As the East African Community (EAC) moves to enhance its higher education system, it is looking to borrow a leaf from countries such as Germany and Singapore that have excelled in linking academia to the world of work.
The issue will be at the centre of discussions on how an ideal graduate for the EAC can be developed during the upcoming Academia-Public-Private Partnership Forum and Exhibitions 2015, in Entebbe, Uganda, next month.
The Inter-university Council for East Africa (IUCEA), the East African Business Council (EABC) and the East African Development Bank (EADB) are jointly organising the event set for October 22 under the theme “Developing the Ideal Graduate through Academia-Public-Private Partnership.”
Speaking at a news conference in Kigali, yesterday, Prof. Mayunga Nkunya, the IUCEA executive secretary, said in order to guide the discussion, experts from countries that have succeeded in this area had been invited.
“One such country that has excelled in this area is the Federal Republic of Germany, where the higher education system there receives 70 per cent of its funding from the private sector. We are bringing one of the German professors who is a champion in that area to give a key note presentation on how they did it,” Prof. Nkunya said.
About 300 participants are expected at this year’s forum, the fourth of its kind.
In addition to Germany, he said, South East Asia, too, has made tremendous progress in the past few years and the EAC can also borrow a leaf from there.
He listed Singapore as one of the South East Asian countries that EAC could emulate to advance higher education.
“Singapore is now a developed country and one of the strategies they used in promoting Academia-Public-Private Partnerships. We are bringing in an expert from the national university of Singapore who has been working in linking the academia to industry, to come and tell us what they did so that we can also learn from them,” Nkunya said.
He said, recently, EAC secretary-general Richard Sezibera had interactions with Horst Kohler, former President of the Federal Republic of Germany, and the latter offered to make a presentation through a video-conferencing during the Entebbe forum.
Kohler’s presentation is expected to show participants what has transformed the German economy in linking the academia with the private sector.
Kohler, who was Germany’s president between 2004 and 2010, is also an economist and once served as president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (1998 to 2000) and head of the International Monetary Fund from 2000 to 2004.
He is the brains behind the “Partnership with Africa” initiative that was launched in 2005 to enhance the dialogue and encourage a genuine partnership between Africa and Germany.
Developing ideal graduates
Meanwhile, Prof. Nkunya said the development of an ideal graduate is not only the responsibility of the higher education system. The academia, he added, has a very important role but so is the private sector, the public sector and the parents and students themselves.
“For that reason, in this year’s forum, we will have panel discussions and current students and those who have graduated from universities and are now in the job market will come and help us discuss how best to develop an ideal graduate and what do we need to do.”
The forum will feature dialogue sessions focused on, among others, the role of higher education institutions, employers, the private sector, and governments in providing the best two possible opportunities to students to enable them build, refine and articulate their knowledge and entrepreneurial skills, creativity, and attitude, for them to become ideal graduates in the world of work.
In 2011, IUCEA and EABC entered into a partnership to provide the nexus between knowledge and human resources produced by higher education institutions in the region on the one hand, and the dissemination of the same to the private sector for their eventual diffusion into productive, social and service sectors on the other.
The partnership focuses on, among others, enhancing linkage between the private sector and higher education institutions through engagement with the public sector; and promoting the utilisation of higher education research output and innovations by the private sector/business community.
The first such forum and exhibitions were held in Arusha, Tanzania, in October 2012. Kigali hosted the last edition in 2014.