New African higher education harmonisation initiative

Consortium members of a new three-year Harmonisation of African Higher Education Quality Assurance and Accreditation, or HAQAA, initiative met in Brussels this month and outlined activities for the first year of the European Union-backed operation.

The plan is to create a revitalised, attractive and globally competitive African higher education space through enhanced intra-African collaboration.

HAQAA is one of the tools meant to implement the long-awaited Pan-African Quality Assurance and Accreditation Framework.

The initiative, which runs from December 2015 to November 2018, is coordinated by the University of Barcelona and other partners are the Association of African Universities, the German Academic Exchange Service known as DAAD, the European Association of Quality Assurance in Higher Education, and the European University Association or EUA.

“The initiative is important because it is a concrete means of not only building capacity in different African countries for higher education quality assurance and accreditation, but is one of the few initiatives that takes a truly continental approach, as opposed to working bilaterally with certain African countries and regions,” a consortium representative told University World News.

“It is also unique in that it favours the sharing of experience in quality assurance and accreditation between Europe and Africa, and reinforces dialogue between the two continents in the higher education sector,” the spokesperson said.

The plan for 2016

The plan for 2016 is to set up an African quality assurance database, a web portal and national quality assurance contact points in Africa, to implement training courses to support a common quality assurance language, and to enhance bi-regional exchanges.

A Technical Working Group for African Standards and Guidelines will be established, and a work plan prepared for institutional evaluations to be carried out based on the methodology developed by the EUA’s previous Europe-Africa Quality Assurance Connect project.

The partners were joined at the Brussels meeting held from 14-15 January by a European Commission representative to discuss the objectives of and synergies between HAQAA and the Tuning Africa II harmonisation initiative.

The new initiative’s activities, the consortium said, address a number of measures that are critical to building quality assurance and accreditation on a pan-African level.

These include: developing a pan-African quality assurance and accreditation system; enhancing regional collaboration in quality assurance and regional networks; capacity building for internal and external quality assurance at the institutional, national and regional levels; promoting good practices and sharing experiences between Europe, Africa and other world regions; and linking together and building on regional initiatives and political priorities.

Building on work already done

There has already been considerable investment in the past five years in harmonising higher education quality assurance and accreditation in countries, regions and across Africa.

Most notable among several EU-supported projects has been the ‘Tuning Africa’ initiative for degree alignment and harmonisation, based on positive experiences in the European Higher Education Area and other world regions.

Tuning Africa has been geared towards developing compatible accreditation mechanisms, building capacity among quality assurance and accreditation bodies and establishing renewed degree programmes, common teaching and learning methods, credits and assessment tools, and joint agreements between universities.

A consortium representative said the present initiative would draw on previous support and would enhance Europe’s contribution to quality assurance development in African higher education.

An EUA briefing said that the EU and the African Union had selected ‘harmonisation, quality and accreditation’ in the context of the Africa-EU Strategic Partnership, with special attention given to collaboration and harmonisation of quality assurance and accreditation measures for higher education in Africa.

“This builds upon a number of existing initiatives to support quality assurance and accreditation, and underpins the African Union Commission’s decision to develop the Pan-African Quality Assurance and Accreditation Framework [or PAQAF]," said the brief.

PAQAF is in the process of being politically endorsed by African Union states. Launched in collaboration with the EU, PAQAF will be implemented through the new HAQAA initiative and Tuning Africa II, which will work together.