AU moves to expedite Africa-wide quality assurance project

The African Union Commission, or AUC, is working jointly with UNESCO to expedite the ratification and implementation of the Addis Convention on the recognition of academic qualifications in higher education in African states, as part of the much-awaited Pan-African Quality Assurance and Accreditation Framework.

Several AU member states have recently reaffirmed their commitment to accelerate ratification of the convention drafted with assistance from UNESCO in 2014.

Further, it is expected that at least 10 yet to be named African states will ratify the document by the end of 2018, a move that will help speed up its adoption by a majority of countries.

This progress, according to Beatrice Njenga, who is head of education at the continental body, is as a result of the AU intensifying its efforts to create awareness of the need to ratify the convention among African states.

“Following intensive advocacy in various forums, several AU member states have recently reaffirmed their commitment to expedite ratification. The AUC has published an information booklet in four languages to enhance awareness and it is expected that at least 10 African States will ratify the Addis Convention by the end of 2018,” Njenga told University World News in an interview.

The Addis Convention on the Recognition of Academic Qualifications in Higher Education in African States was first drawn up in 1981 but was overtaken by time, necessitating the drafting of a revised document in 2014 under the guidance of UNESCO.

Since then the AU has through a process of 'wide consultations' developed the Pan-African Quality Assurance and Accreditation Framework, or PAQAF, to allow for implementation of the convention, a task the AU has been undertaking with assistance from the European Union and Association of African Universities.

This had facilitated the endorsement of PAQAF by African ministers of education, science and technology, before it was adopted by the AU assembly in January 2016.

“PAQAF was developed through a highly consultative process, and validated at a continental workshop involving representatives of universities, national and regional quality assurance agencies, and ministries for higher education,” Njenga said.

She said several steps are needed to allow for implementation of PAQAF, chief among them being the finalisation of the African Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance, the African Continental Qualifications Framework, the African Quality Rating Mechanism and the creation of an African Credit Transfer System.

A technical working group has been established to develop standards and guidelines for a quality assurance mechanism, which will be a guiding document for quality assurance bodies and institutions across the continent, and which will be instrumental in “fostering a shared quality culture, facilitating cross-border recognition of quality assurance and accreditation decisions”, Njenga said.

An African Continental Qualifications Framework, or ACQF, will be drafted in 2018 based on national and regional qualification frameworks of selected African countries and representing different regions and education systems.

“The ACQF will integrate existing national qualification frameworks and regional qualification frameworks into an Africa-wide structure for comparability and equivalencies of qualifications across nations,” she said.

Njenga said an African Quality Rating Mechanism, or AQRM, for facilitation of a culture of continuous quality improvement through self-evaluation and external validation has been piloted at various stages in a number of universities from all five regions of the continent.

“The AQRM is now available for full-scale implementation in coming years, coordinated by the Association of African Universities, while an online tool for the AQRM that would enable universities to submit institutional data and self-ratings electronically is being developed.”

A total of 105 African universities have participated in student workload surveys to create the basis for a common credit system among higher education institutions, she said.
Ultimately, a continental accreditation agency will be established once a legal framework, operational structure and organisational set-up are initiated in 2018.