The Association of West Africa Universities (AWAU) recently held its 6th Conference at Universite Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD), Dakar with the theme: “Trans-Border Research and Quality Assurance: Challenges for African Universities”. The Conference also featured the 8th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Association.
The Conference was declared open by the Special Guest of Honour and Minister of Higher Education of Senegal, Professor Mary Teuw Niane, who was represented by the Director General, Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, Professor Amadou Thierno Gaye.
It afforded participants a regional networking platform and attracted participants from six (6) countries within the sub-region, namely: Ghana, Guinea, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal and The Gambia.
Welcoming participants to the University, the Rector of UCAD, Professor Ibrahima Thioub, thanked the executive members for conceding the hosting rights of the Conference to it, noting that the outcome of the deliberations will indeed rub off on the universities in the region.
In his opening remarks, Chairman of AWAU, Professor Abdulganiyu Ambali stressed on the Association’s readiness to compliment the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in addressing problems bedeviling West African Sub-Region such as climate change and insecurity. He noted that these twin-issues were the major issues affecting the people of the region.
Goodwill message was delivered by the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Abuja, Nigeria, who was represented by the Director, Directorate of Research, Innovations and Communication Technology, Dr. Suleiman Ramon-Yusuf.
The Registrar, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Nigeria, Professor Is-haq Oloyede, delivered the keynote address titled “Trans-Border Education and Research: Quality Assurance Implications for African Universities”.
Lead papers were presented by the President, West African Research and Innovation Management Association (WARIMA) and Vice-Chancellor, Osun State University, Professor Labode Popoola;, Former Vice-Chancellor, University of Cape Coast, Ghana and Former Chairman of AWAU, Professor Domwin D. Kuupole; Vice-Chancellor, University of The Gambia, Professor Faqir Muhammad Anjum; as well as Chairman of AWAU and Board Member, International Association of Universities (IAU), Prof. AbdulGaniyu Ambali.
Some of the topics presented and discussed by the participants were on, Repositioning WARIMA for Relevance, Problems of Language Barrier in Dissemination of Research Findings, Trans-Border Research and Quality Assurance in West Africa: Situation, Challenges and Solutions as well as International Association of Universities (IAU) : Building a Worldwide Higher Education Community.
A Colloquium, chaired by Professor Is-haq Oloyede, was held to chart ways of achieving a durable solution to the challenges of trans-border research and quality assurance. A decision was reached to encourage the internationalisation of admissions into Universities in West Africa. It was agreed that AWAU, JAMB, NUC and the Universities are to collaborate to actualise this objective.
At the end, the Conference observed that:
There is inadequate trans-border approach to researches in Africa. Language barrier hampers effective dissemination of research findings and render many researches irrelevant or less utilised.
There is inadequate collaborative research activity between West African countries in scope and content, compared to research co-operation between international partners and non-West African Countries.
Universities rely largely on external evaluators for quality assurance of their programmes.
There is insufficient utilisation of ICT in teaching, learning, research, administration and internationalisation in Universities.
Following the review of the papers presented, the Conference also recommended and resolved that:
There is the need to fashion out appropriate policies, mechanisms and structures that will enhance the transformation and compliment current efforts towards ensuring quality, relevance and excellence in African Universities’ research and education networks.
Researchers should make available their research findings in simple and accessible language for the benefit of the majority of readership and stakeholders.
There is need for Universities in West Africa (from Anglophone, Arabic-speaking, Francophone and Lusophone divides) to engage in collaborative research activities. Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)’s Commission can provide platform in that regard through collaboration with Research Institutes such as WARIMA.
The promotion of cultural and linguistic collaboration within West Africa and strengthening self-sustained research programmes by leveraging funding from external and government sources.
There is need for Universities to strengthen internal quality assurance units.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) should be utilised to achieve the internationalisation of higher education and facilitate trans-border research among West African Universities.
The AWAU should liaise with member States to ensure that teaching and research in their Universities are geared towards addressing common problems of the sub-region.
The ECOWAS should play a key role in harmonising research activities of the Universities of its member-states to address issues of common concern.
There is the need for periodic review of tertiary education curriculum by the relevant agencies to meet national, regional and global needs and demands.
Government and other relevant stakeholders are to develop modalities that will harness efforts being made to attain quality, relevance and excellence in African Universities’ research and education networks. This can be achieved through improved research funding; provision of adequate and modern research facilities and infrastructure; rewarding research excellence; establishing more partnerships among Universities; strengthening quality assurance agencies and establishing a reliable National Qualification Framework (NQF) among others.
In a vote of thanks, the Secretary-General of AWAU and Vice-Chancellor, Sule Lamido University Kafin, Hausa, Nigeria, Professor Abdullahi Yususf Ribadu expressed the Association’s profound appreciation to the management and staff of the host institution, UCAD, Dakar, Senegal for the wonderful reception accorded the participants.
The Conference also extended its gratitude to JAMB, Nigeria; University of Ilorin, Nigeria; Federal University of Technology, Minna, Nigeria; Sule Lamido University, Kafin Hausa, Nigeria and NUC, Nigeria and all participants for their tremendous support towards the successful organisation of the conference.