Roadmap to address poor quality at universities

Egypt’s National Authority for Quality Assurance and Accreditation of Education has adopted a range of measures to tackle the poor quality of university education in the country.

This includes plans to promote innovation and entrepreneurship, establish industry-higher education institution partnerships, and set up applied universities.

The roadmap to improve standards was approved at the Fifth International Conference on the quality of education organised by the country’s quality and accreditation body in Cairo from 22-23 April.

Education experts welcomed the roadmap but said it also required national, regional and international action to holistically tackle the challenges in higher education.

Stamenka Uvalic-Trumbic, senior advisor of international affairs at the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) in the United States, said the roadmap covered a range of topics.

Douglas Blackstock, chief executive of the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), told University World News: “The roadmap for quality assurance reform in Egypt is comprehensive, encompassing a range of issues: new technologies, sustainability and growth, and promoting student-centred learning to highlight just a few.”

But Blackstock suggested that prioritisation would be key to the success of the roadmap, not only within Egypt, but as part of the initiative outlined in the Harmonisation of African Higher Education Quality Assurance and Accreditation (HAQAA) project.

The approval of the roadmap coincides with the recent announcement of newly-developed African Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ASG-QA) as a key part of the HAQAA Initiative that has been established to support the development of a harmonised quality assurance and accreditation system at institutional, national, regional and Pan-African levels.

Addressing poor quality

The roadmap aims to tackle poor quality in the Egyptian higher education and scientific research system which is borne out by the Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018.

Out of 137 countries, Egypt ranked 130th for the quality of the education system, 122nd for quality of mathematics and science education, and 121st for the quality of research institutions.

The roadmap includes, among other considerations, the development of teaching and learning strategies to accommodate technological development, applying a student-centred learning approach and building the capacity of faculty members to enable them to apply it along with the continuous development of quality standards to support innovation, entrepreneurship and partnership between industry and educational institutions.

Robust quality culture

Jamil Salmi, a leading global tertiary education expert and former World Bank tertiary education coordinator, told University World News: “The main objective of the roadmap should be to make quality assurance an integral part of the fabric of all universities.”

Higher education reform expert Mostafa Mohsen Radwan, the former vice dean of the faculty of engineering at Fayoum University in Egypt said the country should also focus on establishing a robust education quality culture.

To raise the quality of Egyptian university education, Radwan said benchmarking education quality to international standards, such as the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area must be undertaken.

Competence-based learning

Doris Herrmann, managing director of the German Agency for Quality Assurance through Accreditation of Study Programmes (AQAS), told University World News that one of the major challenges in Egypt relates to the quality of school leavers, which is why a more general approach to address the challenges was required.

“The quality of teacher training has to be raised and the profile of teachers also has to become more attractive,” Herrmann said, adding that higher education training should include competence-based learning outcomes.

Herrmann said what students learn in their courses and the competencies they will have obtained by the time they graduate must be clearly defined.

Juma Shabani, former director of development, coordination and monitoring of UNESCO programmes with a special focus on Africa, told University World News that Egypt should also ratify and implement the African regional convention on the mutual recognition of qualifications that aims at promoting student mobility throughout Africa.

“This convention builds on harmonisation of training programmes and quality assurance mechanisms in the African continent,” Shabani indicated.