January 20, 2011
(KPL) The Strengthening Higher Education Project (SHEP) will further improve access to higher education through the reform of university entrance requirements and bridging courses, said SHEP Team Leader, Mr. Nigal Billany.
SHEP operations were presented at the second inception seminar on strengthening higher education project held in Vientiane on 20 January.
The meeting was attended by Minister of Education Mr. Phankham Viphavanh, Director of the Higher Education Department Ms. Phonphet Boupha, representatives of the national universities of Champassak and Luang Prabang, and relevant officials.
Minister of Education Mr. Phankham Viphavanh said that this project was very important for strengthening higher education and contributing to the improvement of Lao higher education to the region by focusing on strengthening the management, finance and administration of higher education. It has also improved the curriculums of higher education, capacity building for researching procedures, quality system application and application of ICT study results to higher education.
Director of the Higher Education Department Ms. Phonphet Boupha said that the SHEP was jointly funded by the Government of Laos and the ADB through an Asian Development Fund Grant. Further counterpart funding will come from the project’s innovative Matching Scholarships sub-component, through which 50 per cent of the total US$4 million scholarships budget will come from foreign partner institutions. The total investment in higher education under the project amounts to 227 billion kip (USD 28 million).
Mr. Billany has explained the project will improve economic competitiveness and increased employment opportunities of higher education graduates through an expanded, improved and equitable higher education system by 2015, to be created mainly by upgrading the three public universities including the National University of Laos (NUOL), Champassak University in Pakse, and Souphanouvong University in Luang Prabang province to produce skilled graduates in key disciplines responding to the labour market demands. In addition support will be provided to private higher education institutions to help them improve the quality of their programme through self-assessment and national accreditation procedures.
In the long term, the project is contributing to poverty reduction and national development by helping create a workforce with the analytical and technical skills to fuel Lao PDR’s move to a knowledge-based society and a technical and industrial-based economy.
In the medium term, The Project will contribute in a variety of fields: to the quality of the higher education curriculum, including ICT-based learning and resource materials; to the application of improved teaching and learning methods; to improved quality assurance and accreditation of courses, diplomas and degrees; to expanded opportunities for quality research and publication, and; to developing the management capacity of the Ministry of Education and the universities. The Project will also contribute to increased opportunities. The Project will also contribute to increased opportunities for access to higher education by the economically and educationally disadvantaged.
During the actual period of the project activities in 2011-2015, the project will contribute to development of specific course materials in digital and hard format, to improvement in the university entrance examination and to a revised system for bridging between upper secondary and higher education. The project will carry out a number of surveys, provide scholarships to upgrade faculty and staff of the universities and staff of the Department of Higher Education, pilot several initiatives, and improve university facilities and equipment.
The SHEP was designed and approved in 2009, and actual activities under the Department of Higher Education in early 2010. Already significant progress has been made in establishing and equipping the project offices in the Ministry of Education and at the three public universities: the National University of Laos in Dong Dok, Vientiane, Champassak University in Pakse, and Souphanouvong University in Luang Prabang. A number of workshops and study visits have been held as part of general capacity building and institutional development. In addition the Project has recruited a team of 12 national and 8 international consultants. It works mainly from the beginning of 2011.
The inception seminar was an opportunity for the team to present its draft inception report with initial findings and recommendations.
The seminar was incorporated into the Final Inception Report which also included detailed project work plans and budgets.