Quality assurance in higher education

Now high on the agenda in West Africa, as IIEP works with partners to bolster efforts

Quality assurance (QA) in higher education is now high on the policy agenda in the West African region. Senegal, with support from UNESCO and the World Bank, has recently created a QA agency, and other countries – including Burkina Faso, Guinea, Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Cabo Verde, and Niger – are in the process of implementing policies and creating a legal basis for doing so. These moves are supported by IIEP and key partners to enhance the quality of higher education, in order to ultimately benefit students across the region.

“The quality of higher education in the francophone African region has suffered over the decades due to a shift of investment priorities from higher to basic education, rapidly increasing student numbers and the difficulties of retaining highly qualified and often underpaid higher education staff in the higher education sector,” said Michaela Martin, Programme Specialist and expert on higher education planning and management at IIEP.

IIEP, UNESCO Offices in Dakar, Abidjan and Abuja, the African Association of Universities, the African and Malagasy Council for Higher Education (CAMES) and the West African Monetary Union (WAEMU) have all partnered in the DAAD- (German Academic Exchange Service) and UNESCO-funded capacity development initiative. Entitled ‘Enhancing West African Quality Assurance Structures’ (EWAQAS), this initiative on boosting the quality of higher education is being conducted in nine countries of the WAEMU region: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

Under the first phase of this project, which took place between September 2013 and May 2014, two blended learning courses were organized for some 60 ministerial and university decision-makers to enhance their understanding of concepts and techniques and discuss options for the development of a national QA system. As part of this phase, a seminar was organized in Abidjan, in May 2014, to bring together the participants of the second blended learning course and discuss future steps for the development of their national QA system. “The collaboration of national and institutional decision-makers in country teams is highly relevant because both levels will have to work together to build the future country system,” says Hassana Alidou, Director of the UNESCO Abuja Office.

The second phase of the initiative, to take place during 2015-16, will support the development of university-based QA structures. “The simultaneous development of national and university-based quality assurance is a major success factor which makes QA systems directly bear on the quality of teaching and learning,” Professor Papa Gueye, Executive Secretary of the Senegalese Quality Assurance agency, said.

CAMES, with support from the WAEMU and the World Bank, is also developing a regional mechanism for QA and accreditation. In this respect, a number of higher education institutions are currently setting up dedicated structures for QA at the institutional level.

“All of the steps being taken by the partners are building on each other to create a stronger system. This will mean that students in higher education will be better equipped, which in turn will give them better opportunities in the future,” Gudrun Chazotte, Programme Officer in charge of the EWAQAS initiative at DAAD, explained.

IIEP is the only institute in the world providing a winning combination of training in educational planning, cutting edge research and in-country capacity development for educational bodies. All three components build on each other and are core components for making fundamental changes when building better education systems around the world.

IIEP believes that good educational planning is both visionary and pragmatic and offer the path to implementing education reform and transforming systems, while ensuring equal opportunities for children and youth.