Higher Education

atiti's picture

JOIN NOW! 8th Global RCE Conference Higher Education Discussion Group

Welcome to the 2013 Global RCE Conference Higher Education Discussion Group! Please join in the pre-conference discussions today by sharing your thoughts on the topics you feel most need to be addressed in the group meeting during the Global Conference in Nairobi.

Higher Education


RCEzinaida's picture

Dear colleagues,

Global policies as well as local institutions are paying more attention to the scaling of sustainability initiatives. As the overall goal for the Global Action Programme on ESD, which serves as a follow-up of the UN Decade on ESD (2014), UNESCO currently announced ‘to generate and scale-up actions in all levels and areas of education and learning in order to accelerate progress towards sustainable development’. The Rio+20 Treaty on Higher Education calls for a transformation and more structured knowledge sharing in the higher education area (2012).

National policy makers, such as the Austrian Ministry of Science and Research that contacted RCE Graz for the assistance in this matter, are seeking sources of information to learn from adaptive practices about the role higher education can play to scale sustainability initiatives. That is why we suggest that in preparation for the Nairobi Conference discussion on higher education, we will explore the idea of scalability of sustainability initiatives in the science-society interface’ leading, eventually, to the formulation of an RCEs research project.

The aim of this online discussion, discussion in Nairobi as well as some follow up interactions is to identify the demand, challenges and potentials of scaling local and regional sustainability initiatives at the science-society interface. These insights shall provide the basis for further research on framework conditions that can support the up-scaling of science-society co-operations, hence expanding the impact towards sustainable development and taking regional and cultural contexts into consideration.

At the Higher Education session in Nairobi, we like to focus on the role and possibilities of Higher Education institutions within the RCE network and how they can enable the scalability of regional sustainability initiatives.

Your ideas on the ways for the discussion to progress are very welcome! In addition, we are happy to consider various other ideas for discussion, let us try to align all of our interests.
RCEmaderm's picture

Dear colleagues,

Many thanks for your suggestions to structure the HE session, Zinaida!

As sustainability in the science-society interface requires transdisciplinary expertise, we like to invite both people from Higher Education as well as experts from the field, who have profound knowledge about the respective regional sustainability challenges.
There are so many great projects within our RCEs community and we should use this potential to scale our initiatives! On the one hand it can be the case that existing project ideas are being picked up and implemented by other partners, or on the other hand can the results and experiences of particular projects impact initiatives at another level (e.g. national or global policy). We like to focus our discussion on the science-society interface as we do think that societal actors best know about their particular needs and challenges, and researcher know how to conceptualise, seek for innovations and synthesise scaling opportunities.

Hence we like to begin our discussion by sharing our ideas and experiences in the field of scalability of sustainability initiatives in the science-society interface, by raising following questions:
1. What do you see as the most pressing sustainability challenges in your respective region where scaling can play a role?
2. What opportunities/potentials do universities have to engage with society in order to meet these challenges?
3. What is your experience in science-society collaborations? What worked well, what didn't?
4. Do you know any project or initiative in the science-society interface that has been scaled-up? Where do you see potentials for scaling? Please shortly explain.

Your thoughts on any of these questions are welcome! We especially like to invite actors from outside HE to focus on questions 1 and 2.

Looking very much forward to your responses!
See you soon in Nairobi! Best, Marlene
Evans Kipngeno's picture


Thank for your observations on education structure and inputs. I just would like to add a comment. A while ago i posted a comment on role of universities in African market economies, and i said that African universities at the moment are dormant and are not seen as playing a positive role in research and innovation even in employer market demands. I posed a question what is wrong with our universities? Yes, they are established on themes of innovation and research, but are they playing this role in graduate production? The answer is NO. We need to demystify the role of universities in the society and economy as whole and get rid what the society does not need. We cans discuss that. Looking forward.
RCEmaderm's picture

Dear Evans,
thank you for sharing your thoughts. You mention that universities in Africa are not fulfilling their role in preparing students for the job market and do not contribute to societal development. Have other institutions in Africa taken over this role (education & research)? Where do innovations then come from? And what do you think could be the solution?

Dear colleagues from Africa, how do you see the role of universities in Africa?
Looking forward to this discussion!

Best regards, Marlene
RCEzinaida's picture

Dear colleagues,
Salvador from RCE Western Jalisco (Mexico) has shared (through email exchange) an exciting example from practices of the RCE, including these of the University of Guadalajara. I would like to bring here a summary of the initiative (done by Marlene) to keep the discussion together. I hope that Salvator will soon join us on the Portal himself.
The university has developed engagements with the society, including youth leading, among other activities to creation of the sustainability study programs.

Media (the two radio stations) played a crucial role in raising awareness for social and environmental issues and turned out to be a successful tool for linking university with societal concerns.
The idea of the radio programs was followed by a variety of other activities that aimed at advancing social participation and ESD; such as workshops, fairs, bike rides, etc.
This initiative really seems to be a successful example how universities can address societal demands and engage with various regional stakeholders.
It would be wonderful to explore the critical factors influencing development of the initiative – something that Salvador can elaborate very shortly, we hope!
RCEnizhnynovgorod's picture

It seems to be an interesting discussion. We (Prof. Andrey Dakhin and myself) are also preparing.
Goolam Mohamedbhai's picture

Hi Everybody! Just joined the online pre-conference discussion on HE. In my view there are 3 major challenges that HE faces in Africa and all 3 can be addressed by RCEs to some extent.

1. We know that there needs to be a greater output of graduates in S&T in Africa - at the moment HE graduates are largely in humanities and social sciences. But the problem is a lack of applicants with good science qualifications from the secondary school level. Why? I think it has to do with the way science is taught in schools. The approach is too theoretical and pupils are not made to relate science to day to day activities. I know there is a separate area of Teacher Training in the RCE discussion but this has a direct impact on HE. Since RCEs involve all levels of education, this is a matter that can be looked at.

2. There is a disconnect between HE and rural development and yet rural areas is where the bulk of SD challenges have to be addressed. Whether in teaching or research or community engagement, HEIs must relate to the rural communities. Again, RCEs can help to do that.

3. Finally, there is the spectre of graduate unemployment, which by all indication is quite high in Africa. For growth to be maintained (Africa has not done too badly over the past decade) the graduate unemployment situation must be improved. This requires HE and all stakeholders of society (especially business and industry) to get together to resolve the problem. RCEs are ideal for that.

RCEmaderm's picture

Dear Goolam,
thank you for sharing your view on challenges of HE in Africa!
You mention that HE in Africa is confronted with 3 major challenges: 1. lack of graduates in S&T, 2. not enough efforts of HE to engage with rural communities and their needs, and 3. unemployment of academics.
Do our African colleagues know about initiatives how to tackle these challenges; initiatives that could be scaled up? And do our colleagues from other continents have similar experiences? Thanks for your interest! Best, Marlene
RCEgreaterdhaka's picture

Professor Alimullah Miyan, President of the RCE Greater Dhaka has postulates a concept Knowledge-based Area Development (KBAD) to provide opportunity to all especially the dis-advantageous poor, this is an unique way to support the youths the strongest force to make skilled human capital. I have submitted the model and its success for human resource development with skilled with sustainable practices for Awards. You can also follow this. Professor Miyan is attending the 8th Global RCE Conference and you can discuss with him.
RCEkakamegawesternkenya's picture

A great model prof Miyah.we look forward to discussing more about this model.
RCEgreaterdhaka's picture

Professor Alimullah Miyan, President of the RCE Greater Dhaka postulated a concept Knowledge-Based Area Development (KBAD) to provide opportunity to all for higher education, especially, the dis-advantageous poor; this is an unique way to support the youths, the strongest force, to make skilled human capital. I have submitted the model and its success in human resource development with skilled with sustainable practices for RCE Awards. You can also follow this. Professor Miyan is attending the 8th Global RCE Conference and you can discuss with him.
RCEmaderm's picture

Dear Prof. Mohammed Ataur Rahman,
thank you very much for sharing the KBAD concept! It is a great contribution to our discussion as this concept contains many aspects of up-scaling. We are very much looking forward to further discuss the KBAD project with you online as well as personally in Nairobi and to learn more about it; also where you have identified challenges in the implementation and strengths of your concept, and how others could learn form your experiences.
Thank you! Best, Marlene
Evans Kipngeno's picture

Thank you Maderm and Goolam for your inputs in this.

I take note of Goolam;s views especially the one of disconnect between HE and rural development. Mr Goolam seems to have captured the main problems facing university sectors in Africa. I would just like to respond further on questions posed by Maderm, and she asked if thee are other universities in Africa with same problem, for this one, i suggest we hear other views as well from other members of the group, so we do a surgery of the extent of this problem in the region. In the meantime, i would wish to respond further to another question posed by Maderm, that where do innovations then come from?

It is a difficult question ,and i cannot out rightly suggest that we have no innovations, we have innovations but you would be surprised that the innovations we have in Kenya, are largely not attributed to any graduate from any university in Kenya. We have a sector called 'Jua Kali Sector' This is an industry that largely comes from people from poor family background who have decided to innovate their own items for sale in a domestic market, and this market is interesting, it captures the lowest earners in the economy. If you visit this area, you will find that they sale hurricane lumps, charcoal stoves and many other items which have been improved. The interesting part here is that, these artisans do not come from any university in Kenya, yet they have innovated and have produced market oriented products that sale to community here. So the big question we are asking here whereas these community in local industry have produced innovative items for lower earners, where are our graduates that are said to be in universities of Research and Innovation? That is the big question.

Another disconnect is the graduate production viz a ziz employer market demand. Now employers are going for middle level college graduates, because the course content in the middle level colleges satisfy employer market demand in innovative ventures as compared to any graduate from university. Inadequate research faculties also have to do with lack of graduate production skills in university sector, and i shall give examples, we have a university here called Moi University. It is 300 kms west of Nairobi. Recently it advertised for courses in aeronautical and air space engineering. Now they have two aircraft for training, but they have no training field for plane to land and have no control tower where students could get flying experiences. The commission for higher education is the regulator of all universities here, and i was thinking they should have closed this department till the university, attains international aviation standards before they could offer any aviation courses. But they have not. There are other problems as well here, you will find that a student is undertaking a civil and structural engineering course but the location of the university is so remote and there are no research faculties that the student could use to gain more skills and knowledge. Civil and Structural Engineering students, need expanding urban and industrial sector, that is where they could get involved in structural designs that could offer them opportunity to gain skill. Students doing courses in environmental Engineering at Moi University have to come all the way to Nairobi to use KENYA FORESTRY RESEARCH INSTITUTE FACILITIES. students doing Agricultural Courses at Masinded Muliro University which is 400 kms west of Nairobi also travel same distance to access research faculties at Kenya Agricultural Research Institute in Nairobi. Universities should develop a partnership agreements with industries,where they fall short of research facilities they could use industrial sector facilities to train their students, and in turn the industries could strike a deal with the universities to use the student to perform industrial tasks in return for the exchange of the training facilities.

Do we have Higher Education Regulators in other universities in Africa? i think we do, is it possible to invite them as well so we may get their perspective on this matter?

So we can largely say we have a problem an we need to discuss this and explore ways to deal with it.
Eric Velandria's picture

Dear Zinaida and colleagues,
Greetings from RCE Northern Mindanao, Philippines. I tried accessing the website in order to participate in the online discussions via the RCE Portal; unfortunately, I have yet to await the issuance of the
password to log-in (I've just emailed the RCE service center now).

Meanwhile, allow me to share some thoughts about the questions posed by Zinaidada, namely:

1. What do you see as the most pressing sustainability challenges in your respective region where scaling can play a role?

RCE Northern Mindanao is situated in a largely agricultural-based
region which has the highest incidence of out-of-school youth and poverty in the Philippines. Peace and Order is also a challenge. RCE Northern Mindanao, lodged in Xavier University, identified five key
priority areas to promote regional sustainable development: peace; governance; environment; health; food security. Education is the
platform for addressing the five priority areas of sustainable development.

2. What opportunities/potentials do universities have to engage with
society in order to meet these challenges?

The University's colleges of Education, Medicine, Nursing, Engineering, Arts and Sciences, Agriculture, Business Management are
all involved in realizing the vision of a food-secure, climate change resilient, and sustainable Mindanao. The faculty members and students are engaged in the initiatives pertinent to the five thematic areas through the service learning program.
Local communities have been adopted by the University; these serve as service learning laboratories of both students and faculty; most service learning programs are held in the adopted communities.
Researches on the five themes are encouraged and funded by the University.

Besides collaborating with the different colleges and institutes of Xavier University itself, RCE NorMin also partners with national and local government agencies as well as other educational institutions,
private organizations and agencies from the Philippines and abroad.
The Department of Interior and Local Government; the Department of Education; the Department of Science and Technology; the National Institute of Health; the Department of Energy are some of the national
agencies we partner with.
The Catholic Relief Services and ChildFund
are examples of international agencies that collaborate with us.
Private foundations and individuals also provide support and direction.

3. What is your experience in science-society collaborations? What
worked well, what didn't?

The experience of collaboration has been very positive. For example,
our partnership with the Department of Energy enables the University's
research program on biofuels specifically bioethanols a source of
renewable energy. Likewise, partnership with the National Institute
of Health allows us (through researches) to influence local
legislation for health and development in Mindanao. The Bureau of
Fisheries and Aquatic Resources recognized the University's role in
the integrated coastal management of the Macajalar Bay (which is in
the environs of the University).

4. Do you know any project or initiative in the science-society
interface that has been scaled-up? Where do you see potentials for

In addition to those mentioned in #3 above, the University's College
of Engineering and College of Agriculture have helped some farming and
fishing communities in some municipalities through the provision of
maps using the Geographic Information System (GIS) technology. More can be done.
Initiatives to improve literacy levels, increase participation rates, and significantly reduce drop-out rates among public schoolchildren
have been done through teacher training (professional development of public school teachers). Much more should, and can, be done regarding this.

Our initiatives pertinent to Disaster Risk Reduction and Management;
capability building on local governance; and all other ongoing projects pertinent to the themes of health, food security, etc are important and can be "scaled-up".

There really is much to do! I trust and thank that the global RCE network is a
viable and helpful resource in helping us address varied sustainable
development concerns.

Warm regards. Hope this helps!
RCEzinaida's picture

Dear Erik, dear colleagues, I wonder if there is a chance to explore what characteristics of your universities or environment where they operate enabled some of these important practices? Is it governance, leadership, types of quality assessment or promotion structure? Is it a successful partnership or regulation? And how these elements interplay to enable creativity, work with regions that most needy, e.g. rural areas indicated by Evans and Goolam? Can we try to ‘dive’ into some of the successful stories while seeing how to better engage the RCEs in addressing challenges?
RCElusaka's picture

Dear Eric
Your comments are very valid and can be adoptated and implemented by all RCEs. Thank you.
RCEjoshermans's picture

Dear all,

I have read this discussion with interest. Perhaps I can add some thoughts and suggestions.
To answer one of Zinaida's questions: in my opinion it is very rarely a university or government that comes up with innovative ideas. It is almost always individual genius within a school, or organization that gives the impulse to really step forward. But the organization in which this person is active can create, even stimulate a climate in which individuals are invited to develop and present their ideas. I think that one of the critical success factors in innovations is that the HR-management leads to a continuous challenge for staff to step forward with new propositions.
As to another matter that was raised in this discussion: I think that universities and other knowledge institutions have several missions, of which the scientific one is most important. But they also have a regional reason-of-being. A university can justify its existence by serving regional goals and needs as good as possible. And these regional goals are not only economical but also social, technical and cultural. Seen from this view Goolam is completely right when he sees the challenge for universities as holistic. As a matter of fact we have recently developed, with a group, an idea to promote and support the establishment of regional training centres for vocational education on all levels in upcoming countries. We will discuss this idea in the working group of Sustainable Consumption and Production to start with in Nairobi.
One last reply to a question from Zinaida about good practices: Very recently we have been awarded in Europe an important grant of about 1 mln dollars by the European union for carrying out an idea to enable universities in Western Europe an Russia (Volga Basin) to establish a Masters Degree in Social Entrepreneurship. This masters-program will be eligible not only for bachelors in Economics but from all study-programs. Candidates are sought in the Volga Region to come up with their own ideas for initiating new companies that will have regional relevance. They will be schooled in a Business Incubator-type of training-surrounding. If there would be interest for this idea (to copy it) I would have no problem in explaining more about this at the Nairobi-conference.
Hope this was useful.

Greetings from Holland.
Jos Hermans
Evans Kipngeno's picture

Mr. Joshermans, thanks for your input on this topic.
Let me suggest that innovation is about 'breaking the rules'
'IT IS ABOUT BREAKING AN EXISTING INNOVATIVE IDEA TO CREATE ANOTHER IN ITS PLACE'. The current prevailing systems in institutions, do not generally permit this idea of breaking the rules. What am i saying here? Whenever a student in university is employed and wish to bring in a new innovative venture to the sector, he or she will find that the same systems that he or she wish to introduce the new idea, are all closed systems, and do not permit any new designed system. It means the student or rather in this context the new 'employee' full of new innovative ideas, will not have the chance and opportunity to actually introduce his idea. If he wishes to do so, he has to make formal request to the management of the institution he is working in, to first do away with the prevailing systems so as to introduce his new concept of innovation. That request may not leave to see the light of the day, because usually it takes years for the board to approve such new venture, and most employers may not welcome any new innovative idea as they see it as threat to their livelyhoods in the sector.

Thus innovative ideas can generally exist within research oriented institutions. The ideas may be generated and sold or exported to other institutions on business level. It means an idea is invented in a research center, and exported to other consumers. What doeas this mean? It means that innovative graduate students who get employment in institutions other than research oriented institutions, cannot bring in any new innovative venture to their institution. This then discourages the passion and will of the innovator to pursue the idea wihtin that set-up. In kenya there is a money transfer service called MPESA. This idea was not innovated by a person in research institution. It came from one individual who sold the idea to Safaricom, and safaricom used it to introduce the money transfer service which is now the most popular mobile money transfer to have been known and introduced at that level. So there are many persons with many new innovative ideas, but cannnot exhibit or sell them to any instituion because that forum to do so does not exhist here, and even if it doea exist, the capacitiy for the innovator to convene an exhibiton platform may not be there, thus the innovative idea is let go like that and disappears without any trace again. The fact then remains that we have innovators but are not in any research oriented institutions, how do we bring them on board to achieve their dreams? Two, how can our employers be encouraged to open up their closed systems at work place, to accomodate new innovative ideas for her new employees?
Three, research has indicated that, for every five new employment sectors created, there has to be one research centre to help sort out employer problems that may emerge that relates to either marketing problems, procurement problems, manufacting complications, crop production inhibitor phenomenas, policy malfunction and industrial process complications. We have very few research centres ratio as compared to employer institutions.
RCEdublin's picture

Interesting discussions here straddling many different dimensions, disciplines and levels within higher education. Here in Dublin City University we have just come to the end of a three year EU Tempus funded initiative that aimed to Reorient Curricula in Higher Education towards sustainability (RUCAS) project. This initiative was coordinated by Prof. Vassilis Makrakis, UNESCO Chair, from the University of Crete, and has resulted in the reorientation of circa 150 different courses from over 11 institutions with the EU and across the Middle East. An online ESD toolkit for up-skilling staff in ESD was created, which may be of interest to partners within RCEs infusing sustainability within their institutions... More information on Tempus RUCAS is available from Prof. Makrakis at RCE Crete.