Harmonization of higher education in the East African Community May 18, 2017 by Webstar Context of Harmonization of Higher Education in East African Community Harmonization of higher education in the EAC context refers to the establishment of a common frame of reference to facilitate comparability, compatibility and mutual recognition of higher education and training systems and the qualifications attained among the EAC Partner States, based on shared views on quality, criteria, standards and learning outcomes, for promoting students and labour mobility in the EAC, and hence the region operating as a common higher education area. Harmonization does not mean each higher education institution or country to operate a uniform system across the region. This would stifle competitiveness, uniqueness and innovativeness of the higher education institution and countries. Therefore, in harmonizing education system, the region is also promoting competitiveness, uniqueness and innovativeness among higher education institution and countries such that while higher education institution benchmark their systems and programmes to the basic regional standards and guidelines, they also uphold uniqueness in terms of programme specializations, curriculum innovativeness, delivery approaches, etc. Drive for Harmonization of Higher Education Harmonization of higher education in East Africa has been prompted by, among others, the need to establish a framework to facilitate comparability of higher education quality standards in order to allow mobility of students and to promote regional and international competitiveness, and comparability and compatibility of the curriculum and qualifications attained for them to be mutually recognizable among the EAC Partner States and outside EAC, and hence promote labour mobility. Harmonization Frame of Reference The frame of reference for harmonization of higher education in East Africa being developed by IUCEA constitute the following functional elements:(a) Regional Quality Assurance System, which is based on four operationalization tools: (i) Policy framework titled “Principles and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Higher Education in East Africa” (ii) Regional quality assurance instruments contained in the Handbook for Quality Assurance in Higher Education – Roadmap to Quality, published in five volumes covering internal quality assurance at programme level, external quality assurance at programme level, institutional quality assurance, implementation of a quality assurance system, and Principles, Practices and Management of External Quality Assurance in East Africa.(iii) Benchmarks for academic programmes(iv) East African Higher Education Quality Assurance Network as the technical arm promoting the development of quality culture(b) East African Qualifications Framework for Higher Education (EAQFHE) as a human resources development instrument guiding the higher education and training systems, and as a reference frame facilitating mutual recognition of qualifications attained in and outside the EAC. The inter-relationship between the drivers of harmonization of higher education systems in East Africa is depicted in the diagram below: Future OutlookThe process of harmonization of higher education in East Africa constitutes establishment of a harmonized regional quality assurance system that provides appropriate quality assurance guidelines, quality assessment tools, procedures and standards, and benchmarks for academic programmes. The system is linked to the East African Qualifications Framework for Higher Education that articulates harmonization of education and training systems and the qualifications attained by clearly defining the programme learning outcomes appropriate for each level of learning, and the different qualifications levels, a credit system, articulation and exit pathways, and recognition of prior learning, among others. Hence, the qualifications framework is a useful instrument for facilitating mutual recognition of qualifications among the EAC Partner States. All these interventions are aimed at transforming and operationalizing the East African Community as a common higher education area, the ultimate goal of EAC.