assurance. These include the capacity building programs in quality assurance implemented by the Inter-University Council for East Africa and the African and Malagasy Council for Higher education (in it French acronym CAMES) and the various quality assurance and regional harmonization initiatives being carr; Since 2000, higher education institutions have been challenged to engage in harmonization of their programs in order to align their curricula to the needs of the world of work and the national development agendas and to promote mobility and international recognition of qualifications.
The 9th ICQAHEA will review ongoing and emerging initiatives in quality assurance and regional harmonization and identify the gaps to be filled in order to enable higher education institutions to fully contribute to the achievement of the SDGs. Finally, the conference will provide a platform to higher education stakeholders to reflect on the contribution of the African continent to the World Conference on Quality Assurance and the SDGs, to be organized in 2018 in Paris by UNESCO in collaboration with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)/ International Quality Group (CIQG), the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education, and the World Bank.
The objectives of the 9th ICQAHEA and Workshops are to:
- Review recent developments/achievements in enhancing quality and promoting regional harmonization in Africa and beyond;
- Promote awareness among the African higher education community of recent developments in enhancing quality assurance and accelerating regional harmonization under the Africa – EU partnership, including the continental strategy for Education for Africa 2015-2025 (CESA); the Harmonisation of African Higher Education Quality Assurance and accreditation (HAQAA) Initiative; Tuning and Erasmus +;
- Provide a platform for discussing the role of quality assurance and harmonisation in higher education in attaining sustainable development goals in Africa;
- Document best practices from other regions of the world on quality assurance and harmonization in higher education in attaining the SDGs and draw lessons for the African region;
- foster the acquisition of skills in (a) the implementation of the revised Arusha Convention; (b) measurement and modelling of quality in higher education; (c) quality assurance of open and distance learning delivery systems; (d) strengthening effective implementation of LMD reforms; (f) setting up and running effective quality assurance units at the institutional level; and (g) Tuning and Credit Transfer.
1 Recent regional developments in enhancing quality and accelerating harmonisation: lessons from other region;
2 Regional Quality assurance an harmonization Initiatives in Africa : the continental strategy for Education for Africa 2015-2025 (CESA); the Harmonisation of African Higher Education Quality Assurance and accreditation (HAQAA) Initiative; Tuning and Erasmus +;
3 The role of quality assurance and harmonization in higher education institutions in attaining the SDGs in Africa and beyond;
4 The role of research and development and ICT in higher education institutions in attaining the SDGs
The following are the expected outcomes of the conference:
- Participants would have deepened their understanding of the role of quality and harmoniation in higher education in attaining the SDGs I Africa;
- Participants would have deepened their understanding of the role of research and development and ICT in attaining the SDGs;
- Awareness of the African higher education community would have been raised to be change agents in the support of implementation of recent developments in regional harmonisation under the Africa-EU partnership;
- Participants’ skills would have been strengthened and networking opportunities established to enable them to implement effectively quality assurance practices at the institutional, national and continental levels.
- Documentation available on the role of quality assurance, harmonisation and research and development in higher education in attaining the SDGs would have been enriched and expanded; and
- Communiqué reflecting the conclusions and action plan arising from the debates and deliberations of the conference.