Regional experts discuss implementation of common EA higher education system

EAC summit in Dar


Education experts from the East African Community (EAC) partner states are meeting in Zanzibar to discuss how to implement a common higher education system in the region.

The harmonization of higher education and training systems in the region, under the Common Higher Education Area, was agreed upon by EAC Heads of States during their summit in Dar es Salaam last month.

The meeting, which started on Thursday, brings together vice-chancellors and principals of member universities, representatives from the ministries responsible for higher education from each partner states and the private sector.

Heads of commissions/councils for higher/university education, science and technology institutions as well as other education stakeholders, including students, are also attending.

 “Mobility of both academic staff and students, which is an important avenue for brain circulation, research and innovation will be top on the agenda,” said Prof Alexandre Lyambabaje, the executive secretary of Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA).

“As a strategic institution of the EAC responsible for coordinating the development of higher education and research in the region, IUCEA is behind the Declaration of the EAC as a Common Higher Education Area,” he said.

Prof Lyambabaje noted that regional quality assurance standards are among implementation tools that have been set in motion to ensure higher education meets the desired results

The East African Qualifications Framework for Higher Education (EAQFHE) is one such tool, which is both a human resources development tool and a platform for rationalisation and mutual recognition of qualifications.

Besides, IUCEA -- one of the dozen institutions under the community-- is currently steering a number of initiatives on the development of centres of excellence in various fields which will serve as hubs for the development of highly skilled human resources for the region.

Operationalization of the EA Higher Education Area would give a common framework under which curricula, examinations and certification as well as academic and professional qualifications would be shared by all the countries in the bloc.

But Prof Lyambabaje said implementation of the programme would need concerted efforts by the partner states - jointly or individually - to address the shortage of the teaching staff and funding.

In a recent interview with Tanzania's The Citizen newspaper, the Don decried shortage of the academic staff members in the universities within the region, saying East Africa has one of the worst lecturer-student ratios in Africa.

Currently, IUCEA has 115 active members, being universities and other degree-awarding higher learning institutions.

In future, it would be obliged to serve all 200 plus universities in EA under a proposed amendment of its Act.

“Funding of the universities has to fall in line with the acceptable ratio. There also has to be enough teaching facilities, laboratories and lecture rooms,” he added.

During their summit in Dar es Salaam last month, the EAC leaders emphasized that the Common Higher Education Area's main goal was to enhance the quality of education in the region.