Annika Sundbäck from CIMO welcomes Alice Lamptey, a keynote speaker of the seminar and Co-ordinator of the ADEA Working Group on Higher Education. Photo: Petra Helenius / CIMO.

Higher education strengthens capacity in developing countries

A seminar organised by CIMO brought almost 200 participants to the Finlandia Hall to learn more about The Role of Higher Education in Capacity Building in Developing Countries. Among the participants were representatives of higher education institutions and public administration as well as delegates from developing countries and, for the first time, from civil society.

Jorma Julin, Director General of the Department for Development Policy at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs talked about the implications for higher education of Finland’s new Development Policy Programme. “There is an increased role for higher education within the programme”, Julin said. “Higher education is involved in creating an information society in the developing countries, too, and it also plays a significant role in building up capacity at other levels of education. What’s more, Finnish higher education institutions have a great deal of expertise in environmental issues. This expertise is much needed.”

The guiding light of Finland’s Development Policy Programme is that ownership in any collaboration is always in the developing country. In the seminar, this was also underlined by the founding member of the International Network for Higher Education in Africa (INHEA) Damtew Teferra.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs supports cooperation between higher education institutions in Finland and developing countries through North–South–South and HEI ICI programmes, both managed by CIMO and funded from Finnish development appropriations.

“A peaceful and prosperous Africa through higher education”

“Higher education in Africa is entering a new phase: while societies develop, higher education becomes more international”, said James Otieno Jowi from the African Network for Internationalization of Education (ANIE).

In her presentation, Alice Sena Lamptey, Co-ordinator of the ADEA Working Group on Higher Education highlighted the current state of higher education in Africa. The Association for Development of Education in Africa acts as a discussion forum, provides information and promotes the sharing of good practice among African nations. Finland’s participation in ADEA working groups is coordinated by CIMO.

“In 2006, the African Union published a continent-wide policy programme on higher education, and in 2009, UNESCO’s World Conference on Higher Education focused on Africa. We strive to build peace and prosperity through higher education”, said Lamptey. The higher education sector in Africa mainly comprises state-funded universities, but the number of private institutions is growing rapidly. Services provided by non-African institutions are also increasing.

“We have a number of concerns, too”, Lamptey added, calling for curricula that are relevant to the world of work and noting the small number of female students in African universities. “While we need significantly more partnerships with the private sector, it is extremely positive that knowledge has taken the place of natural resources as the key to developing Africa further.”

The opening words of the seminar were delivered by Juha Ketolainen, Assistant Director at CIMO for Higher Education. Photo: Petra Helenius / CIMO

“More national and Nordic co-operation”

The greetings of the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture were brought by Counsellor of Education Tiina Vihma-Purovaara, who stressed the role of cooperation. A similar message emerged from the workshops of the seminar: more collaboration is needed on a national level between various actors and sectors; good practice must be shared to a greater extent; networking has to be encouraged; and there is a great need for more discussion forums. Tove Kvil, Senior Adviser from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) spoke warmly of Nordic collaboration.

The audience raised joint degree programmes as a tangible example of successful cooperation. Collaboration is also promoted by the UniPID network of 10 Finnish universities (The Finnish University Partnership for International Development).

The seminar is expected to foster various forms of collaboration. It is also hoped that there will be more involvement in the future by the private sector and the civil society.

(VZ 6/2012)