African Higher Education Harmonization & Tuning Workshop on Joint Degrees

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The African Higher Education Harmonization and Tuning Workshop on Joint Degrees which took place from 4 to 6 November 2014 at Holiday Inn in Dar es Salaam has successfully concluded with the plan for the next phase: Tuning Africa II. The meeting was presided over by officials from a number of institutions and organizations including the African Union Commission (AUC), Association of African Universities (AAU), European Union (EU), Tanzanian Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, University of Dar es Salaam, and Open University of Tanzania (OUT). The Minister of Education and Vocational Training of Tanzania, H.E. Dr. Shukuru Kawambwa officially opened the event.

The following marks the main highlights of the workshop:

  1. The rationale for the workshop was established at the outset in the first several presentations followed by breakout sessions. The groups further deliberated and articulated the significance of the Workshop on Joint Degrees as vital, among others, to expediting regional integration and enhancing intra-African collaboration, fostering quality and excellence, expanding institutional networking, advancing common interests and challenges, increasing employment opportunities, attracting funding and consolidating resources, enhancing innovation, and raising the confidence and profile of both involved students and academics.
  2. Guided by these rationales, the groups developed joint degree programs in five thematic areas along the existing fields of Agriculture, Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Medicine and Teacher Education. Accordingly, they identified, designed, developed and presented Joint Masters Programs in Agribusiness, Transportation Engineering, Renewable Energy Engineering, Crisis and Disaster Health Management and Trans-disciplinary Approach to Teaching and Learning.
  3. All the groups agreed and developed second cycle degree (Masters) programs with considerable variety and approaches in the architecture, mode of possible (distance and/or regular) delivery, pattern of (student and/or staff) mobility, and level and extent of partnership. The anticipated partnership was also extended beyond the region; the Medicine Group entertained the idea of partnering with European based institutions.
  4. The topics for each Joint Degree Programs were vigorously debated and extensively discussed among others along the lines of national, sub-regional and regional agenda of the continent as articulated by a number of development actors notably AUC. The groups have also identified several themes for further development.
  5. The presentations prior to and closing at the meeting played an important role in establishing and consolidating the understanding of the Joint Degree Programs. The pre-workshop meeting was instrumental in this aspect.
  6. Probably one of the most notable outcomes of this meeting is that a number of participants who were sceptical about Joint Degree Programs and its possible viability at the beginning—given the intricacies surrounding Joint Degree Programs—have turned not only active participants but also champions of Joint Degree Programs with interest to expand the scope far and beyond.
  7. The Workshop tabled a proposal for the next Tuning Africa II phase and laid out terms of its anticipated outcomes, profile of new fields, variety and composition of new institutions, modalities of engagement, and commitment of current partners—for comments and interaction. (Please find the proposed themes, list of activities and outcomes in the attached Annex.) The proposal was further enriched by the assembly with further recommendation that the next phase actively involve senior authorities in quality assurance and respective ministries of (higher) education and university leaders to consolidate and help implement the outcomes of the current and future initiatives.
  8. Participants have gained extensive knowledge on the opportunities, challenges and prospects of Joint Degree Programs and its possible viability at the beginning not only in African but also global context. This solid understanding has provided insight and confidence in participants which helped them develop such programmes in a variety of forms—in a short period of time.
  9. The group also deliberated on how existing and anticipated centers of excellence—as the African Union's Pan African University and the World Bank's African Centers of Excellence sub-regional and regional endeavours—could benefit from the Tuning and Harmonization initiative in general and the development of joint degree programs in particular. The PAU hubs are encouraged to apply to be part of the Tuning II family of institutions as they are not automatically granted membership.
  10. The group fully recognized the multitude of challenges in undertaking joint degree programs in Africa, most typically national and institutional regulatory regimes, demand for heavy funding (when physical mobility involved), arduous management, a variety of contemporary credit(ing) systems among others. A sound understanding of the plethora of challenges and hurdles in the development of joint degree programs is recognized as instrumental in mounting realistic, pragmatic and manageable programs.

Reported by Damtew Teferra, Founding Director, International Network for Higher Education in Africa- INHEA, University of Kwazulu-Natal

For more information on the next phase of Harmonisation and Tuning, please click here

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