One key group of stakeholders present at the 7th ACE Impact Regional Workshop was the Subject Matter Experts. As part of the strategy to effectively implement the ACE Impact for Development Project, the Regional Facilitation Unit (RFU) – the AAU, has identified and is coordinating a team of subject matter Experts who contribute to the operational and technical implementation support and supervision of the ACE Impact Centers. These independent Experts are selected based on their academic and/or disciplinary expertise relative to the ACE Impact Centers, and their international experience in higher education and/or university leadership. Experts are appointed to support specific Centers and to contribute to the ACE Impact project.
Each ACE Impact Center has been assigned a primary Expert who provides implementation support and supervision to the Center. The Experts are supporting and guiding the ACE Impact Centers so that they attain scientific excellence, quality, relevance, and impact. Each Expert provides his/her inputs in close coordination and guidance from the ACE Impact RFU.
The key tasks of the subject matter experts include:
- Reviewing and providing expert insight and advice on the ACE Impact Centers’ implementation plans
- Reviewing and providing expert insight and advice on the ACE Impact Centers’ annual work plans.
- Mentoring the ACE Impact Centers as needed.
- Undertaking supervision and implementation Centre support visits which may either be in-person or virtual.
- Reviewing the research publications of the ACE Impact Centers to ensure compliance with ACE Impact objectives.
- Supporting the ACE Impact Centers by connecting them to potential university and industry partners, and potential funding opportunities.
- Reporting supervision findings to the Project Steering Committee during its Meetings.
- Participating in the ACE Impact Regional Workshops.
- Liaising with the RFU on any key factors that may hinder the success of Centers or the ACE Impact project.
- Providing ongoing advice and support to the RFU and the World Bank on the ACE Impact project.
Professor Joseph Mutale represented the subject matter experts on Tuesday 14th June 2022 to provide feedback from the subject matter experts to the ACE Impact Centres. He congratulated all the Centres for sustaining performance at the peak of the difficult Covid 19-season and for navigating new challenges by developing innovative ways to deliver education. He acknowledged that the Centres had adopted digital and blended learning methods to address the challenges posed by the Covid 19 era. He also stressed that as subject matter experts they were confident that the Centres would successfully address all their future challenges effectively, having learnt some lessons and gained experience over this period.
Professor Mutale shared key observations and recommendations for the Centres to consider towards ensuring the timely delivery of the project’s milestones. He advised that attention needed to be paid to the annual work plans and project management by assigning dedicated personnel to support these areas. New ACE Impact Centres were advised to start the self-evaluation processes early enough, to give them ample time to prepare towards international accreditation of their programs. It was indicated, that the research strategies for the Centres must clarify priorities, objectives, and available resources to support research. Centres were advised to effectively use their sectoral advisory boards and international scientific committees to strengthen their research strategies. Again, effective communication at all levels, especially with students, was singled out as extremely important for the effective implementation of the project. Enhancing regional dimensions in terms of internships, research, publications, and student recruitment was said to be a key way of ensuring the project’s success.
It was mentioned that the success of the ACE Impact project depends on the effective involvement of all team members and therefore the Centre leaders need to pay attention to this aspect. Increased engagement of university leadership to facilitate procurement and to address the causes of underspending were singled out as being equally important.
In conclusion, Professor Mutale called on the Centres to seize the opportunity of meeting physically for the first time after the COVID-19 outbreak to reconnect, exchange ideas and look for solutions to push the project forward. He stressed that the next six months were critical for the achievement of time bound project results. He pledged the commitment of all the subject matter experts to “remain available and committed to work” with all the ACE Impact Centres to enable them achieve the project objectives.
Written By: Ms Nodumo Dhlamini, Director – ICT Services, Communications and Knowledge Management at AAU