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An uncertain future for the Pan African University

On 11-13 May 2011, the first extraordinary session of the Conference of Ministers of Education of the African Union (COMEDAF IV+) was held in Nairobi to finalise plans for the Pan African University (PAU), which is set to open in September 2011. The mission of PAU – which is a creation of the African Union, an organisation comprised of 28 member states – is to promote and strengthen higher education and research through the development of postgraduate programmes in the fields of science, technology, innovation, social sciences and governance across various regions of Africa. In addition, this trans-continental university is to strengthen the socioeconomic development of African countries.

During this fourth meeting of the African education ministers, several key institutional components of PAU were laid out:

  • admission requirements, curricula and degree programmes to be offered (i.e. master, doctoral and joint degrees) and
  • the establishment of accreditation standards with the plan to institute a PAU quality assurance system (currently there is no pan-African quality assurance body so accreditation of degree programmes will be the responsibility of each respective national quality assurance agency).

Many uncertainties remain, however. Currently, only three of the five university locations have been confirmed: (1) PAU Institute of Earth and Life Sciences at Ibadan University in Nigeria (West Africa region); (2) PAU Institute of Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya (East Africa region) and (3) PAU Institute of Governance, Humanities and Social Sciences at University of Yaoundé in Cameroon (Central Africa region). The locations of the remaining two institutes in Northern and Southern Africa (i.e. the Institute for Space Sciences and the Institute for Water and Energy Sciences) have yet to be announced. By year’s end, the plan is to establish the Rectorate. However, and perhaps more importantly, PAU funding details from the respective education ministries and the African Union itself have yet to be formally announced.

African Union – Statute on the Establish of the Pan African University

African Union - Modalities for the Awards of Degrees

African Union - PAU Quality Assurance System

African Union – Terms of Reference for the Selection of Students

African Union – Operational Communication Plan