East Africa credit transfer scheme enters new phase
Written by Maina Waruru from the University World News – Africa Edition
The East African Credit Accumulation and Transfer project undertaken by higher education authorities in the region’s five countries has entered a fifth phase, with experts agreeing on minimum standards for psychology, counselling, community development, developmental studies and social work programmes.
The harmonisation initiative is meant to ease the movement of students from one university to the other across the countries of the East African Community. It is also part of a quality assurance initiative that was started in 2007 before picking up pace in 2010.
Experts in the above disciplines started deliberations at a meeting in Nairobi on 13 February, and benchmarks for the four courses were agreed.
During previous phases, minimum standards were developed for human medicine, basic sciences, engineering, agriculture, business studies and information technology, computer science, bachelor of education with options in arts, science, primary, special needs and early childhood, bachelor of laws and masters in business administration.
Professor David Some, chair of Kenya’s Commission for University Education, or CUE, told University World News: “This process has involved not just the universities and commissions for higher education, but employers too under the auspices of the East African Business Council and the Inter-University Council for East Africa.”
Employer input had been sought to ensure the relevance of training offered across the region as well as the employability of graduates within the unified East African trading bloc.
“Ultimately the harmonisation will also bring all five member countries – Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania – even closer to the desired goal of faster regional integration,” Some said.
It will also mean that lecturers will be able to move freely from one country to the other to teach.
The credit accumulation and transfer process, while lauded as a step in the right direction, is worrying some private institutions which fear that easier transferability of students will also mean increased competition for learners.
According to Rispa Odongo, who is in charge of quality assurance at CUE, most courses across East Africa are very similar in name and general content, but differ in areas such as study duration and entry qualification.
There are also varying parameters on how some programmes are constituted and the amount of credit time a student is expected to notch up before being considered to have properly completed a course.
“While the harmonisation process cannot be described as easy, it is obvious that the courses have many similarities and only differ in a few technical areas, partly brought about by the different basic and higher education systems practised across the region,” she observed.
A 2010 law passed by the East African Legislative Assembly, which binds all member countries to observe and implement its provisions, has given impetus to student mobility.
The Inter-University Council for East Africa, which facilitates higher education cooperation from within the East African Community operational framework, allows students to move freely across the bloc’s institutions via a credit transfer arrangement.
The law also compels universities to review degree classification criteria to meet regional standards, as it strives to harmonise university education in the region.