The Association of Commonwealth Universities

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Abstracts and Project Aims will be up-loaded as soon as they are received from the various speakers and presenters.

Monday 17 January 2011

13.30 Session A:

When do academics change their practices?  Lessons from the ABLE-Ghana Learning Community:  It is well known that a number of disconnects  -  between theory and practice, between transplanted and indigenous institutions, between research and teaching, between didactic teaching and learning from experience  -  seriously limit the value of business school courses in the global south.   Likewise, the need to create and use more local case studies and teaching resources, to work with a wider range of learning styles and media, and for more demanding forms of assessment, are well understood.   Nevertheless, academics are caught up in (and reproduce) a system of institutional expectations, prior experience, assumptions and capabilities that make the introduction of new forms of teaching and learning problematic.   So, under what circumstances are academics prepared to pursue changes  -  not superficially or rhetorically, but substantively  -  in the way they prepare their students for employment?

This session will share some pointers that are emerging clearly from 'Advancing Business Learning for Employability in Ghana', a 16-month project funded through the British Council to explore the use of new teaching methods in business education in Ghana.   The Open University Business School has been working with the five top Ghanaian Business Schools, and involving employer representatives from the formal, informal and public sectors.   Faculty from each of the six institutions formed a learning community, meeting three times in residential meetings in Ghana, to plan and then review practical change projects, and to share and develop cases and other learning resources.   The central purpose of the leaning community was to initiate processes of professional renewal, employer engagement and institutional development  -  and to do so in ways that can be sustained.

Reforming the curriculum to enhance the relevance of the training of young African professionals:  National Development is inextricably linked to human development.  All graduates of institutions of higher learning play a major role in the development of their countries and in the advancement of their respective disciplines.   While technical discipline-specific knowledge is a prerequisite for all graduates, effective management skills are also needed by those entering the private sector and government.   (I dare to suggest that the same skills are needed by those going into academia!)   However, the challenge is that current training programmes in Africa require a major overhaul for graduates to acquire these competencies and skills.  Using the training of statisticians as an example, in this paper I propose a new approach to training future African professionals for the development of Africa.   I offer suggestions on how to structure training programmes in Africa  -  mostly at the university level (pre=employment) and at the workplace (on-the-job training or learning).   I advocate for the creation of partnership programmes among academia, private sector and governments in Africa to advance collaboration between them and to improve the capacity building and the training of graduates who will have relevant skills for the needs of African countries.   This calls for extensive curriculum reform to include mentoring and internships as part of the regular training in all educational programmes.

13.30 Session C:

Learning to support employability:  experiences of South African and English FE(T) colleges (South Africa)  Project Aim:  To develop improved theoretical and practical understandings of the ways in which colleges can support employability in both South Africa and England.

Educational providers globally are increasingly expected to focus on  improving the employability of their learners.   This has led to greater attention on a range of institutional policies and practices that focus on the individual's learning and which seek to address their deficits of knowledges, skills and attitudes.   Starting from the view that this was too limited an understanding of employability, a British-South African group of further education (and training) colleges, universities and a sector skills council collaborated on trying to understand employability in the further education sector.  This led us to draw out two further dimensions of employability.  The second dimension is the necessity of locating employability within individual, local, national and global contexts.   The third, our key contribution, is a focus on how educational institutions embody and transmit employability.   In our presentation we will explore this institutional dimension of employability further through the consideration of several strands of institutional employability that emerge from our fieldwork.   Then, in the final part, we will return to a major theme of our earlier EAP project, and a central rationale for the whole of EPA:  the importance of building partnerships between further and higher education institutions, explored through the experiences of both our EAP/EPA experiences and our wider work at the interface between these two parts of the education system.

The Work, Learn, Earn Programme (WELP) for developing entrepreneurship in organic agriculture among graduates in Nigeria (Nigeria)  Project Aim:  To develop entrepreneurship skills in organic agriculture among graduates in Nigeria, leading to the establishment of sustainable and profitable organic agricultural enterprises.

Unemployment of university graduates is a major social concern in Nigeria.  The expanding market for organic produce affords opportunities for Nigerian graduates to make decent livelihoods through self-employment.  Most of them lack skills in organic agriculture and entrepreneurship.   The University of Agriculture Abeokuta, Nigeria collaborated with Coventry University, UK to articulate the Work, Learn, and Earn Programme (WELP).  It involved a 7 week intensive course to develop entrepreneurship skills in graduates in Nigeria, leading to the establishment of sustainable and profitable organic agricultural enterprises.  The programme was advertised and 23 graduates were selected for a 4 week intensive residential course on the concept of organic agriculture followed by a 3 week attachment on farms during which farmers imparted entrepreneurial skills to the trainees.   Trainees' progress was monitored through visits by faculty, evaluation reports completed by host farmers, placement reports by trainees and a quiz conducted on completion of the course.  The five top trainees were sponsored to travel to either the UK or Benin Republic to learn about standards at the market end of organic agriculture.  On completion of WELP, a workshop was held to disseminate the outcomes of the programme to stakeholders and award WELP graduates their completion certificates.   Since then, WELP graduates have started their own businesses in organic plantain, fish, snail and vegetable production.   WELP follows up its graduates through advisory services and patronage.   Sustainability is an important part of the WELP programme, thus UNAAB wholly organised and funded a well-attended summer school in September 2010.

13.30 Session D:

Ghana - Transfer of ceramic body and glaze production technologies as a potential for employment generation.  The African graduate has a measure of confidence as a result of academic success but lacks the practical orientation that will make him/her confident enough to market his/her skills.   This has resulted in the industries feeling reluctant to employ these graduates.   But the possible solution is re-orientation of African graduates with the aim of helping them to market themselves.   That is why, in the AKTP programme, a graduate is retrained to acquire some skills in R & D and in industrial activities in order that he can by used by a Knowledge Based Institution to transfer technology to an industry.    This AKTP way of training puts a premium on the graduate, making him/her employable because it helpf bring out the best of the graduate.

Rwanda  -  Optimisation of engineering design and production process in MANUMETAL (Furniture Manufacturing Company) through Knowledge Transfer.  MANUMETAL was established in Kigali in 1967 but, thanks to lack of investment in machinery over the last 25 years, and intense competition from countries such as China, Dubai and Malaysia, its fortunes had faltered and its products come to be perceived as over-expensive and out-of-date.   However, the economy of the country is now growing at the rate of 60% of GDP per annum, the construction sector (in housing, offices and hotels) is booming and there are opportunities to expand into neighbouring countries such as Burundi and East Congo.   In this context, an urgent need to upgrade the production facility and designs was recognised, as well as the opportunity to claw back MANUMETAL's previous reputation as market leader.   The partnership between Kigali Institute of Science and Technology and MANUMETAL, which came into being in 2009, has proved to be mutually beneficial and has resulted in vastly improved maintenance, 80% reduction in machine break-downs, better quality assurance, new management structures and 20% improvement in production time.   All in all, the partnership has led to a better value proposition to the customers of the region with good quality products and competitive prices. 

15.30 Session A:

'Squaring the Circle of Excellence':  Employers ultimately are all looking to fill their human resource needs with the best candidates available from the labour force.   Achieving this goal in practice is far more difficult and involves the complex interplay of various forces including internal factors such as marketing capability and external variables such as the available pool of knowledge capital, amongst others.   Purplpeeple was established in 2009 with a tripartite mission to contribute to the development of Talent, Higher Education Institutions and Businesses within Africa.   We sought to achieve this by developing and promoting a model that would leverage and harness the synergistic and symbiotic relationship that naturally exists between all three of these stakeholders.  In our paradigm, Businesses work collaboratively with the Higher Education Institutions to guide, inform, develop and equip the human resource of tomorrow with the skills that are being demanded and highly sought after by this 21st Century, globalised, knowledge driven economy.   Institutions that fail to respond to the skill demands of the marketplace but rely instead on ancient reputations or obsolete models stand the risk of being resigned to the scrapheap of history.   Those that actively engage, in our view become strategically placed to reap a significant wealth and reputation dividend.

VentureNavigator Nigeria  -  Supporting Graduate Entrepreneurship  - is a service designed to help aspiring entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses in Nigeria improve their chances of success.   The service was created by a partnership between UK and Nigerian universities with funding provided by the British Council.  With specific expertise in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, its members are the University of Essex, AfriHub Nigeria, Bells University of Technology and Michael Okpara University of Agriculture.   Deployed via a unique internet and university network model, the service assesses business ideas, provides access to a comprehensive online library of resources specially tailored to Nigerian users and hosts an innovative business Questions and Answer forum.

This presentation will focus on how the service has been created, how the partnership has developed to meet the needs of the project, how the service has been marketed and promoted and, finally, what benefits have been delivered to users and, in particular, graduates in Nigeria.   We will address the technical hurdles that have been overcome as well as the other challenges the project has faced.   As part of the presentation we would also like to gather feedback on how the service could be improved or implemented in other countries.

15.30 Session B:

United Kingdom/South Africa G8 Partnership  -  Leaders Who Make a Difference (South Africa) 

Project Aim:  To apply the Black Leadership Initiative in South Africa to enhance the capacity and leadership skills in South African Further Education Teaching Colleges and the international and intercultural competencies of UK partners  -  and axiomatically to improve the employability of learners in both participating countries.

Hackney Lagos Partnership for Modernising Vocational and Employability Education (Nigeria)  This joint project was developed between Hackney Community College (HCC), a General Further Education College in London, UK and the Ministry of Education (MoE) and its Technical Ccolleges in Lagos State, Nigeria.   The project aim was to help develop the capacity of Technical Colleges in Lagos State better to meet employers' and students' needs, including developing future employability skills, through a more relevant curriculum and more effective institutions.  It has done this through leadership and strategic professional development programmes, underpinned by curriculum workshops involving staff from both countries.

The project originated in the higher priority given to Technical and Vocational Education (TVE) by the new Governor of Lagos State.   This led to a visit to London in autumn 2008, which established the interest of HCC in sharing its experience and expertise in Nigeria, a country with which Hackney has close ties.  Key steps in developing and delivering the project between 2009 and 2010 included:  HCC senior staff visiting Lagos; securing funds from the British Council EPA programme; agreeing detailed priorities, a partnership plan and training schedule;  training MoE directors and college senior managers in developing their institutions;  training department heads and teachers in employability skills, teaching and learning.

The outcomes of the programme to date include more than 60 trained.  Feedback from participants on the impact of the programme on their practice and their students has been universally positive.

Finally, the project is looking forward to areas for future collaboration.  This includes wider dissemination within other states in Nigeria and continuing work in Lagos on institutional development, quality systems, teaching & learning and supporting the offer of new and international qualifications.

15.30 Session C:

Development of new processes and lasting solutions for high energy costs and proper disposal of waste water at Mpanga Growers Tea Factory Limited, Uganda  The aim of this presentation is to highlight the key technological challenges faced by a small scale tea factory in Uganda and how, through a knowledge transfer partnership, the academic sector has helped find lasting solutions to some of those challenges.

As a small scale tea factory functioning in a context of rising production costs and increased supply of tea to the world market, Mpanga Growers Tea Factory was faced with the following key challenges, both of which affected its profitability and competitiveness:  high energy costs of up to 30% of total production costs and the release of untreated waste water to the environment, which did not conform to the set environmental safe waste water disposal standards.   Participation in the Africa Knowledge Transfer Partnerhsip was sought with the aim of accessing knowledge available from the University to improve energy efficiency and environmental conservation at the factory.

By means of this Partnership, a detailed study of the factory production output, energy consumption and waste water generation and disposal was conducted at the factory.  In order critically to analyse the different components under study, audits were carried out of the tea manufacturing process flow, energy and waste water respectively.   As a result of these detailed studies, the following was achieved:  total energy costs were reduced by 25% through process modifications;  and an effluent treatment pond was constructed at the factory to reduce the total suspended solids and biological oxygen demand to acceptable standards for safe disposal to the environment.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

09.00 Plenary Session:

Education Partnership Africa Project between the University of Teesside, UK and Ho Polytechnic, Ghana  Project Aim:  To develop the capacity of Ho Polytechnic to develop and deliver engineering courses by distance learning for existing and potential employees of the process industries.

The purpose of the partnership was to develop the capacity of Ho Polytechnic to develop, deliver and administer distance learning courses in engineering for the process industries and to develop a relationship between Teesside University and Ho Polytechnic to sustain and enhance the developments made.   Visits between Ho Polytechnic and Teesside University have concentrated on:  exploring and learning about each other's institutions;  staff development / training;  formulating agreements for future cooperation and developments;  developing links with the process industries and authorities in Ghana.

11.00 Plenary Session:

Good Practices in Educational Partnerships

The Commission for Africa's 2005 Report 'Our Common Interest' (see identified the lack of focus on secondary, further and higher education (and on science and technology) as a serious constraint to Africa's capacity development.  As a result of this, an 'Africa Unit' was established at the ACU to promote HE/FE partnerships as a way of addressing this constraint.

Have matters improved in recent years?  If so, have partnerships contributed to that improvement?  Are there key principles of management and good governance which can be identified as important elements of successful and sustainable partnerships?  Who benefits?

This presentation will seek to put HE/FE partnerships into the broader context of Africa's development in general and education and capacity-building in particular.  It will build on the 'Good Practices in Educational Partnerships Guide' produced by the Africa Unit in addressing a number of questions.  These will include:

  • Is a focus on HE/FE consistent with Africa's push to make progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?
  • Has there in practice been a stronger emphasis on post-primary education in Africa in recent years?
  • What role have partnerships played in strengthening capacity in the FE and HE sectors?
  • Are there key principles of management and good governance which can be identified as important elements of successful and sustainable partnerships?


13.30 Session A:

Liverpool John Moores University's WoW® initiative and its incorporation into educational programmes in Ghana:  The World of Work (WoW®) initiative at LJMU was introduced to contribute to the overall aims to make the University 'Different by Design' and a 'Business Engaged University'.   In the UK there is a stark reality that over 300,000 students now graduate every year.  Put simply ... that's at least 70 applicants for every graduate job.   The rationale for the implementation of the WoW® initiative was to offer LJMU students more than a degree and to give them the opportunity to develop high level employability skills via the curriculum and through additional training.   In addition to their degree certificate and transcript, the students have the opportunity to attain a WoW® certificate that details their achievements in employability related skills.  WoW® has been devised and developed with employers and is inter-curricular  -  i.e. integral to LJMU programmes and degrees and it is verified and certified by employers themselves.

In the School of the Build Environment the development of employability skills has long been a key driver of curriculum design.   However, the WoW iniviative instigated a thorough curriculum review to make opportunities for their development more explicit and prompted the department to ask itself the question 'How can we improve on this aspect of our delivery?'.

Additionally, in 2009 the School of the Built Environment successfully bid to the British Council, via the England Africa Partnerships (EAP) initiative, for funding for a project to enhance capacity and capability of the Construction Industry in Ghana through knowledge transfer and implementation of academic interventions based on the WoW® initative.

Our presentation explains the WoW® initative further, outlines how the School of the Built Environment adopted the initiative and details the EAP project outcomes to date.

13.30 Session B:

The Practicalities of Implementing Institutional Research into the Employment Destination of Graduating Students

This is a workshop session which examines the experience of the presenter in designing and implementing graduate first destination surveys at the University of Botswana and the University of the South Pacific.   The workshop will outline the rationale and drivers for the first destination studies, explaining the practical steps to be taken in securing valid and reliable data and internationally comparable response rates.   Details of the survey instruments will be explored and the main results highlighted.   Lessons for the future administration of the graduate first destination survey will be raised, as well as how a longitudinal study of 2006 graduates can be conducted using alumni databases for improved employability information about a university's graduates.   The need for triangulation of graduate destination studies with student and employer perceptions of employability will be emphasised.

13.30 Session C:

The International Entrepreneur:  Design for Africa (South Africa)  Project Aim:   This project intends to make teaching methods more effective within the areas of international employability and entrepreneurship, improving collaborative working practice, building the capacity of the curriculum and developing students and graduates who will contribute to the creative and cultural industries sector internationally. 

Mobile Innovation and Enterprise (Uganda)  Project Aim:  The aim of this project is to develop capacity in the teaching of mobile 'phone innovation and entrepreneurship skills at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.

The penetration rate of mobile phones in Africa is growing at around twice the global average.  In Uganda, it is estimated that the number of subscribers is around 10 million  -  30% or the population  -  and this continues to grow.   This has led to innovative uses of mobile phones.   Examples include:  eSoko  -  a mobile phone enabled market information service in Ghana;  mPesa, a mobile banking application in Kenya;  Ushahidi, a mobile & web-map service used to monitor violence following the Kenyan elections in 2008;  and FreedomPhone, an interactive voice response service supporting civil society groups in Zimbabwe.   All of these innovations were generated as African responses to African conditions.   We believe that further advances in the economic and social development of Africa will best be supported by innovations developed by Africans for Africans.

However, there is a desparate shortage of skills to create these innovations.   Teaching of IT skills generally is lacking.   The teaching of innovation and user-centred design is also very sparse.   The Faculty of Computing and Informatics Technology at Makerere University in Uganda is the largest computing department in sub-Saharan Africa, and was the first to add Mobile Computing to its curriculum.   Sheffield Hallam University is a leading institution for interdisciplinary collaboration across design, technology and innovation.   In Mobile Innovation & Enterprise, we have been sharing our complementary expertise, working with students to devise innovations that are novel and locally relevant.  In parallel, we have been building new relationships and partnerships between the two Universities, and between the Universities, industry and Civil Society groups in Uganda.