THE Committee of Vice-Chancellors and College Principals Tanzania (CVCPT) organised the 5th Higher Education Forum recently in Arusha region whose theme was 'University-Industry Linkages: Prospects of Sustainable Quality Higher Education in Tanzania."
Several development stakeholders attended and a lot were discussed. Our Correspondent who was there explains... MOST experts today agree on the need to strengthen university- industry linkages in order to achieve sustainable social economic development.
In their 2012 research titled "Strengthening University- Industry Linkages in Africa: A Study of Institutional Capacities and Gaps", Association of African Universities (AAU) recognises higher education institutions as essential contributors to economic development through their role in producing the knowledge, skills, and innovations needed to drive their respective national economies.
According to this research there is a need to create a strong interface between this educational sub-sector and the productive sector that requires the skills and knowledge of graduates from universities and other higher education institutions in their enterprises to increase productivity.
In addition to producing work-ready graduates for the job market, higher education institutions, particularly universities also play a pivotal role in conducting research and incubating scientific and technological innovations that promote real and sustained economic growth and social development.
It is this reason that the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and College Principals Tanzania (CVCPT) decided to organise the 5th Higher Education Forum recently in Arusha region whose theme was 'University-Industry Linkages: Prospects of Sustainable Quality Higher Education in Tanzania."
That the government announced that it is ready to support more initiatives that will form and strengthen linkages between universities and industries in Tanzania, was a good sign and something commendable. The Minister of Education and Vocational Training, Dr Shukuru Kawambwa said that the government through his Ministry will take the lead in making the best use of the recommendations in order to improve university- industry linkages in the country.
"I hope that CVCPT and other stakeholders in the industry will join my ministry in making the best use of the recommendations as part of strengthening the existing strategies to improve university-industry linkages in our country," he said. Dr Kawambwa said that the government through various reform programmes has not underemphasized the role of industry in supporting sustainable quality education.
He called upon CVCPT to make sure such forums are sustainable for the good of education system in Tanzania and the country's socio-economic development. "I also call upon vice-chancellors in the country to make sure that they attend such forums in big number in the future," he said. The Executive Secretary of the Inter-University Council for East Africa, Prof. Mayunga Nkunya said that his organisation is supporting the development of academia and private sector partnerships.
He said that various initiatives by the IUCEA would involve the Government, Academia and the Private Sector working together through consultative engagement in curriculum and research development; and developing linkages between higher education institutions and the private sector in areas that include private sector support to curriculum development and reform, in research and innovations.
The Director of the Department of Higher Education at the Ministry of Education and Vocation Training, Prof. Sylvia Temu said that university-industry linkages should be initiated from the top. "It is time that Vice-Chancellors should go out and meet with members of industries and companies and exchange notes," she said. She said that her ministry supports the linkages and that is one way that knowledge will productively put into use.
The CVCPT Chairperson, Prof. Josephat Itika expressed appreciation for financial support from Tanzania Commission of Universities, Tanzania Investment Bank and Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority. "We sincerely assure you that we shall make the best value of your contributions and account accordingly," he said.
Giving reasons why there should be such linkages, the Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU) Deputy Executive Secretary, Prof. Magishi Mgasa said that university and industry can act as complementary organisations to share resources to achieve a common goal. He also said that linkage would permit the flow of much needed funding to carry out research in universities and make use of industry experience in teaching.
Also during the forum, dons in the country emphasised a crucial role of higher learning institutions in realising a successful implementation of the government's ambitious 'Big Results Now' initiative (BRN). BRN was inaugurated by President Jakaya Kikwete in February this year and it aims at adopting new methods of working under a specified timeframe for delivery.
Talking during the forum, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Finance and Administration at Mzumbe University, Prof. Faustin Kamuzora said universities are linked with government and productive sectors which are major implementers of BRN. He said that the success of the BRN is so important since a number of jobs will be created and some of these jobs will be taken by universities graduates.
"In other words, it is in best interest of the universities to participate in success of BRN as citizens but most importantly as getting decent job to their graduates," he said. There are six sectors targeted under the BRN initiative and these include education, energy, agriculture, transport, water, and resource mobilisation.
For Education sector, BRN aims at improving performance of lower level of education which are pre, primary and secondary schools. The BRN seeks to create performance transparency, motivate through incentives, provide support where needed the most and improve the teacher conditions. Specifically, the sector aims to raise the quality of basic education, and has set a very ambitious target to improve pass rates in primary and secondary schools to 60 per cent in 2013, 70 per cent in 2014 and 80 per cent in 2015. Prof. Sylvia Temu said that higher education has a major role to play in realisation of BRN.
"Universities should support BRN by producing high quality teachers," Prof. Temu who was talking on behalf of the Ministry's Permanent Secretary said. She said that in line with that, universities should also prepare themselves to receive students from secondary schools. She explained that while the government needs 25,000 science teachers only 2,000 are produced per annum.
"This is a challenge for higher learning institutions... it must be tackled if we want to successfully implement BRN," she said. The general objective of CVCPT forums has been to create a platform for sharing knowledge, skills and experiences among higher education institutions and other key stakeholders on various pertinent issues that affect higher education and human capital development in the country. CVCPT was established under section 53 of the Universities Act, No.7 of 2005.
Members of CVCPT include Vice-Chancellors, Principals and Provosts of all public and private Universities and University Colleges and the Executive Secretary of the Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU). Mzumbe University as a current chair of CVCPT has been organising the forum on behalf of CVCPT for two years now.