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Quality assurance workshops target university teaching

As pressure mounts on African universities to produce employable graduates, the quality of university teaching has been identified by the Association of African Universities as a key factor in improving outcomes.

Opening the Basic Higher Education Teaching Skills training course for lecturers held at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe on 27 February, Association of African Universities, or AAU, Secretary-General Professor Etienne Ehile emphasised the importance of teaching quality in dealing with the challenge of “half-baked” graduates.

“Many African tertiary institutions produce half-baked graduates that are not fit for the world of work mainly because of the way they are taught and absence of curricula reviews that should respond to the calls of industry’s contemporary needs.”

The workshop, held in Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, is the third of four to take place around the continent. They are intended to equip lecturers with the foundations for effective tertiary level teaching through content on educational psychology, educational philosophy and educational sociology, Bloom’s taxonomy, ICT, and quality assurance in tertiary education as well as assessment and evaluation.

Promoting quality assurance

The workshops are being conducted by the AAU in collaboration with the African Quality Assurance Network, or AFRIQAN, as part of AAU efforts to help both newly recruited lecturers, university leaders and council members to promote quality assurance on their campuses.

According to Ehile, the initiative is in line with the goals of the African Higher Education’s Pan African Quality Assurance and Accreditation Framework, spearheaded by the African Union Commission and implemented by the AAU.

He told the participants that their presence at the training programme “directly adds value to the quality of tuition in the institutions”.

Ehile said throughout the world, institutions faced the fact that lecturers’ recruitment was based on academic qualifications with no due consideration for the professional teaching qualification.

While institutions had tried to address this through initiatives such as teaching and learning centres and postgraduate certificates and diplomas in teacher education, most lecturers were unable to attend them owing to heavy workloads.

Ehile said the additional challenges to teaching and learning presented by ICT required African HE lecturers to learn and adapt good examples from within continent and elsewhere.

Continental strategy

Project officer of the AAU’s Harmonisation of African Higher Education Quality Assurance and Accreditation or HAQAA initiative, Violet Makuku said the workshop series formed part of a 10-year Continental Education Strategy for Africa initiative aimed at establishing a quality system of education and training to provide the African continent with efficient human resources adapted to African core values.

According to an AAU statement one of the issues the initiative tries to address is the skills vacuum left by the turnover of university vice-chancellors and rectors in Africa.

“As these university leaders complete their terms of office, they leave with all that they know about quality assurance especially in areas of recent developments in the field such as the African Quality Rating Mechanism, the Pan African Quality Assurance Framework and the Addis Ababa Convention,” the statement said.

The workshop series was an attempt to enlighten the leadership of universities about current developments in the quality assurance arena and provide a forum where they can share ideas and learn from one another “for the good of higher education in Africa”.

The AAU said the objectives of the 2017 Quality Assurance for Higher Education Leaders Workshop to be held in Nigeria in April would be to share information on current developments in the field of quality assurance in higher education among university leaders. It also aimed to share quality assurance good practice and ideas about what makes a good university vice-chancellor.

It will also help to strengthen the professional capacity of emerging quality assurance units in universities, and assist and support discussions on quality assurance issues through an exchange of ideas and information.

High demand

According to an AAU-AFRIQAN statement, while the network has offered training programmes to staff of national regulatory agencies and quality assurance units of African universities, the programmes were still in demand and no training on quality assurance had been organised for newly recruited university leaders and council members “with a view to sensitising them on the need to promote quality assurance culture on university campuses”.

“As more universities emerge in response to high population growth and the corresponding increase in the student population, leaders of the new institutions need to be enlightened on the importance of promoting quality assurance in their new institutions.”

“Additionally, given the proliferation of public and private universities in Africa in general and in Nigeria in particular, there should be regular meetings of the university leaders on quality assurance and governance issues to assure quality of educational delivery and promote international competitiveness,” the statement said.
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