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Europe expands African harmonisation, quality support

The European Commission will double the reach of the Harmonisation of African Higher Education and Tuning activities in the next three years, expanding the Tuning work and adding an extra support strand covering quality assurance and accreditation.

Following recommendations made at the last workshops of the pilot phase in Libreville and Maputo last year, the second phase of the initiative will launch on 1 January 2015 with 120 participating universities from across Africa - up from 60 institutions enrolling 130,000 previously - while expanding the thematic scope from five to at least seven subject areas.

In parallel, a new support strand covering quality assurance and accreditation will be launched.

The finishing touches were put to the design of the new activities at a meeting in Brussels last week, which preceded the Africa-European Union Summit, to be held in Brussels in the coming week.

Tuning is a methodology for developing internationally compatible and comparable degrees that have a strong focus on relevance and quality enhancement.

The methodology was originally developed in Europe but has been adapted for use around the world. A two-year pilot project supported by the European Union has already introduced the Tuning methodology at 60 universities across Africa since 2011.

Adding quality assurance and accreditation

The new strand covering quality assurance and accreditation will include a host of related initiatives supporting the development of a quality assurance culture in higher education institutions across the continent.

It will build on instruments such as the African Quality Rating Mechanism, or AQRM, and evaluations modelled on the European University Association's Institutional Evaluation Programme, but also support national and regional quality assurance agencies and the development of a pan-African quality assurance framework.

Finally, the next years should see the development of African standards and guidelines on quality assurance.

HE moving up the agenda

Closing the meeting in Brussels, European Commissioner for Education and Culture Androulla Vassiliou said that higher education had moved considerably up the agenda and stood firmly among the targets of EU support in the years ahead.

"Higher education is central to our agenda in Africa," she said.

Vassiliou also said the development of the European Higher Education Area had been helped considerably by Tuning and that she was pleased to see that it was taking a similar role in Africa.

Also during the closing sessions, both the Association of African Universities, by word of its President Olusola Oyewole, and the African Union Commission, by word of senior education expert Yohannes Woldetensae, confirmed their full commitment to the next phase of the initiative.

Other activities

The European Commission said in a press release ahead of Thursday's meeting that there would also be focuses on student mobility and the development of new and joint degree programmes.

"Over the next seven years, it is envisaged that the new Erasmus+ programme will provide grants for 25,000 African students and academics to study or train in Europe, and around 2,750 African researchers will receive support from the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions

Over and above the grants available through Erasmus+ and the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions, European Union support for the African Union's Nyerere mobility programme would also "facilitate exchanges within Africa to encourage student retention and increase the competitiveness and attractiveness of the institutions", said the commission.

The next African Higher Education Harmonisation and Tuning event would take place in October in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and would focus on joint degrees developed by two or more international universities.
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