One of the mandate and functions of the IUCEA is to maintain high and comparable academic standards in higher education regionally and internationally, with special emphasis on the promotion of Quality Assurance (QA), Quality Management, and maintenance of comparable international academic standards in the East African universities. In that regard, IUCEA aspires to operate within the expectations to deliver services that enhance and harness QA in higher education in the region.
Collaboration within the East African region on QA
By virtue of its establishment, the IUCEA has been funding collaborative activities and programmes undertaken regionally or by a member institution. The exchange of students among the member universities in East Africa has been a long-standing activity of such supported collaborative undertakings. Assisted by the ministries responsible for higher education in the EAC Partner States, the IUCEA has had many East African students cross boarders under that programme. This has helped in building confidence in the standards offered by higher education institutions in the region. Similarly, in a broader fulfillment of its objectives, the IUCEA has funded quite a number of collaborative academic activities, ranging from specialized study fields to subject fields and to a relative extent supported research based activities and publication of journals. These activities are considered important avenues for bringing closely together academicians and academic authorities in their areas of specialization to exchange ideas on matters of academic collaboration within the region. Even more towards QA, the exchange of external examiners among universities in East Africa, which the IUCEA also supports, is an important step towards improvement of the quality of programmes and university graduates. Nonetheless, these efforts are still not enough to pave a concrete way into regional QA systems that are comparable and sustainable, and compatible to international standards.
Why Quality Assurance in Higher Education in East Africa
In East Africa quality assurance in higher education has become an issue of great concern among all stakeholders, including policy makers, parents, employers, and students. A number of factors have contributed to this concern, among them being the fact that East Africa has for the past ten years experienced a sporadic expansion of the number and enrollment levels in university institutions as triggered by the exponential increase in demand of access to higher education in each of the countries in the region. Therefore, about 5 years ago the IUCEA felt the need to ensure that the sporadic expansion of higher education in the region did not lead to compromising quality of the very education being delivered. Furthermore, during the past 10 years student mobility within East Africa has increased tremendously, hence creating the need to institute mechanisms for comparability of the quality of education in universities in East Africa so as to maintain inter-institutional comparability of the quality of the academic programmes being offered. Further still, globally education has become a tradable commodity across borders and hence there have been efforts to institute international safeguards that would ensure maintenance of international quality standards in the education being delivered across borders. These efforts are being implemented within regional and international QA frameworks, as it has been done in a number of regional socio-economic groupings, particularly in Europe as part of the Bologna Process.
Towards Development of the IUCEA Quality Assurance System
The challenges of globalization as well as the need to promote higher education benchmark internationally prompted the IUCEA Governing Board to decide in 2005 to embark on a process towards introducing a regional quality assurance system for its member universities, in collaboration with the national higher education regulatory agencies of the founding EAC Partner States in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The IUCEA now include member universities from Burundi and Rwanda after the two countries joined the EAC in 2007. Indeed, this decision was not premised on non-existence of QA systems in universities in East Africa, as each university was already and continued to operate it core academic functions within some forms of QA systems which were nonetheless neither structured nor systematically documented. The systems lacked coherence and benchmarks for comparability within the region, which would have made the systems to be able to guide universities in East Africa to recognize each other regarding their academic programmes. This would have also opened up recognition of East Africa as a specific higher education area whose quality standards had an international outlook.
Collaboration of the IUCEA with the DAAD
In order to compliment its efforts to introduce a regional QA system, the IUCEA sought support from the German Academic exchange Services (DAAD) and the latter extended the sought support. One of the early outcomes of that offer was the DAAD establishing link up of the IUCEA with other German institutions, including the German Rectors Conference (HRK), German accreditation agencies, as well as several German universities that have sound QA systems, particularly the University of Oldenburg.
Quality Assurance and Aspects of Curriculum Design
In the initial stages of the IUCEA-DAAD interactions a two-day workshop was organized in Nairobi in 2005 on Curriculum Design. The workshop helped participants share experiences and concerns on how to take a curriculum as an instrument of quality improvement and quality assurance. The workshop also helped to bring out the fact that university education was the determinant (to a significant extent) of the quality of the entire education system in a country. Therefore, evaluation of programmes, redefinition and redesigning them if embraced could play a very big role in quality assurance. The participants at that workshop also noted the fact that curriculum and programmes evaluation were influenced by modern trends that informed teaching and research so as to improve students' achievement and teacher or lecturer productivity.
First Visit to Germany by East African Academicians in 2006
Because of the importance and need of a structured QA system in East African universities, in January 2006 the DAAD invited and sponsored a group of 30 senior university managers, including vice-chancellors, deputy vice chancellors, principals, and chief executive officers of higher education regulatory agencies from the three East African countries (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda). The team visited various German universities and other institutions for two weeks so as to introduce themselves to aspects of quality assurance frameworks as practiced by European countries, as a consequence of the Bologna Process. After the visit the delegation came up with a resolution that supported introduction of an East African quality assurance framework. This visit opened up the process to embark onto the process to introduce the East African QA system that is currently at a very advanced stage.
The First Stakeholders Workshop on Quality Assurance