Last week, the Partnership for Skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET) held the first ever regional benchmarking and capacity building workshop, the aim of which was to promote benchmarking as a tool for improving quality in African higher education.

Hoping to identify what happens to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students after graduation from Sub-Saharan universities, a ‘spinoff’ of the initiative, backed by the World Bank, will track the graduate destinations of this particular cohort to see how well African education providers are preparing students for the real-world labour market.

Already, this picture is a little clearer following a pilot study carried out in February this year, reports University World News.

Despite this, initial results from the capacity building workshop revealed that some of the 48 participating universities were not in possession of a complete set of data, leaving experts unable to form a fully representative picture of institutional strengths and weaknesses.

Jamil Salmi, global tertiary education expert and former co-ordinator of the World Bank’s tertiary education programme, told University World News that the institutions involved in the study had already established measures to collate the missing data.

“Not all universities have a good sense of what happens to their graduates after they leave university,” Salmi told University World News in an interview following the workshop. He claims that keeping tabs on former students is a crucial piece of information with regards to tracking those universities high student drop-out rates.

“These results will provide a template for African universities to improve their performance. They will use the same results to identify their strengths and weaknesses,” Salmi concludes.

The two-day Abuja workshop was established by the World Bank Education Team for Sub-Saharan Africa, in collaboration with the Association of African Universities and the National Universities Commission of Nigeria. The event was attended by representatives of 42 universities from 20 different countries in the region.

“The programme brings together African Governments, the private sector, education institutions, development partners, businesses outside the continent and new partners that include Brazil, China, Korea and India to build a flow of priority skills from the technical-vocational level to the postgraduate level in the region,” writes University World News.

Benchmarking is a fundamental tool for quality assurance in higher education, giving universities the chance for voluntary self-assessment against sets of key indicators, and providing a method for strengthening the quality of STEM knowledge transfer that has already been trialled around the world.

The World Bank believes that measuring institutional performance in terms of STEM subjects is necessary for African regions seeking to build human capital within their economies, according to University World News.

Additional reporting by University World News.

Image via StockPhotoSecrets.

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