MAKING THE MOST OF AFRICA’S GRADUATES: THE ACCRA DECLARATION
The following statement was agreed by delegates to the international conference on ‘Making the most of Africa’s Graduates and the Role of International Partnerships, convened by the Association of Commonwealth Universities and British Council and held in Accra from January 16-18 2011. It is addressed to all stakeholders - politicians, educationalists, employers and students.
Universities, technical and further education colleges (hereinafter referred to as ‘the tertiary sector’) have a critical role in furthering social and economic development and thus helping to meet the Millennium Development Goals. The provision of skilled manpower is one of the main ways through which this potential can be realised. Ensuring that our graduates fill this need therefore represents one of the major challenges to the tertiary sector today.
There needs to be a clear and realistic understanding of the role that the tertiary sector can play. Universities and colleges do not inherit a clean sheet of paper as their students have been moulded and influenced by other levels of education. Nor do they produce a finished product. Graduates need to develop, enhance and adjust their skills throughout life to adapt to changing needs. Moreover, what the tertiary sector can achieve is heavily influenced by external conditions, particularly the availability on the one hand of employment opportunities to absorb increasing graduate numbers and on the other hand of environmental / political / financial support for budding entrepreneurs.
Much, however can be achieved through individual, institutional and collegial response. The conference calls for:
1. The tertiary sector to adopt clear policies and strategies to ensure that the needs of graduate employment are fully integrated into the design of course provision, embracing both curriculum design, the development of employment related skills (including soft skills) and the nurturing of an entrepreneurial spirit and capacity;
2. The tertiary sector to maintain clear points of information and advice for their students regarding employment issues as well as channels through which students can voice their concerns and needs;
3. Employers to designate staff with specific responsibility for graduate recruitment and liaison with tertiary institutions;
4. The development of mechanisms at national and local level for continuing dialogue between employers, tertiary institutions and other stakeholders;
5. The development of clear incentives for teaching staff and employers to prioritise graduate employment issues in their work;
6. The development of better mechanisms to survey graduate employment issues, and feed these back into institutional planning;
7. Better use to be made of alumni, diaspora and other contacts in industry, to provide information, advice and mentoring for students;
8. The development of further funding programmes, such as the British Council Africa Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, which provide direct access to industry for graduates and provide a catalyst for further collaboration;
9. The expansion of effective pan-African as well as wider international partnerships and networks (such as the ACU Graduate Employment Network) to develop dialogue between practitioners and facilitate the flow of information regarding job opportunities;
10. The inclusion of graduate employment issues in major future policy debates on higher education.