On 17 May South Africa and the EU signed their Joint Declaration on Cooperation in Education and Training. The Declaration is the formal endorsement of years of rapidly intensifying collaboration among the two partners.
Director General Jan Truszczyński called the agreement “a stepping stone in the quality of our cooperation.” His counterpart Deputy Minister Hlengwe Mkhize said that “international partnerships are a resource for the improvement of quality and relevance” in education. “There are many lessons to be learned through cooperation with the EU.”
The Declaration opens the way for cooperation across the entire education system but in the years ahead there will likely be a bias towards higher education and vocational education and training.
Among the first focal areas for intensified collaboration will be mobility and postgraduate education and research, equity and quality in education, quality assurance mechanisms and stakeholder involvement.
Other fields that are explicitly mentioned in the agreement are recognition, credit transfer and accumulation, qualifications frameworks and the transparency and transferability of qualifications, teacher education, benchmarks, lifelong learning policies and strategies and vocational education and training.
While cooperation between South Africa and the EU takes place in the framework of agreements that are quite different from those governing cooperation with most other African countries, the education policy dialogue will continue to be firmly based in continental initiatives developed under the Africa-EU Strategy which also involves the African Union Commission, the African regional associations and, in higher education, the Association of African Universities.
The Declaration obliges its signatories to jointly set up a rolling work programme to conduct their education policy dialogue. They will regularly review its implementation and discuss avenues for future co-operation. To this end, senior officials from both sides will meet in principle once a year with the venue alternating between Brussels and South Africa or any other venue agreed by both sides. The subject of the next dialogue will be on the internationalisation of higher education.