The first pillar of SARUAs strategy is to be the responsive connecting hub for universities' multiple stakeholder interests as a regional convenor of choice for higher education initiatives. SARUA continues to work closely with partners such as the SADC Office. UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA, HAQAA and various member universities to implement programmes which would benefit the region in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
Closer alignment with SADC structures through the SADC Secretariat
The launch of the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap 2015 – 2063, which takes a long-term view of regional development, requires concerted effort to ensure higher education as a sector is responsive to the region’s skills and qualifications needs.
SARUA engaged with the SADC Technical Committee on Higher Education and Training, Research and Development in March 2017 and proposed a reassessment of how universities can participate in SARUA activities, to ensure maximum benefit for the development of the sector. This was followed up by a meeting with SADC Secretariat representatives in May 2017. In June 2017 SARUA attended the meeting of SADC Ministers responsible for Education and Training and Science, Technology and Innovation where the Ministers confirmed the importance of SARUA and it was agreed that the process of alignment should continue. The process of SADC engagement is ongoing.
Harmonisation of African Higher Education Quality Assurance and Accreditation (HAQAA) Initiative
Since 2016, SARUA has participated as an Advisory Board member of HAQAA which forms part of the Pan-African Quality Assurance and Accreditation Framework (PAQAF) and aims to develop a common understanding on QA in Africa, developing African Standards and Guidelines for quality assurance (ASG-QA) and reinforcing institutional “internal” QA, consolidating ‘quality culture’ in Africa, sustainability and further development of the Pan-African QA and Accreditation System. On 16-17 November 2017, SARUA participated in a workshop and attended an Advisory Board meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. At the workshop, the African Standards Guidelines were further refined and SARUA provided important inputs on the need for harmonisation of donor activities and the need to involve university leadership directly on the continental policy goals and implementation realities. This advocated approach would deepen membership of the harmonisation and QA agenda.
Regional quality assurance enhancement
Quality in all its dimensions is a recognised priority for higher education across Africa. There are multiple continental and regional initiatives underway that aim to address inter alia harmonisation of accreditation systems, external quality assurance frameworks, capacity development for internal quality assurance, developing credit transfer systems and enabling student and lecturer mobility.
SARUA will strengthen existing partnerships and will actively represent SADC university interests in QA programmes and initiatives, including in the area of continuing education. In view of a broad consensus that SARUA should be responsible for Internal QA capacity development and SAQAN would be responsible for external QA capacity development, SARUA will maintain a strong focus on internal quality management systems (including supporting technology) while participating as a key partner in strengthening external QA capacity development.
SARUA Digital Universities Programme
SARUA in partnership with the Link Centre at the University of the Witwatersrand held the 2017 edition of the SARUA Digital Universities Programme (SDUP) in May 2017. The SDUP was first offered in 2016 and provides a practical foundation to the world of blended learning and ICT-enhanced research production. It offers a series of e-tivities in the use of ICT and the Internet for universities. The programme is designed specifically for the blended or hybrid learning environment, where the ICT tools and applications are additional resources used to enhance face-to-face teaching and learning and research supervision.
Based on feedback from interested universities and participants, it was decided to explore the possibility of offering the programme within individual countries in future, to attract more people who would otherwise not be able to afford both the travel and course costs.
Sustainability Starts with Teachers
In launching Sustainability Starts with Teachers in 2016 with its partners UNESCO ROSA, the Environmental Learning Resource Centre at Rhodes University and SWEDESD at Uppsala University, SARUA advanced the capacity development work it initiated with the establishment of the SARUA Curriculum Innovation Network (SCIN).
Based on initial research and design workshops held in January and April 2017, SARUA signed an International Partnership Agreement with UNESCO to deliver two capacity development workshops in 2017. The workshops were structured to be action-learning oriented and offered many opportunities for regional networking.
In 2018, Sustainability Starts With Teachers will hold a review workshop to assess progress in implementing change projects and to plan for future phases. The signing of a project-based International Partnership Agreement was a significant step in the SARUA-UNESCO relationship and the parties have endeavoured to strengthen their collaborative efforts in future.