Interview with Prof. Dr. Youhansen Y. Eid, President of NAQAAE (National Authority for Quality Assurance and Accreditation of Education)

Youhansen Eid has been acting as the president of NAQAAE since 2014.  During this time, NAQAAE has become one of the renowned quality assurance agencies in the region and a member of several international networks including the Arab Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ANQAHE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation International Quality Group (CHEA-CIQG).  She has led her team in national and international projects, focusing on enhancing quality assurance and mutual accreditation and has generated official recognition of NAQAAE by the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) in 2019.   Originally a Professor of Urban Planning, Prof. Eid has held the positions of head of department (2007-2009) and Vice-Dean (2009-2011).  She has been a HERE since 2015.


Where do you think the HERE have been influential in Egypt (on what topics, are there specific policy reforms linked to the work the HERE have done, etc.)?

Youhansen Eid (YE): I think HERE have been most influential in the areas of student-based learning and the TVET sector.Other areas where there has been impact has been in continuous professional development, particularly in the medical sector, where policy reform has taken place.

Can you given some examples of policy development in continuous professional education, for example, and how specific HERE activities have contributed to this?

YE: In 2019, there was a change in the law on professional medical practice (no. 415 from year 1954) which required professional development and training for M.D.s before they could be registered as practicing doctors; this registration is valid only for 5 years and must be renewed.  As a result of this, there is an increase in the provision of professional development and training; several providers have sought recognition and accreditation by the Compulsory Egyptian Medical Training Authority as a “Continuing Professional Development Provider”. The HERE team has been active in advising on this topic.

You recently attended a SPHERE study visit on Competence-Based Learning (CBL). Why is this topic important for higher education in Egypt right now?

YE: This topic is gaining great importance now in Egypt both in the TVET and the Higher Education sectors.Most sectors are shifting to CBL due to the paradigm shift in higher education and the focus on students learning concrete skills rather than abstract learning.Higher education institutions are focusing on outcome-based learning and are adopting this new approach. It is expected that this will foster life – long learning and equip graduates with the necessary competencies and skills for thejob market.

What is your agency – the National Quality Assurance agency – doing regarding CBL and the quality assurance of universities and study programmes?

YE: Central to the work of NAQAAE is setting standards and ensuring that educational institutions and programmes are maintaining these standards.Regarding CBL, NAQAAE has changed the National Academic Reference Standards, which are the basis for programme revisions, to Competency-Based Standards.This has been achieved in several sectors such as Medicine, Engineering, Nursing and Pharmacy.Other sectors are underway, such as Computer Science, Dentistry, Education and Fine Arts.

How CBL is defined Egypt?  Is it only associated with vocational or technical education or is it used in all types of higher education, including humanities and social sciences? You mentioned that Competency-Based Standards are being defined for Education and Fine Arts. Has this been difficult?

YE: CBL is essentially translated literally into Arabic, however not all academics understand what it means in practice.

In Egypt, CBL is used in all types of education.I mentioned that we are still in the process of developing Competency-Based Standards for education and Fine Arts.It is still in the very beginning, so judgment here is premature. However, I can say that it is not a very easy task.

Can you explain the challenges associated with this process but also the aspirations?

YE: There is clear resistance in the implementation of CBL. In particular, academics need support in how to design programmes. CBL implies changing the role of the teacher and developing new strategies for teaching and learning and assessment.Some faculty members are skeptical and resist the change in their role.Implementing CBL requires new programme design, which requires changing the by-laws, which is not always an easy task within established institutions.Other problems regarding implementation are aligning competencies with LOs and changing teaching approaches in a way that achieves these competencies.

We are trying to assist with training workshops and other capacity building activities that facilitate this transition within institutions.

Is CBL a topic that is well understood in the higher education sector in Egypt?

YE: In my opinion, I think that it is understood in principle but not in practice.Most institutions are facing problems with teacher selection and also with assessment.

What were your main take-aways from the SPHERE study visit to FH Campus Wien?  Was there one specific good practice by the host university that struck your interest, that you think could be applied in Egypt?

YE: Four areas were very interesting: Assessment of competencies, teacher capacity building, the alignment of learning outcomes and competencies and the relation between programmes and employability. The model of FH Campus Wein was distinct (a private, non-university institution with a large number of external teacher-practitioners) and hence each institution would have to draw lessons with caution as to what could be directly applied. But I think their focus on training of the learners and the support provided to the teachers is exemplary.

How do you think this topic could be further explored by SPHERE in the future?

YE: I think that HERE, particularly those working in universities and QA agencies, could use more hands-on experience particularly on the design of programmes. This could be explored through TAM or a more hands-on, practice-based seminar for academics.