Improving University Cooperation between Africa and Europe: workshop on access to higher education in Europe and Africa
17 November 2009
EUA and the Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR-UOS) are this week (17- 20 November 2009) organising a workshop in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) on sharing best practices on access and retention in higher education between Europe and Africa.
Launched with the support of the Erasmus Mundus programme of the European Commission, this event will bring 33 Rectors and Vice-Rectors from 13 European and 11 African countries, well as various faculty members active in development cooperation, together to explore how higher education institutions in both regions are coping with the changing demands of their specific socio-economic environments. The workshop is part of the Erasmus Mundus project “Access to Success: Fostering Trust and Exchange between Europe and Africa 2008-2010”, which aims to contribute to a wider discussion on effective inter-institutional cooperation between Europe and Africa, in particular with regard to student and staff mobility schemes, capacity building partnerships and government/donor support. The project brings together representatives of universities (senior leadership, staff and students from African and European universities), as well representatives of governments and donor agencies.
The Access to Success project consists of two phases: a fact-finding phase in which surveys of higher education institutions were carried out in both Africa and Europe (Nov. 2008 – Oct. 2009) as well student surveys and focus groups. The dissemination and dialogue phase of the project, which is being launched with this workshop, examines the study results, facilitates opportunities for dialogue on cooperation, and promotes the strengthening of the bi-regional Europe-Africa cooperation in higher education. Three workshops and a final conference targeted at policy makers and donor agencies will be organized in this second phase (Nov. 2009 – Oct. 2010).
The workshop in Addis Ababa will be a dialogue-focused event with a total of approximately 75 participants from 28 different countries. Participants will be from the leadership of institutions in Africa and Europe as well as some faculty members involved either in access and retention issues or generally in university cooperation between Europe and Africa. The event will also have strong student participation: students from the European Students’ Union and All Africa Student Union as well as Erasmus Mundus alumni will provide input and hold a separate focus group on the workshop topics. Officials from the European Union Delegation to the AU will attend as well as the Ethiopian Ministry of Education. The workshop is designed to be highly interactive and draw from surveys that specifically targeted institutions across Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, generating a varied sample of countries and types of institutions. Topics that will be discussed will include:
• universities’ basic understanding/definition of access and equity and whether this is an institutional/national objective
• target groups of disadvantaged students in the access debate
• policies and actions to promote and enhance access to higher education
• state/national policies that guide or determine institutional access policies and strategies
• Strategies to enhance retention and success of students.
Effective university partnership between Europe and Africa must address the needs of the societies in which universities are embedded, and therefore must be founded upon mutual knowledge of the challenges our universities face as drivers of growth and development. Access to higher education (which entails both widening and increasing participation) and retention (ensuring successful completion and relevant/supportive learning paths) are critical issues in both Europe and Africa that merit reflection on a bi-regional level. This particular event will also include the first Europe-Africa Rectors' dialogue, an occasion for university leadership to discuss priorities in higher education cooperation between the two continents.
The Access to Success project is being undertaken by EUA, together with the Flemish Interuniversity Council, which has facilitated this first workshop. The other project partners are: The Association of African Universities, the European Students’ Union, the Association of Norwegian Higher Education Institutions and the European Access Network.