WEST AFRICA: Universities agree on regional strategy

The University of Bamako, Ouagadougou University and University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar, together with the French Conference of University Presidents, have agreed on a coordinated strategy for higher education and research, to promote a regional partnership between African and French universities and contribute to development of West African scientific communities.

The agreement was made at a meeting in Dakar between UCAD rector Salam Sall, Bamako rector Ginette Siby, vice-president of Ouagadougou Gustave Kabré, head of the French conference Jean-Pierre Finance, and Director-General of France's Institute of Research for Development Michel Laurent. In a joint statement, they undertook to "develop the regional partnership between African universities and the international partnership between French and African establishments".

The arrangement will include joint degree programmes and jointly supervised PhD theses, reported the Senegalese agency Xamle. Sall said the aim was to "contribute to the strengthening of scientific communities in West Africa", adding that the Bologna process reforms, known in French as "LMD" - for licence (bachelor's equivalent), masters and doctorate - were at the heart of this integration effort, reported Wal Fadjri of Dakar.

The three universities and the CPU were undertaking to work together "to set up the LMD system by putting the accent on professional licences, international masters degrees and regional doctoral schools," said Sall.

Through Résao, the network for excellence in West African education, the African universities would also work "to organise their courses according to the priorities of each country", said Siby. "There won't be any breakdown, and we won't have problems with mutual recognition of our diplomas and courses because, between now and 2012, all the universities in the West African region will have had to adopt the LMD system," she said.

Le Soleil of Dakar reported Siby as saying the strategy would not only promote joint degree courses, but would also help African countries "efficiently combat the brain drain".

Finance said: "University, with its knowledge, research and education, remains the only rational way to construct a fairer and safer society". The CPU would collaborate with Dakar, Bamako and Ouagadougou to "keep an eye on the application of the charter of good practice in organising the delivery of French university degrees through relocations, or through establishing a French university abroad".

Joint degree programmes and jointly supervised theses will take precedence, said Xamle, with the proposals "contributing to the development of francophone African universities through the strengthening of skills and technical capabilities".