Academics and Professionals Mingle at National Networking Event

Academic staff and industry stakeholders laughing as they play “two truths, one lie” to get to know each other better.

A national networking event in which gathered Sierra Leone’s academics and industry stakeholders in the commerce and management sector on the 26th of November 2020 was a roaring success.

This event, organised by the Assuring Quality in Higher Education in Sierra Leone (AQHEd-SL) project at the Sierra Bay Hotel in Freetown, brought together stakeholders and academics to strengthen relationships and encourage increased and sustainable collaboration in research, teaching and development.

The project has been engaging industry experts and professionals in the Management, STEM, Health and Agriculture sectors for over two years to reform undergraduate programmes. The purpose of the feedback gained from these stakeholders is to increase the relevance of the programmes and better prepare graduates for the job market. It is hoped that the increased skills and competencies gained from the reformed curricula will inject life into a national workforce characterised by the underemployment and unemployment of youth.

Networking events are a great way of building relationships which can be leveraged throughout one’s career. They allow interactions with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. The main purpose of the event was to go beyond the interactions around curriculum reform and to encourage the development of mutually beneficial professional friendships. These could then be utilised for the benefit of universities and students alike in the form of internship and guest lecturing opportunities, partnerships, and research.

The “Blue Team” getting competitive during the tallest newspaper tower competition!

The interactive session facilitated by Ms Hannah Lewis, the project manager, included team building and ice breaker exercises, one of which included a group task where participants attempted to build the tallest freestanding towers out of newspaper and tape (see photo). This was followed by a time of informal discussions where participants bonded over good food, drinks and laughter.

Professor Redwood-Sawyerr, the team lead for the project, closed the evening with a vote of thanks. He thanked all for coming and also the management team for organizing such an incredible event. He encouraged all to continue putting extra effort in enhancing the aims and objectives of the project as they are transforming the higher education system in Sierra Leone.

This is the first of four networking events that the project intends to complete before the end of September 2021. The next event will be targeted at Agriculture stakeholders and academics. It is hoped that institutions will see the benefit of creating environments for national and international collaboration and will continue to make space for similar events in the future.

Assuring Quality Higher Education in Sierra Leone is bringing together higher education institutions across Sierra Leone to improve quality management in higher education and support the introduction and implementation of outcome-based education. It aims to bring about a student-centred focus within higher education across the country, leading to a more responsive and capable national workforce.

The partnership is led by the University of Sierra Leone (Sierra Leone), working with Njala University (Sierra Leone), the University of Makeni (Sierra Leone), Tertiary Education Commission (Sierra Leone), Sierra Leone Institution of Engineers (Sierra Leone), King’s College London (UK), the 50/50 Group, INASP (UK), and the University of Illinois (US).

AQHEd-SL is funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) as part of its SPHEIR (Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform) programme to support higher education transformation in focus countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The #SPHEIR project Assuring Quality in Higher Education in Sierra Leone.