Initiative to unify Islamic universities launched

An initiative to unify Islamic universities in Africa has been launched, in an effort to foster cooperation, enhance academic mobility and promote mutual recognition of degrees.

The initiative was launched by the Federation of the Universities of the Islamic World at the First International Conference of the Biography of the Prophet held at the International University of Africa in Khartoum, Sudan, from 10-13 January.

It focuses on expanding cooperation frameworks and communication between African universities as well as strengthening links between universities in Nile Basin countries.

The initiative will seek to unify systems and programmes between African Islamic universities including in the areas of admission, planning, curriculum, examinations and degrees granted.

It will work on mutual recognition of degrees, promote joint research in areas related to the development of Islamic studies, and study problems facing Muslims in various countries, especially in Africa.

Under the initiative, academic conferences will be organised along with joint education and exchange programmes for students and staff, study grants, sabbatical years in Islamic universities, and journals and books

Academic networks among Islamic universities will be set up along with a directory for disseminating information on institutions and courses offered.

According to a 2007 report, Islamic Universities Spread Through Africa, there are about 17 Islamic universities in Sub-Saharan Africa states populated by around 250 million Muslime including in Chad, Ghana, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

Most of these Islamic universities have government accreditation, and many are cultivating ties with secular universities.

Financial support for at least six African Islamic universities has been provided by the Saudi-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Islamic Development Bank. They include Islamic universities in Uganda and Niger, Zanzibar University in Tanzania, King Faisal University in Chad, Mogadishu University in Somalia and Al-Hikmah University in Nigeria.

Other Islamic universities are funded by organisations such as the Muslim World League, the Iran-based Ahul Bait Foundation, national Islamic associations and local Muslim communities.

Islamic universities have also entered the virtual era by setting up the Internet Islamic University and the Qatar-based Islamic Online University, which offers the world’s first tuition-free online degree in Islamic studies along with intensive graduate courses in Islamic studies in English.

Akadiri Yessoufou, a researcher at the University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin, welcomed the new initiative.

“It is a one step further in setting up an Islamic space for higher education as it will foster mutual recognition of degrees among Islamic universities, enhance cooperation and promote the mobility of students and academics,” Yessoufou told University World News.