The establishment of the African Quality Assurance Network (AfriQAN), which was launched during the 2nd UNESCO International Conference on Quality Assurance in Higher Education held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in September 2007, represents a significant milestone. This is because quality in higher education is now a matter of great concern globally. In particular, the importance of maintaining quality in higher education systems the world over, has now become even more compelling as countries and regions worldwide aspire to maintain regional and international competitiveness in the quality of the education they provide and the quality of the graduates their higher education institutions produce.
Furthermore, the current developments in cross-border education that has enhanced student mobility between countries and regions has become a driving force for the establishment of harmonised quality assurance systems, as a platform for regional and international comparability of education systems and quality standards, as well as the need to maintain the competitiveness of cross-border education programmes.
AfriQAN was launched as an official platform for the cooperation of African quality assurance organisations, its main objective being to support and promote the establishment of harmonised quality assurance systems in African as a way of maintaining and promoting comparability and harmonisation of Africa’s higher education quality standards. On 2nd April 2010, AfriQAN was formally registered in Ghana as a legal entity, with the Secretariat being hosted at the Association of African Universities (AAU) ultra-modern Office complex in Accra. The membership comprises of National Regulatory Agencies (NRAs), Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and relevant Government Ministries of Higher Education. The Network has benefited from funding support from UNESCO through the Global Initiative for Quality Assurance Capacity (GIQAC) that has allowed the implementation of various training programmes such as Quality Assurance Good Practices Workshops for national quality assurance agencies, and Staff Exchange missions. The funding further enabled the holding of Annual General Meetings, as well as the printing and dissemination of the Study on Quality Assurance Situation and Capacity-Building Needs of African Higher Education. AfriQAN is currently supported at its yearly meetings through its membership fees, support from European Commission, the Peregrine Academic Services and the AAU. AfriQAN is also supported by UNESCO in the ongoing discussions on the Implementation of the 2014 Addis Convention.
Currently there are 23 countries in Africa with national QA agencies. This number is less than 50% of the total number of 54 African countries. This implies that more work needs to be done. Other NRAs on the continent need to come together to share experiences, ideas, and best practices through the organisation of good practices workshop. The above developments are obviously challenges that pose the danger of compromising quality of Africa’s education standards and systems given that there is an exponential expansion of higher education enrolment in all African countries leading to the establishment of many new universities, both public and private.
I, the President of AfriQAN and other members of the AfriQAN Executive Board are aware of these challenges and our plan of action towards addressing these issues will include: Helping those African countries without national quality assurance systems to establish them; Strengthening the existing sub-regional quality assurance bodies/ initiatives so that they become models for good practice and at the same time use their expertise and experience to help other African countries and sub-regions to establish similar systems; Promoting networking, collaboration and information sharing in order to achieve harmonisation and comparability of quality assurance practices in Africa.
I encourage all newly established Quality Assurance Agencies that are not yet members of AfriQAN, as well as all the Quality Assurance Units in African higher education institutions, to urgently register so that our collective drive to promoting quality culture in our institutions of higher learning will be a reality.
Prof. Chiedu Felix Mafiana