New West African higher education quality project

The German Academic Exchange Service, DAAD, has signed an agreement with the Association of African Universities, Ghana’s National Accreditation Board and the Nigerian National Universities Commission to promote internal quality assurance in higher education in a new project for the West African region.

About 30 participants from universities across the region will benefit from training that is expected to last for around 18 months. The project began with two planning meetings, followed by the selection of 30 candidates out of a pool of 45.

This will be followed by a high-level information visit by vice-chancellors of participating universities to Germany, to help prepare them to provide the strategic and operational support required for the project.

This will enable internal quality assurance officers to effectively implement changes to the services currently provided by the universities.

Solveig Randhahn, project coordinator and head of the Centre for Higher Education Development and Quality Enhancement at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, said the project was primarily intended to develop the capacity of internal quality assurance officers in universities in West Africa, through training.

The project, she explained, would focus on five connected issues of internal quality assurance, including what it means to do effective quality assurance management in higher education institutions, the tools and procedures necessary to implement quality assurance structures, and methods of data collection and evaluation.

“We also have a module on curriculum design and evaluation, then we will focus on teaching and learning. We will talk about issues such as learning outcomes and connection to quality assurance,” Randhahn said.

This was because there had been a shift from teaching to learning, and a stress on outcome-based learning now really dominated procedures. There would also be a module on information management, and finally one on how to develop a quality culture in universities.

Training trainers

Dr Pascal Hoba, director of knowledge management, information and communications for the Association of African Universities, or AAU, said training materials designed as part of the project were very practical in nature and would not only be used for the programme.

“At the end of the project we will have the tools in our hands to share with other African higher education institutions and so we are quite satisfied.

“Our role as the AAU is to bring other institutions who are not part of this training to also benefit from the knowledge and skills of the new trainers. In respect of duplication, we think that this is the best approach when we consider costs and effectiveness,” Hoba added.

The idea was to train one person per institution and hope that localised training programmes would be instituted. At this stage the project is focused on Anglophone Africa but Hoba said: “There is another set of training programmes ongoing in Francophone Africa.”

Deputy executive secretary of the National Accreditation Board in Ghana, Richard K Adjei, believes the internal quality assurance training project is timely. The board would use the experience to maximise the benefits for Ghana.

“Once this limited number of people have been trained, we will get them together and use them to replicate this kind of training nationally,” Adjei said.

Professor Goski Alabi, dean of graduate studies at the University of Professional Studies in Accra and local facilitator of the Train IQ Africa project, said the university had been identified as having expertise and capabilities in the field, and was the main implementing partner.

“We have collaborated on various quality assurance projects, workshops and conferences in the past and so it came as a matter of past experiences with us and also an appreciation of our commitment to developing quality management practices in the region,” she said.

“We happen to be the first university in Africa to introduce a programme on total quality management. That shows our commitment to helping develop capacity for quality management practices in Africa,” Alabi added.

“Africa needs to enhance its capacity in this area, particularly for universities, and that is exactly what this project brings on board.”