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close this bookThe Courier N° 119 Jan - Febr 1990 - Dossier National Languages - Country Report: Gambia (EC Courier, 1990, 100 p.)
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Cooperation between ACP and EEC institutions and universities

by Jean-Pierre DUBOIS

Inter-university cooperation has been the main type of inter-institutional cooperation in the Community’s relations with the developing world. Both are aimed at institutional support and at getting European and Third World establishments to exchange their experiences in training and research. Both the support and the exchange may be in the form of European technical assistance with local training and research, exchanges of students and staff, study grants and the publication and dissemination of information, with the delivery of teaching materials and equipment.

On the Community side, it was 1987 before ERASMUS, the European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students, was launched. It covers student exchanges, although of course staff exchanges and the joint designing of syllabuses with a view to the mutual recognition of diplomas are extremely important for European integration too. As things stand, the advantages of ERASMUS cannot be offered to students or teachers in third countries (Third World included).

The Community introduced inter-institutional cooperation with the Third World only recently, although bilateral cooperation by former colonial powers was started, with schemes to suit the demands of universities in the Third World, as soon as independence came. The Community has altered its basic regulations and relaxed its procedures in relations with the ACPs to take account of requests both from Third World establishments wanting to improve their teaching and research potential, better their management or give a more practical turn to their activities and from European establishments seeking new programmes, study grants for foreign students and subsidies now that higher education budgets in the Community countries are being slowly cut back, particularly in the United Kingdom.

The instruments which the Community has for cooperation of this sort are vast and geared to their objectives in various ways.

The Community has also begun to provide indirect support for inter-institutional and inter-university cooperation with the countries of Latin America and Asia recently as part of its implementation of heading 9 340 of the Community budget (training schemes for nationals of the developing countries of Latin America and Asia).

Budget heading 930 (financial and technical cooperation with the countries of Latin America and Asia) has already enabled the Community to finance a considerable amount of institutional support and training schemes in agriculture, cooperative development, and cooperation in industry and technology, in some cases in the form of inter-institutional cooperation.

And, with budget heading 947 (support for European training institutions for the benefit of developing country nationals) the Commission is trying to offer increasing support with transferring courses taught in Europe to the developing nations and forge links between institutions in the Community and the Third World. This budget heading got ECU 1 100 000 in 1988.

Science and Technology for Development, the Community’s research drive aimed at helping the developing world, has been the opportunity for two sub-programmes (on tropical agriculture and medicine, health and nutrition) to be run since 1983, with a view to backing up research in institutes in Europe and the developing countries. Some of this had been inter-institutional cooperation (see article by T. Wollersen in n° 118).

Lastly, many training schemes have been financed under the Community’s bilateral cooperation agreements with the countries south and east of the Mediterranean. This had included cooperation on industrial technology and agricultural and medical research between research institutes and universities in Europe and in such countries as Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

All these instruments are, generally speaking, well suited to the aims of the cooperation which they are intended to pursue.

Lom and II

As far as the ACPs are concerned, it is the successive Lomonventions which provide the general framework for inter-institutional cooperation.

The Community has always financed training schemes in the ACPs. It began mainly with infrastructure and equipment, but the trend has shifted over the past years and there is a noticeable and sustained increase in technical assistance and study grants.

The pattern of recent years also shows the Community financing fewer and fewer education and training projects in relation to all other projects. At the same time, higher, technical and university education in the ACPs is getting more support.

All this exactly matches the aid policy trends of other funders, as the World Bank pointed out in its recent (January 1988) report on education in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is particularly true of German, British and French cooperation and it also reflects the policy of the ACPs, especially the African ones, which have concentrated on higher education in recent years and cut the percentage of their budgets earmarked for education.

There were no special provisions on cooperation between institutions or universities in Lom (1975-80). Nonetheless, the biggest beneficiaries of the regional funds at this stage were three members of the Association of Commonwealth Universities-the University of Botswana and Swaziland (as it was then called), the University of the South Pacific (Fiji) and the University of the West Indies (Caribbean). And it was not by chance that they were all English-speaking universities with regional status either. Lom also saw several universities in Nigeria get financing for agreements with European universities from the national funds.

This higher educational support was not seen as cooperation. The main idea was to improve the buildings and supply equipment, study grants and technical assistance without trying out any real cooperation with European institutions or going for institutional improvement-in spite of the fact that there were already a large number of bilateral cooperation schemes going on with institutions in the Community countries at that time.

It was LomI (1980-85) which contained the first provision (Article 141) on collaboration between training and research establishments and universities in the Member States and the corresponding institutions in the ACPs.

Several ACP countries financed inter-university cooperation, usually as part of the national indicative programmes (multi-annual training programmes) under LomI-Nigeria (rural development and the environment), for example, Papua New Guinea (education and medical research) and Zimbabwe (science teacher’s training and the faculty of veterinary medicine). A programme worth several million ECU was also run from regional funds for the University of the West Indies (ECU 8 million) and support provided for the University of the South Pacific (Fiji) at this time. Support programmes at the frontiers of inter-university cooperation were also run in Zambia, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland.

Under LomI, Community support for higher education began to go mainly to the countries of southern Africa. And the overwhelming majority (70-80%) of these cooperation schemes were run by Dutch-speaking and British universities on the European side working with universities in exclusively English-speaking ACPs.

The real breakthrough of inter-institutional cooperation into the text of the Convention was in LomII, in particular with Articles 68 and 113 and, most importantly, Articles 119 and 208, which set it in the context of the development of human resources in the ACPs and the increase in their capacity for innovation.

At the same time, the principle of concentrating aid in major programmes and making training schemes an integral part of them provided a new framework for inter-institutional cooperation by forcing the Community and the ACP States concerned to put the bulk of their support behind operations in the focal sectors of aid-essentially, the development of rural areas, food and agriculture. This principle did not, of course, exclude large-scale integrated training projects involving such things as staff improvement programmes.

So all the instruments of LomII can be used to improve and increase the number of these cooperation schemes- which is indeed what happens in reality. Most of the schemes have yet to be implemented as most of them have progressed no further than the identification stage.

Nigeria is undeniably the ACP country which has made the greatest use of this instrument in training and research, not just with its ECU 30 m training programme, but with three major development programmes financed under the indicative programme by the Community. There is nothing surprising about this, given the impressive degree of development of the country’s system of higher, technical and university education.

Other potential inter-institutional cooperation schemes include the Free University of Brussels and the University of Kisangani (Zaire), the Conakry School of Public Health (Guinea) and the University of Liege, the Universities of Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique (Eduardo Mondlane), Zimbabwe (further support for the veterinary faculty). several countries of Southern Africa (maths and science training primarily with the Free University of Amsterdam) etc.

And then there is a series of support schemes to help regional training institutes in the ACP Group, which are not inter-institutional cooperation but could (in come cases, partly) be. They include ESAMI, Mananga in southern Africa, air safety in West Africa, a support programme for the University of the West Indies, regional training institutions in Central Africa (to be determined) etc.

An estimated ECU 20 m is being channelled into helping inter-university cooperation under LomII, with schemes worth between ECU 300 000 and ECU 2 m.


University of Zimbabwe - Veterinary Faculty of Utrecht

Cooperation between the University of Zimbabwe and the Veterinary Faculty of Utrecht is a good example of cooperation that has worked in spite of the varying expectations each partner had of the other.

There had been no contact prior to this. The subject of cooperation in this case was training in veterinary science, teaching by Utrecht staff to improve and expand the syllabuses at Zimbabwe, and the supply of teaching materials. The sum of ECU 500 000 was earmarked for this under LomI.

The programme catered for a lack of staff training in Zimbabwe and, in view of the regional role which the University of Zimbabwe plays in this field, success was vital.

The partners were entirely free to define the content of their cooperation and both proved to be very involved in the programme.

Among the reasons for success were no doubt the very high technical level and the sound state of the infrastructure at Zimbabwe, the very high standard of the support from Utrecht and the fact that Zimbabwe was open to cooperation with a modern institution.

The outcome of the programme was higher quality teaching and the introduction of new teaching methods, together with extended, permanent contacts making for the maintenance and improvement of knowledge. Utrecht also said it had gained a great deal from the cooperation.

Two problems remain. The contribution to the replacement of foreign technical assistance officers by nationals, which is limited, and the diploma-horders’ ability to find employment in the region, which is also limited.

The project is being continued under LomII - which reflects the need for the partners’ long-term involvement.

KUL - University of Nsukka

Cooperation between the Catholic University of Louvain (KUL) and Nsukka was more difficult to get going.

The linkage agreement, signed in 1985, provided for:

- greater teaching potential at the Nsukka Faculty of Agriculture;
- creation of an irrigation system at Nsukka to make crop-production experiments possible throughout the year;
- stimulation of research projects involving all aspects of irrigated agriculture.

The programme included the sending out of academic staff to Nsukka, exchanges of academic staff from both universities, training in Europe for teachers and technicians from Nsukka, the supply of laboratory and irrigation equipment, plus the attendant materials, and provision for logistics and running costs - ECU, 1200 000 in all.

It was decided not to stick blindly to the programme come what may, but to advance in phases so that changes could be made if necessary and regular evaluations run. This approach, which follows a gradual change in both outlook and achievements, obviously takes longer than implementation alone would do.

The project was supposed to take four years, but two and a half years after the i letter of agreement was signed (September 1985), the partners completed the preparatory phase, originally scheduled to take a year, and envisaged finishing the programme in 1)91. There were a number of reasons for the delay, including a lack of familiarity with EEC procedures, the problems of recruiting a hydrologist on a long-term contract, internal difficulties at the University of Nsukka, government and university red tape and lengthy tender procedures. Various changes were also made to the plan of operation during phase one to take account of new situations and new insights. This brief outline highlights two important characteristics of the inter-university cooperation formula - the implementation is flexible and the design non-commercial. The formula also provides troth partners with an opportunity to make the inter-cultural contacts, to understand the various contexts in which the partner institution operates, joint planning, the administrative and financial procedures of the EEC and so on.

Obviously; the Nsukka-Louvain linkage is based on clearly defined needs and aspirations on both sides and on individual motivation in the two faculties -; important when it comes to cementing relations of this type. So tar, the aim of cooperation has been to cater for Nsukka’s needs, but the balance will be redressed Once the joint research starts. There is no doubt as to the opportunities for long-term exchanges here.

The KUL contribution is not to technology and science alone. Input on the management staff side has led to important changes in the University of Nsukka and these changes - which, inter alia, foster a spirit of cooperation between departments and make for the establishment of a tradition of maintaining the equipment - are in fact seen by the parties involved as the scheme’s greatest achievement.

The construction of the bore-hole on the campus at Nsukka was time-consuming, monopolised many people for a long period and generated some frustration - which led people to question the wisdom of including infrastructural work in the terms of reference of inter-institutional cooperation.

Administering and running the linkage takes both the partners and the Commission Delegation a considerable amount of time. Experience has shown that the Delegation cannot confine itself to planning and monitoring the cooperation and it also has to advise the partners on organisational matters and help them with the administration, to make the linkage easier. On both sides, the linkages between programme organisation and administration are in the hands of the academic staff, which tries to combine this work with other university duties - which is in tact difficult and certainly does not improve the efficiency of the programme.

The procedure which led to the linkage is by no means an example of spontaneous initiative of interest to two partners. It was more of an “arranged marriage”, suggested, facilitated and decided by the EEC and the fact that the University of Nsukka agreed to it instead of demanding the right to choose its own partner perhaps has something to do with African marriage traditions...

Problems of implementation

The bilateral cooperation institutions in countries such as the Netherlands, the UK and France, which are specialised in inter-university cooperation, take a very flexible approach to the running of schemes, based on years of experience. They have direct discussions with the local universities, produce joint cooperation agreements with the ACP institutions concerned, ensure far faster financing and take more account of the features of the individual countries.

For countries like the UK and the Netherlands, this coooperation is one of the essential aspects of aid in the education sector.

Germany, too, is seeking to foster inter-university cooperation in the form of linkages, in particular in conjunction with its higher technical schools (Fachhochschulen), where teaching is heavily job-related, through the Carl-Duisberg Gesellschaft (CDG). The Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), the Deutsche Stiftung fur Internationale Entwicklung (DSIE) and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) are also involved in these cooperation schemes.

HEDCO deals with this in Ireland and the ICU in Italy, while Belgium has universities such as the Free Universities of Brussels (both Dutch- and French-speaking), the Universities of Liege, of Louvain, of Ghent, the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, the Faculties of Agriculture at Gembloux and so on with many links with universities in Africa and Latin America, sometimes with and sometimes without the support of official Belgian cooperation.

The machinery of ACP-EEC cooperation is not so well geared at present to the rapid identification and implementation of cooperation schemes.

It is the general financial and technical cooperation machinery of LomII which has to be used for inter-institutional cooperation. Working through the National Authorising Officer, an essential feature of the ACP-EEC system, can impede the precise identification of the fields and institutions of cooperation and reduce the necessary flexibility in implementation. And the system of restricted invitations to tender for technical cooperation contracts is not necessarily compatible with the demands of cooperation schemes destined to take several years (10-15 at least) even between European and ACP partners who are gradually improving their reciprocal support capacities.

These obstacles partly restrict the Community’s potential for initiative when it comes to establishing worthwhile cooperation schemes by putting it most often in a position to finance partnerships that have already been set up between European and ACP institutions but which have failed to attract adequate bilateral funding. There is nothing wrong with this role of “pure financier”, quite the contrary, provided these cooperation schemes are indeed worthwhile. And this is normal, since this is a field in which the Community acts as a relay between European and ACP institutions.

And the Community’s experience in this field will expand and no doubt help improve its capacity for initiative.


Cooperation between universities under Lame III


The basic problems

It was with a view to improving the nature of these schemes that, in 1982, ‘83 and ‘84, DG VIII ran meetings for all European organisations in the Member States concerned with inter-university cooperation with the Third World, for major ACP universities (chancellors and vice-chancellors), the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the National Universities Commission of Nigeria and the Association of African Universities.

These meetings provided an opportunity for the Community to say just what the purpose of this cooperation was:

- the design of training and research programmes closely geared to the ACPs’ development aims, to their indicative programmes and to practical results;
- liaison with existing regional and national institutes;
- a continuous process, flexible enough for changes of direction to be made, making for exchanges involving both parties;
- a personal and financial commitment and interest by the institutes involved on both sides (not just the ACP institutions);
- clear definition of the needs and responsibilities of each side;
- the implementation of programmes, preferably involving a faculty or research unit and, within these programmes, the mobilisation of the whole series of staff concerned (from librarians, technicians, administrative staff and teachers);
- the implementation of packages containing study grants, staff exchange programmes, equipment, teaching materials, publication aids and training programmes (including management), provided these elements make a specific contribution to improving the project;
- coherence of the research, training and practical results.

The aim of all these cooperation activities is not necessarily a productive project, but an improvement in the ACP institutions, with a view to increasing their capacities vis-is external expertise in their priority areas of development.

Such areas-agricultural and rural development, health, science, agri-food and energy-are priorities.

Evaluating inter-university cooperation

Before preparing a further meeting with the appropriate European and ACP organisations, the Commission decided to assess some of the cooperation schemes it had financed previously. It did this in 1988, with Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Egypt as the target countries.

The evaluation covered both the nature of the schemes and the administrative difficulties encountered during implementation on both sides.

It illustrated the problems of this sort of cooperation and, in particular, the absence of any clear objectives or clear-cut division of responsibility between the partners, the complications attached to a complex institutional framework (especially in Nigeria), the very slow speed at which cooperation schemes started up (especially Nigeria again), the complexity of payment procedures, some schemes’ lack of practical effect and the cumbersome nature of the Community’s implementation (commitment and payment) procedures.

It stressed that all the cooperation schemes did not combine to make a programme. The Community was supporting them by chance almost, and this was good as it reflected requests which the ACP countries themselves made within the contractual framework.

It pointed to the fact that the most conclusive results were obtained when the cooperation was of an academic nature, that schemes did not put emphasis on developing the curriculum or dealing with management issues, and that the areas of cooperation tended to be arrived at pragmatically without any form of programming-which was not to say that there was no justification for the choices.

In spite of all these difficulties, inter-university cooperation is a fruitful method of cooperation in view of the opportunity it offers for the sort of partnership from which each partner derives proper benefit for his or her own institution.


Evaluating inter-university cooperation


And the conclusion?

Inter-institutional cooperation is no panacea. It is an instrument which has to respond to specific needs. It must not just provide support for European institutions in search of financing to balance their books or take their own research further- or just meet ACP training institutions’ wish for financing for schemes that will do nothing for their development at a time when the value of higher education, especially in Africa, is in doubt (because of the cost, the limited outlets and the failure to provide some courses) or pay for long courses of study to get ACP nationals the diploma that will get them promotion when they go home.

And nor should it be a substitute for conventional technical assistance, the spirit and particularly the implementation of which are certainly different from inter-institutional cooperation.

South-South inter-institutional cooperation remains a target for the ACPs. Regional groupings do exist, of course, in French- and English-speaking Africa, in the Caribbean and the Pacific, but the Community cannot provide support until the ACP universities have taken the initiative into their own hands.