Hon Minister, Prof Gbakima launched a £4m UK project




Preparing Sierra Leone’s Graduates for the 21st Century

[29 November 2018] Professor Aiah Gbakima, Minister of Technical & Higher Education officially launched a £4m initiative titled Assuring Quality in Higher Education in Sierra Leone’. The project, funded by UKaid, brings together all seven higher education institutions (HEIs) in the country with three national and three international partners, to transform the quality of higher education in Sierra Leone.

The Ministry of Technical & Higher Education has welcomed the project, led by the University of Sierra Leone, in support of the Government’s higher education agenda. The project will provide graduates with the skills they need to get a job by introducing outcome-based education that engages with employers. A realigned curriculum and a capacity building programme for university staff will help provide graduates with the skills they need to succeed. The project will facilitate the introduction of a National Qualifications Framework that strengthens quality assurance - maintaining and measuring standards across all universities.

“The Government of Sierra Leone welcomes this significant UK investment in the quality of higher education delivery in Sierra Leone. The project is closely aligned to the Ministry’s strategic priorities. Our graduates need to be equipped with the technical and soft skills employers are looking for. Our curricula and teaching methods are in urgent need of revision. Higher Education and industry must work together to ensure greater relevance. The establishment of a new National Qualifications Framework and Quality Assurance mechanism will embed these changes across the higher education system.” Professor Aiah Gbakima, Minister of Technical & Higher Education.

This project is part of the UKaid supported Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform (SPHEIR) programme (www.spheir.org.uk). SPHEIR is managed by a consortium led by the British Council that includes PwC and Universities UK International (UUKi). It aims to deliver systemic and sustainable change within higher education systems, enabling them to better meet graduate and labour market needs and support inclusive development and economic growth.

SPHEIR provides funding and support to large-scale partnerships working across different sectors and countries to improve the quality, relevance, accessibility and affordability of higher education. It encourages new and diverse collaborators to support higher education reform.

“SPHEIR is one strand of a package of support that UKaid provides to education in Sierra Leone. We believe that more effective Higher Education institutions will be a key to generating the job-ready, entrepreneurial graduates needed to accelerate development, build inclusive societies and promote strong economic growth in Sierra Leone.” Mary Hunt, Head of Office, DFID Sierra Leone.

In the past, Sierra Leone’s higher education system has been held back due to funding, limited staff training opportunities, a weak research infrastructure and the absence of an effective quality management system. This has prevented universities aligning course content with the needs of the job market and the aspirations of the growing number of students.

“Graduate employability is a challenge everywhere. This project sets out to tackle the issue of preparing Sierra Leone’s graduates for the 21st century – equipping them with the skills, knowledge and attributes needed to build a secure and prosperous future for Sierra Leone. It’s great to see Kings College London working hand in hand with all seven Sierra Leonean public and private universities towards this common goal.” Tony Reilly, Country Director, British Council Sierra Leone

By September 2021, the project will see students in seven universities enrolled in eight key degree programmes that conform to new national quality assurance standards. Teaching will adopt best- practice pedagogical approaches and innovative curricula to equip graduates with skills and knowledge that employers’ value. All Universities and the Tertiary Education Commission will be using new expertise, tools and systems to monitor and continually improve quality and standards. Employers will be routinely involved in the design and delivery of degree programmes to ensure relevance.

For more information about the project, please contact the project team at aqhedsl.media@kslp.org.uk or follow on Twitter @AQHEd_SL


The project has started the process of improving the higher education in Sierra Leone by supporting development of governance frameworks and policy instruments, and by building management, educational resources and staff capacities required for effective outcome-based education. It hopes to create the foundation for long term investment in the capacity of Sierra Leone’s HEIs to sustainably support skills development and competence building for both existing and future job markets.

The SPHEIR fund supports a diverse portfolio of nine large-scale partnerships being implemented in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Each bring together universities, higher education organisations, private sector and NGOs to transform higher education through pedagogical
and curricula reform, quality assurance, and facilitating access to education.

SPHEIR: The SPHEIR (Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform) programme is established by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). It is designed to catalyse innovative partnerships in low-income countries to improve the performance, governance and influence of higher education systems and institutions.

SPHEIR partnerships seek to transform the quality, relevance, access and affordability of higher education to achieve sustainable change in higher education systems.

For more information visit http://www.spheir.org.uk/ and follow on social media via #SPHEIR.