Higher education harmonisation – Not just a dream

The higher education institution qualifications harmonisation project embarked upon by the African Union is part of attempts by the continental body to ensure that the integration of the people in Africa is not confined to the political level alone, the head of education at the African Union, Dr Beatrice Njenga, has said.

“Getting African universities to harmonise their qualifications is not just a dream; it is something that we are working on vigorously and so we expect our governments to ratify the convention to make it work,” Njenga said.

Addressing a press conference on the sides of the 14th Association of African Universities General Conference and Golden Jubilee Celebrations held in Accra, Ghana earlier this month, she said: “Integration should not just involve the movement of the people across political and physical boundaries. It should be possible that the qualification from one country should be the same as another country and credits from one institution should be recognised at another institution across the continent.”

Njenga said the harmonisation would allow for higher education institutions to understand each other’s systems, and curricula should be developed in such a way that there is no difference in what is taught across the continent.

She said the Association of African Universities or AAU has been tasked with the harmonisation and certification process to ensure that value and quality are not compromised. “So far, about 200 universities across Africa have been involved in the project,” she added.

Quality assurance network

As part of the harmonisation process, Njenga said the AAU has brought together higher education institutions across the continent to work on issues of quality assurance through the African Quality Assurance Network.

Goski Alabi, professor of quality management and leadership dean at the Centre for International Education and Collaboration at the University of Professional Studies in Accra, said the European Union is assisting the African harmonisation project through the Harmonisation of African Higher Education Quality Assurance and Accreditation initiative.

“This project is addressing the issue so that higher institutions across the African continent can have an accreditation system. Teams of experts who have been trained are going around the African continent to assess how curricula are harmonised to ensure that there is equal recognition and mutual respect for education from one country to the other,” Alabi said.

A ‘new Africa’

Earlier, a former president of the AAU, Professor Is-haq Oloyede, said a new Africa must be developed that is not steeped in its colonial past but does things differently. “The emergence of a new Africa that is detached from the umbilical cord of its colonial past is necessary for the continent to assert its values,” he added.

Oloyede said education, which has been recognised as the bedrock of development, with a multiplier effect on the full gamut of societal functions, has often been “lagging behind”.

It was regrettable, he said, that only 6% of Africans were enrolled in higher education and blamed this on World Bank conditions imposed on African countries in the 1980s and 1990s that had reduced investment in university education.

“The state of education in Africa is gloomy,” Oloyede said, but added that the situation was “not insurmountable if African countries invest in education”.