How do we find the best possible way to monitor progress, mitigate risks and report on results of capacity building in higher education and research? These questions were at the core of lively and constructive discussions when 136 NORHED participants met in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa last week. The exercise was essential for partners to agree on how to manage risks and complete a results framework by the March 2014 deadline.
The broad participation from higher education institutions in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America showed their keen interest in the theme of the workshop. Presenters included NORHED partners, and experts on international higher education and advisors on evaluation and results from Norad. Via plenary and group discussions, the participants analysed change theory, the linking of activities to goals, and Norad’s requirements for reporting on results.
In their opening remarks, both Bjarne Garden, Director of Norad’s Department for Global Health, Education and Research and Dr. Ato Samuel Kifle, General Director of Higher Education at Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education, agreed on the importance of higher education and research for development.
Ethiopia has substantially increased its investments and expanded the sector. Mr. Garden emphasized that documenting results is a requirement both to demonstrate accountability and the programme’s successes. The framework should also give room for improvement as we go forward.
- The required resources are hard to obtain for many higher learning institutions. Lack of resources often becomes a bottleneck for research and capacity building. The Norwegian Programme for Capacity Development in Higher Education and Research for Development is vital to fill these resource gaps. I am pleased to see that Ethiopia has qualified for eight NORHED projects, said Håvard Hoksnes, Chargé d’affaires a.i at the Norwegian Embassy in Addis Ababa, in his opening remarks.
Many low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) have invested in higher education and shown remarkable progress. In the NORHED programme, the majority of projects are in East Africa. During the last four decades in Africa, enrolment grew on average 8.6 per cent annually.
In Ethiopia, the number of public universities increased from just two at the end of the 1990s to 32 in 2013. An additional pressing issue is that women’s enrolment is still low and has to be further improved. As part of its capacity building, NORHED supports the education of faculty members and sets goals for gender balance and the integration of gender perspectives in projects.
- It is clear that higher education and research have a significant role to play in achieving economic growth and poverty reduction,stated Dr. Hirut Woldemariam, Vice President of Addis Ababa University in her opening remarks.
- I believe the conference can enhance the capacity of participants in terms of how they may better formulate, reformulate, lead and follow a report on their respective projects, she concluded.
Managing towards results
During her presentation, Norad's senior adviser at the Department for Quality Assurance, Ms. Lill-Ann Bjaarstad Medina, pointed to the importance of better documentation, reporting and communication on how NORHED projects promote institutional change with lasting effects.
- This helps uphold the legitimacy of the support to research and higher education over the aid budget, Ms. Bjaarstad-Medina argued.
She also emphasized that the results frameworks are useful instruments in verifying and managing towards results, and urged the participants to keep it simple.
- Working together on the definition of common indicators to measure outcomes, outputs and activities is a good practice to develop an appropriate results framework that is understood and owned by all participating universities, said keynote speaker Dr. Jamil Salmi from the University of Southern California’s Development Portfolio Management Group (DPMG).
Dr. Nguyen Thi Kim Anh, Nha Trang University, Vietnam and Dr. Adam Branch from Makerere University in Uganda gave closing remarks. Dr. Branch urged Norad to let the projects define their own goals based on their own contexts.
- Norad asks for results in terms of more and better candidates and research. More is easy, but what about better? Better is not the same in Uganda, Ethiopia and South Sudan. The owners of the projects should define what better and relevant means in their context, Dr. Branch said.
Room for improvement
In addition to their active engagement in thematic sessions, participants said they appreciated the opportunity to extend networks, getting to know colleagues from other universities and exchanging ideas and experiences that will enhance knowledge in their respective areas of work. Some participants also mentioned that the workshop would have been more beneficial if scheduled earlier in the NORHED process, during the phase of developing or finalizing the project proposals.
The annual NORHED budget is approximately 150 million NOK. Funding for individual projects will be up to 18 million NOK, for a period of up to five years.
Managing for Results - Capacity in Higher Education Institutions by Lill-Ann Bjaarstad Medina
Risk Management Indicators - Verifying Change by Lill-Ann Bjaarstad Medina
Real-time evaluation of NORHED by Ida Hellmark