African universities go international

African universities have identified a need to develop the international dimension of their university administrations. This is currently one of the major constraints to their performance in research and teaching and to their role as development actors. The AUDIS project aims to combat this trend by creating better regional conditions for effective networking and by building the capacity of African universities to develop and carry out internationalisation policies and projects in the teaching and research sectors.

Specifically, the “African Universities International Dimension Strengthening” (AUDIS) project will reinforce the management and financial administration capacity of African Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) by creating and strengthening policies and services related to international relations.

Bringing together the expertise

AUDIS can count on a strong network of twelve African and two European universities, one association of European universities and various African and European associates. The consortium’s major asset is the long networking experience and strong internationalisation expertise of its coordinator, the University of Padova in Italy, and its two European partners, the Coimbra Group and the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.

The consortium will take on the challenge of boosting the international dimension of its African partners. This will be achieved through four joint sets of activities based on extensive inter-institutional networking and sharing of best academic and administrative practices between its African and European partners.

Assessing needs

The AUDIS partnership will hold an initial seminar in Senegal to identify the common issues and training needs of its African partner institutions, with a view to strengthen their capabilities in developing and planning international relations. Based on these problems and needs, proposals will be developed for African HEIs to carry out training projects to enhance their international dimension.

Some of the activities in these training projects will include improving international relations
management and mobility management of students and teaching staff, recognition of diplomas and credit transfer, and fund raising. They will focus on the leading academic and administrative staff of the 12 African partner institutions, who will in turn transfer knowledge and disseminate results to their administrative services and staff.

Putting European training in African practice

Phase 2 of AUDIS will consist of training activities for the African partners’ administrative and academic authorities. The training will take place in Europe on the issues outlined in the needs assessment seminar, based on best practice and a "learning from errors" approach.

In phase 3, the projects developed during the needs assessment seminar will first be launched by means of internal calls for proposals and subsequently carried out by African partner universities.

Finally, AUDIS will organise a three-day seminar in Mozambique to present and discuss the action’s outcomes and to evaluate and disseminate results. In addition to AUDIS partners and associates, it will involve non-partner African HEIs, relevant ministries and international agencies. The major goal of this final seminar will be to share best practices and spread the improvements to other African HEIs.

Making an impact on higher education in Africa

A concrete result of the AUDIS project will be an improved capacity of the partners’ International Relations Offices to set up collaborative programmes and develop curricula that are international in perspective, organise student and staff exchanges, apply for international (including EU) project funds and scholarships, and administrate international programmes.

Yet more important, AUDIS partners believe that their project will have a considerable impact on the political level by enhancing awareness and commitment of African higher education systems to networking and international education. It will reinforce the role of international services in their university structures and make regional cooperation a strategic objective of their academic activities.

In this way, AUDIS will contribute to overcome the isolation of African HEIs in the international academic community by transforming the existing traditional systems of bilateral relations between the African and European HEIs into a network of horizontal and multilateral relations, both at regional and international level.

Setting up joint or network projects will help African HEIs overcome their limited resources for research and teaching projects. This will allow African HEIs and the relevant ministries of their countries to plan their activities on an international scale and to play a more active role in the international scientific debate.

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