The University of Rwanda and the Association of African Universities will host the University-Industry Linkages Conference with the theme “Promoting University Advancement through Industrial Linkages and External Partnerships” from 14th to16th October 2015.
The three-day consultative will bring together participants from Africa, Canada and Europe, as well as champions of industry in Africa to share extensive experiences for the furtherance and enhancement of linkages of African universities with their external stakeholders.
Universities are recognised as centres for knowledge creation and innovation, which are drivers for technological advancement in societies. Through partnerships and linkages with external stakeholders, universities endeavour to identify opportunities, societal needs and challenges that can be addressed through the application of their knowledge and competencies.
In Africa, although there are a few good examples of technologies and businesses that have been nurtured in African universities in partnership with entrepreneurs and governments, it is known that generally many African countries lack the enabling environment for their universities to sustain these synergic partnerships. But there are examples of other countries, such as Malaysia and South Korea, which have enacted good policies around knowledge creation and capacity building in developing a critical mass of Science, Technology and Innovation Systems. They are therefore not only able to adopt and adapt technology transferred from developed countries but also generate new technologies from within.
Given this background situation, in 2010, the Association of African Universities (AAU), in collaboration with the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) and with funding from the Department of Foreign Aid, Trade and Development of Canada, commissioned a scoping survey to map the extent and nature of such university-stakeholder relationships in Africa. The responses from the 133 universities surveyed confirmed that some steps were being implemented to stimulate as well as deepen university linkages with the productive sector, but also revealed that many of the institutions lacked complementary and supportive policies and mechanisms to regulate these interactions.
It was in that context that the AAU commissioned follow-up studies on the subject matter to find out what was additionally needed to provide a strengthened and more comprehensive platform to promote, build and manage these linkages. The findings identified strong government support, the development of institutional capacity, relevant research and training, and the enhancement of communication between universities and industry as some of the factors that could strengthen such partnerships.
The AAU is organizing this high profile consultative workshop to validate the findings of three of its commissioned reports on university-industry collaboration, as well as to synergize experiences and good practices from universities in the North and South on strategies adopted by them in building and sustaining partnerships between and among themselves (i.e. North-South and South-South), and with external stakeholders, including but not limited to the private sector, civil society and the State. The workshop will also provide an opportunity to the external stakeholders for sharing information about their successes on engagement with universities, and strategies that they gauge will boost their collaboration with African academic and research institutions.
The expected outcomes of the workshop include:
- Greater awareness of the needs and capabilities of the various stakeholders to foster enhanced networking for synergetic relationships;
- Successful strategies to harness the potential of university research and education to the benefits of industry and other relevant social actors;
- The importance of developing favourable policy frameworks that enable R&D partnerships to flourish;
- The importance of leveraging university policies with stakeholder (government, industry, civil society, etc.) strategies towards national development; and
- A range of adaptable strategies for African universities to produce quality outputs (e.g. graduates, research findings, teaching) to foster stronger external stakeholder relations.
AAU is the apex organization and forum for consultation, exchange of information and co-operation among institutions of higher education in Africa. It represents the voice of higher education in Africa on regional and international bodies and supports networking by institutions of higher education in teaching, research, information exchange and dissemination. The Association has provided a platform for research, reflection, consultation, debates, co-operation and collaboration on issues pertaining to higher education. It has provided a range of services to its members and served African higher education in a variety of ways. It has established and increased its role in the five sub-regions of Africa and is thus able, at reasonable notice, to assemble teams of experts in relevant fields from the sub-regions.
The Association possesses a unique capacity to convene higher education institutional leaders and policy-makers from all parts of the continent and on key issues related to African higher education and development, as demonstrated in the WTO/GATS workshop held in Ghana in April 2004. In addition, the Association provides leadership in the identification of emerging issues and support for debating them and facilitating appropriate follow-up action by its members, partners and other stakeholders.
The University of Rwanda is a singular, multi-campus institution offering a wide range of academic studies. As such, it will provide opportunities for students to pursue a variety of programs - some that are quite specialized in nature, others that are multi-disciplinary and/or problem-based in focus - and to undertake their studies at different locations across the country, both through classes at designated campuses and through access to distance learning.