Rwandan HEP-TED quality assurance team visited Finnish Institutions for peer-learning

The quality assurance (QA) team of The Higher Education Pedagogies for Teacher Education (HEP-TED) project organised a week-long visit of key partners from the College of Education at the University of Rwanda, Rwanda Polytechnic, and the Higher Education Council of Rwanda.

This visit by the Rwandan delegation, held from June 9th to June 16th, aimed to facilitate the exchange of ideas and practices in QA in higher education, while also providing the visitors with a cultural experience of the Finnish Educational system and Finland by large. 

Strengthening Quality Assurance: Finnish and Rwandan Educators Collaborate

The program kicked off with a visit to the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINEEC) in Helsinki. This visit offered a comprehensive overview and in-depth discussions about national QA policies and practices in both Finland and Rwanda. In addition, the Finnish and Rwandan partners engaged in a series of workshops and discussions with Tampere University (TAU), Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK) and Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences (Jamk). 

These sessions focused on sharing knowledge and strategies for QA in the Finnish higher education system that has two parallel sectors, namely, universities and universities of applied sciences. The discussions were rich with insights into the Finnish QA system, offering practical frameworks that can inspire QA policy adaptation within the Rwandan context.

- To me, from the workshop, I gained exposure to best practices in teaching quality management, which can be integrated into Rwanda Polytechnic's existing quality assurance mechanisms and standards, I have also got insights about quality assurance systems and frameworks, particularly from a Finnish and European context which will help in the improvement of what exists in Rwanda Polytechnic, comments Jean de Dieu Murindahabi, Quality Assurance Coordination Specialist from the Rwanda Polytechnic. 

For example, professional teacher education program, according to Murindahabi, is a best practice to be adopted in Rwanda Polytechnic to equip academic staff with pedagogical skills as well as developing a quality culture among academic staff.

In-Depth QA Workshops and Collaborative Planning

The workshops included, but were not limited to, discussing topics such as the programmes and curriculum in higher education pedagogy at Tampere University with Johanna Annala, QA in European and African contexts by Rediet Abebe, presentations on higher education leadership programs at Tampere University by Jussi Kivistö and the discussion of practicalities about integrating QA modules in study programs in the Rwanda institutions of higher education, with Yohannes Mehari

During the week the group also did collaborative planning of the quality assurance workshops to take place in Rwanda at Kigali for URCE and at different campuses of the Rwanda Polytechnic with QA officials and heads of departments and other identified personel of these institutions with Rediet Abebe, Íris Santos and Elias Pekkola. The Rwandan colleagues also had meetings with QA staff at the different institutions in Finland. In addition to the host institution, Tampere University, the delegation spent a day in TAMK and another in Jamk, to familiarize with teaching, learning and QA procedures at these institutions. The workshops were found useful by both Rwandan and Finish partner institutions. 

- I enjoyed the insightful questions raised by the Rwanda colleagues regarding the incorporation of student feedback into our quality management system at Jamk. The questions made us think the importance of cultural diversity when formulating feedback questions within an internationally-focused university of applied sciences like Jamk, says Eila Burns from Jamk. 

From Saunas to Success: Positive Outcomes of QA Exchange

Apart from the intensive professional sessions, the visit included several cultural activities. For example, the Rwandan delegation experienced the Finnish public sauna, which provided a relaxing, equal and authentic Nordic experience.

The visit was a significant step in fostering international collaboration and enhancing QA practices in Rwandan higher education institutions, specially within the framework of the HEP-TED project.

The visit was considered useful for both hosts and visitors and the feedback is in general very positive, as the following excerpt of the feedback forms illustrate: 

-The enhancement of quality assurance in higher education, core elements of pedagogical leadership, and enhancement-led evaluation based on participation and interaction is a process that helped me to understand better how I can conduct an assessment of High Learning Institutions in Rwanda. In general, more knowledge was gained during this important training as all the topics were interesting.

The hosts are looking forward to continuing the conversations initiated on QA policies and practices, during the next visit to Rwanda next October.

About the Higher Education Partnership (HEP) Programme

The Higher Education Partnership (HEP) Programme supports cooperation projects between higher education institutions in Finland and the developing world. The projects support the HEIs as they develop their subject-specific,
methodological, educational and administrative capacity. The programme is funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and administered by the Finnish National Agency for Education.