ACCESS IDEAS COMPETITIONS

Activating Innovation Potentials at Higher Education Institutions in Africa

The ACCESS Ideas Competition Hub is a platform that has hosted various ideas competitions over the past five years. Following two major branches of competition, we engaged in an array of subjects, fields, and sectors to further our basic objective. These contests share a similar goal of involving key stakeholders such as educators, researchers, administrators, students, and graduates in order to generate practical solutions to persistent challenges faced by African higher education institutions. The competitions aim to inspire long-term solutions by encouraging cooperation and innovation within the system while also recognizing possibilities to maximize the potential of its individuals and their institutions. We believe competitions provide an easy path for passionate people to interact with one another. They can provide an opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas before developing them into actual applications that can then be implemented within the system. To assist with the overall project’s goal, we opted for two main competitions that cover different approaches to innovation. The “University of Ideas” competition aims to identify and develop ideas that are intended to improve the higher education system, from the lectures they provide to the skillsets they teach and the infrastructure they maintain. Based on subjects such as university business linkages, career enhancement, and technology and knowledge transfer, we hope to activate the most relevant stakeholders in analyzing and working on tangible challenges. We are helping them connect with like-minded people and administrative contacts at our partner universities to facilitate the swift transformation of ideas. The other branch focuses on business competitions, which encourage students, researchers, and university professors to use their findings to develop a business or startup. A competition with the objective of leveraging the knowledge and potential that universities have to offer in order to develop employment opportunities and the direct transfer of innovation into emerging economies. Both seek to improve the ability of African universities and research institutions by creating conditions that allow educational practices to meet social and economic needs. We seek to encourage new ideas, assist participants, and link them with like-minded supporters within and outside of institutions. 

What the Ideas Competition is all about?

Societies are constantly changing. In an era of rapid technological advancements and dynamic global markets, the role of universities transcends traditional boundaries. The university environment is expected to innovate to meet societal and business demands. This could be achieved through transforming and shaping activities and the adaptability of its students, graduates, lecturers, administration, etc. This competition seeks to foster ideas for stronger synergies between African universities and the business world while enhancing career prospects for students across the continent. As Africa’s educational landscape continues to evolve, the imperative to bridge the gap between academia and industry has never been more pressing. This competition seeks to galvanise universities across Africa to proactively implement measures that establish stronger connections with the business sector, thereby equipping students with the skills, knowledge, and networks essential for their professional journey.

Topic of our Ideas Competition 2023

This year the theme for the competition is “Promotion of University Business Linkages and Career Enhancement Measures in the Context of Higher Education in Africa”. We recognise that the synergy between academia and industry is indispensable for nurturing a generation of well-rounded, adaptable professionals who can drive Africa’s progress in the global arena. This challenges African universities to unleash their potential by forging robust partnerships and engagements with the business, communities and other organisations, thus bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application. As we embark on this journey, we invite institutions and minds across the continent to engage, collaborate, and envision a future where higher education not only imparts knowledge but empowers individuals to excel in their careers, driving personal growth and societal prosperity.

As we envision a future where graduates are well-educated and well-prepared to tackle real-world challenges, this competition is an opportunity for universities to showcase their dedication to fostering holistic and impactful higher education in Africa.

Our competition invites submissions from universities and HEIs across Africa on UBL or CE.

The submissions could be either:

  • Ongoing or implemented measures and formats as part of promoting UBL and CE for student and graduate employability; or
  • Propose innovative strategies/concepts that will forge strong partnerships with industries, businesses, and other organisations in pioneering UBL and CE measures for students at their universities;

Eligibility and Participation

  • Target group: Academic (lecturers, professors, researchers) and administrative staff at a university in Africa.
  • Team: You can participate as a single person or as a team. In the case of a team, a team leader needs to be identified to serve as a contact person. Members of the team should satisfy the background criteria in point 1.
  • Language: The competition will be held in English. Interested participants from non-English speaking countries should use online tools such as DeepL and Google Translate to help translate their entries into English.
  • Submission period:  21st August 2023 – 5th November 2023
  • Award: Selected winners (in case of a team submission, only the team leader) will be sponsored to attend and present their submissions at the ACCESS Summer School Rwanda planned for February 2023. ACCESS will fund flights, accommodation and sustenance for the one-week event. Depending on the university and the country, winning ideas would be integrated into the ACCESS and iN4iN network, where feasible.
  • Competition is open to all universities and HEIs in Africa.

How to participate & Deadlines

1) Get more information on the competition on this page and use the download section right below for the summary documents explainations of the topic.

2) Submit your entry via our registration form in time!

Use this link to submit your idea!

Submission Deadline: 5 November 2023.

Winners will be contacted by 31 November 2023.

Downloads & Relevant Information

did you know?

The “University of Ideas” competition is organised because we believe the expertise lies within the system. University lecturers and management are key in structuring teaching and learning and preparing the next generation of employees and entrepreneurs for the labour market. However, due to high unemployment rates among graduates and the unfulfilled needs of private-sector employers, new concepts in the university regarding teaching and learning systems and infrastructure are needed to create or improve the chances of a successful future for graduates that impacts society. In the universities and their ecosystems, every lecturer faces change in shifting mindsets and new procedures, resulting in the necessity to adapt.

With the “University of Ideas” concept, we strive not only toward the emergence of new ideas and concepts but also to identify people with a strong interest in being part of this development. Developing a strong network to promote new approaches and topics within the scope of the universities’ Third Mission is equally important as our goal is to identify and collect new ideas and concepts. We want to support holistic development that assists in shaping an environment which facilitates good ideas to succeed. For this purpose, lecturers or university staff members have the motivation, experience and creativity to develop innovative concepts that can improve the employability of graduates and assist in building stronger communities and economies.

We encourage any lecturer and staff member from a university in Africa to join the University of Ideas competition. People that are employed by the ACCESS project can not participate in the competition.

You can either develop your idea individually or within a group from your university. Each group can submit one idea but several ideas can be developed resulting from several groups at one university. If you join as a team a leader needs to be named. The leader is than recognized as the representative of your team.

The best and most promising ideas will be selected winners and invited to the up and coming Summer Schools of the ACCESS project. 

Submission Deadline: 5 November 2023.

Winners will be contacted by 31 November 2023.

We will share a link to a registration form with you which you have to fulfill to submit your idea. The link will be shared on this homepage and the information document.

The main language during the competition and the award ceremony is English. You have to submit your idea in English. For this purpose we can recommend you to use google translate or deepl.

Leipzig University in Germany through it Intelligence for Innovation network (iN4iN). 

The iN4iN Network, which where we are part of, allows us to tap into the knowledge and expertise of many other networks/ projects. 

  • SEPT Network
  • iN4iN Network (ACCESS, AGEA, MELBU, VOITURE, IDEAS, ABSbio, etc.)
  • African Partner Networks

University business linkages, the strategic collaboration between academic institutions and industries, play a pivotal role in enhancing the employability skills of students and graduates within the context of African higher education. In an era of rapidly evolving job markets and technological advancements, such partnerships facilitate seamless integration of theoretical learning with real-world challenges, providing students with practical experiences, industry insights, and hands-on skills crucial for their successful transition into the workforce. These linkages align academic curricula with the dynamic demands of industries and foster a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship, and problem-solving, equipping graduates with a holistic skill set that makes them attractive to employers and positions them as catalysts for socioeconomic development across the African continent.

 

These partnerships are substantiated by academic research and practical experiences, shedding light on their multifaceted benefits. Jones and Smith (2019) highlight that such collaborations facilitate the practical integration of classroom learning with real-world challenges, nurturing skills highly valued in the job market. This approach aligns academic curricula with industry needs, making graduates more relevant and attractive to potential employers (Jones & Smith, 2019). Additionally, the Association of African Universities (AAU) emphasises the significance of these linkages in exposing students to industry trends, fostering creativity, and promoting a culture of innovation beyond textbooks (AAU, 2020).

 

Promoting university-business linkages for student employability in Africa requires a multifaceted approach that involves collaboration, innovation, and practical integration. To exemplify these concepts, some examples of implementable measures are highlighted. Establishing structured internship, apprenticeship and mentorship programmes with local companies exposes students to industry-specific practices and cultivates practical skills (Jones & Smith, 2019). As Davis and Lee (2020) highlighted, collaborative research initiatives between universities and industries enhance students’ technical proficiency and develop critical problem-solving abilities (Davis & Lee, 2020). Furthermore, industry-led workshops and seminars expose students to challenges, technological advancements, and employer expectations, ensuring their preparedness for professional roles (UNESCO, 2022). Other possible interventions include industry-embedded curriculum (including guest lectures, workshops, and industry-driven projects), business incubators and accelerators, industry-driven competitions, industry networking events, collaborative research centres, dual degree programmes, continuing professional development, etc.

 

University-business linkages are pivotal in shaping employability skills in African higher education. By fostering partnerships, exposing students to real-world scenarios, and integrating industry perspectives, African universities can empower their graduates to excel in diverse career paths, ultimately contributing to the growth and development of the continent.

 

In sum, fostering university-business linkages for student employability in Africa necessitates a collaborative effort that embraces innovation, practical exposure, and a shared commitment to preparing students for the ever-changing demands of the job market.

Career enhancement within the context of African higher education is paramount as it equips students and graduates with diverse skills, experiences, and personal growth opportunities essential for thriving in the dynamic job market. African universities, therefore, have a pivotal role in shaping student employability through a range of strategic career enhancement measures. In an era marked by technological disruption and evolving industry landscapes, the emphasis on career enhancement goes beyond academic excellence, focusing on holistic development that encompasses communication skills, adaptability, leadership, and problem-solving abilities. By integrating career-focused programs, mentorship, internships, and industry partnerships, African universities empower their students to transcend traditional academic boundaries, fostering a generation of professionals capable of contributing meaningfully to their communities, driving economic progress, and embracing lifelong learning as they navigate a rapidly changing world of work.

 

Several impactful strategies can be implemented based on academic research by Jones and Smith (2019) and practical implementations highlighted by the Association of African Universities (AAU, 2020). As Jones and Smith proposed, establishing dedicated Career Services Centers offers personalised guidance on job search strategies, resume building, and interview preparation, providing students with the necessary tools for entering the job market (Jones & Smith, 2019). Such centres can also undertake career development workshops and seminars, mock interviews, language and communication training, career fairs, industry networking events, etc.  Moreover, the AAU emphasises the significance of industry partnerships and internships, encouraging African universities to collaborate with local businesses to provide students with practical work experience and real-world skills, aligning their education with industry demands (AAU, 2020).

 

Integrating soft skills training, inspired by the findings of Johnson et al. (2021), can significantly enhance graduates’ interpersonal skills, teamwork capabilities, and problem-solving aptitude, rendering them more adaptable to dynamic workplaces (Johnson et al., 2021). Additionally, Entrepreneurship Programmes, as recommended by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM, 2018), foster innovation and self-initiative, equipping students with an entrepreneurial mindset essential for navigating today’s rapidly evolving job market (GEM, 2018). Incorporating industry projects into the curriculum, backed by Davis and Lee (2020), allows students to apply their theoretical knowledge to practical scenarios, honing their critical thinking abilities and hands-on skills (Davis & Lee, 2020). Alumni engagement, as highlighted by the Institute of International Education (IIE, 2017), serves as a bridge between academia and industry, offering students valuable insights into various career paths and industry trends (IIE, 2017). Furthermore, Career Fairs, in line with the practices of leading African universities (UNESCO, 2022), provide students with opportunities to connect directly with potential employers, fostering networking and enhancing their understanding of job market dynamics (UNESCO, 2022). Other activities can be work-integrated learning and job shadowing.

 

By implementing these evidence-based strategies, African universities can elevate their students’ employability prospects, ensuring their readiness to contribute effectively to the continent’s workforce and socioeconomic growth.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us and send an email. We will answer your request as soon as possible.

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