What is a Common Higher Education Area

A Common Higher Education Area is a geographic area that brings together sovereignty states with mutual interest and common goal in the development of higher education characterised by comparable, compatible, coherent and harmonised systems of higher education. The purpose is to improve the international competitiveness and attractiveness of higher education of that particular geographical area and ensure mobility and employability of graduates. The objectives of the Common Higher Education Area include among others:

  • Adoption of a system of easily readable and comparable qualifications
  • Facilitation of a system of credits as a proper means of promoting students mobility
  • Promotion of mobility by overcoming obstacles to the effective exercise of free movement
  • Promotion of cooperation in higher education, particularly with regards to curricular development and harmonization of academic programmes, inter-institutional co-operation, mobility schemes, training systems and research.


The East African Community Common Higher Education Area (EACHEA) entails the establishment of a common frame of reference to facilitate comparability, compatibility and mutual recognition of higher education and training systems. It encompasses qualifications attained among the EAC Partner States, which are based on shared views on quality, criteria, standards and learning outcomes, for promoting students and labour mobility in the EAC.

Instruments of the EACHEA

The instruments facilitating the implementation of a Common Higher Education Area were developed by IUCEA in collaboration with the national commissions and councils for university/higher education by involving other key stakeholders in higher education in the region. These instruments include:

  1.      Regional Quality Assurance System, which is based on four operational tools:
  2. East African Qualifications Framework for Higher Education (EAQFHE) is a human resources development instrument guiding the higher education and training systems. It is also a reference tool in facilitating mutual recognition of qualifications attained in and outside the EAC Partner States. is a guide for efficient sharing of existing resources among universities. It enhances quality education and research and contribute to academic staff networking.
  3. Students’ Mobility Policy is a guide for enhancement of students’ mobility across the borders, which contribute to regional integration.
  4. Benchmarks for Academic Programmes, constitute important building blocks of the East African Quality Assurance system, in that they provide a frame of reference for universities when developing and reviewing academic programmes and curricula. This ensures that the programmes and curricula in the region are harmonized. The benchmarks are output based and are guided by statements on learning outcomes, expected competencies and skills, and attitudes. The benchmarks are also meant to inform the labour market and other stakeholders on what the graduates are able to do after completion of their studies.


The implementation of the EACHEA is a continuous process that will require the participation and contribution of various stakeholders at different levels in higher education in the region as follows:

  1. IUCEA has the responsibility of coordinating the operationalization of the Common Higher Education Area at the regional level under the oversight of the EAC Council of Ministers;
  2. The National Councils/Commissions for Higher/University Education have the responsibility of following up the implementation and adoption of the EACHEA by the Higher learning institutions in their respective countries;
  3. The Higher learning institutions have the responsibility of adopting and adapting all policies and guidelines that will allow them to be part and parcel of the EACHEA.
  4. The EAC Council of Ministers will provide an oversight at the highest political levels in the operationalization in all the EAC Partner States.

The EACHEA and its operationalization will come into effect upon the pronouncement of The Declaration by Heads of State of the East African Community Partner States on the transformation of the East African Community into a Common Higher Education Area.