To allow for mobility in the region, alignment of the content, accreditation of qualifications and quality assurance processes is essential. Rationalising the number of institutions offering engineering qualifications to ensure quality output is also necessary.
It was suggested that a SADC Tertiary Education Engineering Education Committee, possibly a subcommittee under the SADC Technical Committee on Certification and Accreditation (TCCA) be formed to consider qualification requirements and accreditation. Such a committee should be composed of academics and representatives from industry and accreditation bodies. Detailed research into industry requirements should be carried out per discipline, and findings must be fed into this committee to ensure that relevant solutions are developed. Considerations should include:
- Accreditation and quality assurance: A consistent approach to accreditation is required. Ideally, professional bodies should be assigned the responsibility of accrediting or assessing engineering qualifications on behalf of the national quality assurance body to ensure that an appropriate range of subjects at the required level of complexity is offered.
- Alignment of qualifications:A common understanding of the role expected of technicians, technologists and engineers must be agreed and outcomes for each level of qualifications must be aligned, ideally using the graduate attributes of the Dublin, Sydney and Washington Accords as developed by the International Engineering Alliance (IEA).
- Achieving the IEA standard:The IEA attributes and accreditation model should be adopted as the benchmark. It will take several years for all countries to reach the same standard, but all institutions should be assessed and rated, and milestones should be set over 5, 10 or 15 years, or whatever is considered necessary to get all institutions up to the same standard. Recommendations to achieve the IEA requirements could range from needing additional academics, more highly qualified academics, changes and/or additions to curricula, enhanced laboratory capacity to name but a few. Some institutions may choose not to follow this approach. This would, however, disadvantage their graduates as they may not be registerable by the registering body in that country.
- Rationalisation of enrolments and the number of institutions:Norms and standards in terms of staff:student ratios, class sizes and minimum resourcing needs must be agreed. Where these cannot be met, approval for offering engineering qualifications should be withdrawn. Rationalisation of the number of students being enrolled and the number of institutions that can be sustained per country is also necessary.
- Foreign studies:The suggested committee should play a role in advising governments on the suitability of qualifications being offered by donor countries.
- Liaison with the Higher Education and Training, Research and Development Committee: It will also be necessary to liaise with this committee to ensure that engineering qualification alignment requirements and recommendations are fed into the training and research agendas.