Strategy addresses funding, study materials and teaching quality

Sudan has launched an extensive higher education and scientific research strategy for the next decade that focuses on achieving the December revolution’s aims to promote socio-economic development under an umbrella of justice, equality and academic freedom.

According to the 2020-30 strategy, the Open University of Sudan should be developed as a national institution to provide educational and online support to face challenges such as COVID-19, and the University of Khartoum and the Sudan Academy of Sciences have to become research universities within the next two years.

The strategy was outlined by Sudan's Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Intisar Al-Zein Saghiroun at the Sudan University of Science and Technology on 30 September, according to the university's Facebook page .

There are 128 higher education institutions – of which 36 are public and 20 are private, 53 private colleges and 19 technical university colleges – according to a June 2020 study titled “Higher Education and Scientific Research in Sudan: Current status and future direction”.

Strategy focus areas

Some of the key issues the strategy aims to tackle include an increase in the enrolment rate by 20% for the age group from 17-21 during the next 10-15 years, with special attention to accepting students from underrepresented groups, women, and students with disabilities.

The strategy also aims to increase the number of masters and doctoral students by 30% and 20% respectively to prepare a scientific and teaching workforce for universities.

In terms of funding, the strategy proposes financing institutions according to research output, ensuring that government funding (support) for higher education represents 20% of government expenditure during the next three years (2021-23), and increasing funding for higher education and scientific research to become 2% of the national income within five years.

Quality assurance, the establishment of centres of excellence and the development of quality course material are other aspects that the strategy alludes to. Also, establishing a national and integrated information base for scientific research to ensure greater coordination in setting local and national research priorities and funding between different institutions is advised.

The strategy also includes establishing centres for developing teaching and learning within universities and making obtaining an education certificate from such centres a prerequisite for the appointment of a PhD holder as a faculty member in a teaching position.

Significance and implementation challenges

"The higher education and scientific research strategy is the indispensable precondition for sustainably strengthening higher education systems and research capacities as well as for social and economic development in Sudan," said Muna Elhag, an associate professor of agrometeorology at the Water Management and Irrigation Institute of the University of Gezira in Sudan.

Sudanese educational technology expert Mohd Eltahir, who is an associate dean in the College of Humanities and Sciences at Ajman University in the United Arab Emirates, told University World News that the strategy is significant.

“[It] diagnosed the current situation and identifies weaknesses and challenges facing the development of the higher education sector in general,” said Eltahir.

Eltahir stated that the strategy should also have focused on regional integration and the sharing of good practices and cooperation through the exchange of faculty members or students or research projects with international research centres.

Akram Elkhalifa, head of the department of construction management and economics of the faculty of architecture at the University of Khartoum, told University World News that an integrated policy that strengthens the international dimension was necessary as Sudan itself was lacking qualified teaching staff and proper education infrastructure.

Elhag of the University of Gezira said besides enhancing technical competencies of human resources through curriculum reforms and capacity building training, the ministry needed to establish an initiative to build capacity in emerging areas related to digital technologies and data science. Elhag is a co-author of the June 2020 study titled “Higher Education and Scientific Research in Sudan: Current status and future direction”.