ANIE Network | Centres of Excellence project – ‘A model that works’
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Centres of Excellence project – ‘A model that works’

A mid-term review shows that the first phase of the World Bank-funded Africa Centres of Excellence, or ACE, project focused on West and Central Africa is on track and has achieved significant improvement in universities’ training programmes, with strong indications that the project might be considered for further funding.

“The model works,” said Andreas Blom, lead economist in the World Bank’s education units in Africa. He told University World News that in addition to educational achievements, the model had served as an excellent platform for government, university and partner buy-in. The project might be considered for further funding after it ends in 2019, he said.

Launched in 2014 the project has seen the consolidation and strengthening of 19 African centres of excellence in seven countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo with funding from the World Bank amounting to US$164 million.

Under the centres, 25 new masters programmes have been created and 11,900 students enrolled in new short-term courses and in masters and PhD programmes. In addition, 4,000 students drawn from the region – of which 290 are PhDs and 1,350 masters in science students – have been trained and half of the universities involved in the project have regional students for the first time.

Blom said the centres have facilitated a positive “trickle-down” impact on institutional excellence and had generated “huge partner interest” in the form of upfront contributions. Most of the centres have strong ownership at the university level, with some of them making strong progress on external revenue generation.

The project, while successful, has not been without its challenges.

Bureaucracy

In some countries, Blom said regulations had to be passed for the ACE project to become operational. Bureaucracy was also a challenge.

“In some countries, there was a lot of red tape around sending the funds to the participating universities,” he said. As a result, some time was lost and programmes were delayed.

In Nigeria there was a shortage of dollars which affected the centres in that country, but the Nigerian National Universities Commission worked directly with the ACEs to pay big purchases directly with suppliers, said Blom.

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