Practice-oriented German universities reach Africa

Egypt is to host the German University of Applied Sciences (GUAS) as a model for practice-oriented academic training that will be operational by 2020 and will be the first of its kind in the North Africa region.

Egypt's Higher Education and Scientific Research Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar signed an agreement on 29 October to establish the GUAS, on the sidelines of the G20 Investment Summit, German Business and the Compact with Africa (CwA) Countries, held in Berlin, Germany.

With support from the German government and the German development agency GIZ, an alliance of seven leading German universities of applied sciences known as the UAS7 will establish GUAS at Egypt's new administrative capital east of Cairo.

The new German university will open its doors to students by 2020 and will offer German-equivalent degrees in applied fields such as engineering, architecture, informatics, computer science, economics, business and public administration, production technologies, agricultural sciences, tourism and the pharmaceutical industry, according to Ghaffar.

Industrial growth

Vera Hummel, professor in industrial engineering at ESB Business School of Reutlingen University in Germany, told University World News that university institutions based on the model of the GUAS could contribute to “producing qualified experts, engineers and industrial engineers which are a prerequisite for realising potential industrial growth” on the African continent.

"The model of GUAS is based on an optimal connection between theory and practice through close cooperation with companies, joint teaching and development alliances and obligatory curriculum integrated industrial internships along with professors and lecturers who come from business and industry and teach in a practical way."

"These are some of the central aspects of a GUAS … Everything together forms the basis to produce graduates suitable for industry."

Hummel said in order for GUAS to succeed in Africa, cooperation with industry must be intensified. “Industry needs to be sensitised to the need to provide places for mandatory industrial practice, especially in industries where future experts are needed,” she said.

"The curricula should be adapted so that industry internships are mandatory. Central review of the learning objectives of the industrial internship should in future take place after the return of the students."

In addition, she said, qualification programmes should be used to ensure that professors and lecturers teach with a practice-oriented approach and newly-appointed professors and lecturers should have several years of industrial experience.

“In addition, industrial advisory councils in universities could provide continuous input for industrial requirements and support the evaluation of ongoing study programmes," Hummel said.

Kenya-based university

The Egypt-based GUAS is the second in Africa, following plans to establish the East African-German University of Applied Sciences in Kenya.

On the Sub-Saharan African level, a German consortium led by Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences is engaging a wide spectrum of stakeholders, including government agencies, universities, industry players and civil society, to better understand the needs of the region ahead of the establishment of the East African-GUAS which is supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

"The institution, to be modelled on the concept of applied science universities in Germany, is primed to work closely with industry in mounting demand-oriented research and academic programmes to support the region’s development needs," the report states.

"East African-GUAS will be a great breakthrough and a focal point or reference point as no university of applied sciences exists in East Africa," said Mabel Imbuga, vice-chancellor of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi.

"GUAS will give hands-on experience and this is what we are looking forward to," Imbuga said.

"GUAS will address the current disconnect between universities and industry and will produce graduates that are relevant and in high demand as well as helping the current Kenyan universities change the traditional way of teaching and start imparting the relevant skills demanded by industries and employers,” she said.