Sustainable qualification in the water sector
AQWA Academy • Upholding quality while adapting to participants' needs.
Many international students and scientists benefit from RWTH Aachen University's high-quality study programmes and excellent facilities; currently 5,000 of the 37,000 students are foreign students. RWTH Aachen University is recognized by the German Federal Government as one of 11 Universities of Excellence. It attracts the best minds globally and places strong emphasis on internationalization, with the Arab region identified as a key partner. Emphasis is placed on providing academic training to the highest scientific standards and meeting the cultural and social needs of the participants as well as providing visa and travel assistance.
The RWTH International Academy, as RWTH Aachen University's official institution for executive education, recognizes that there is also a demand for knowledge from industry which renders it necessary to identify alternative educational formats. One example is the International Academy’s cooperation with other academic institutions and industrial enterprises in the AQWA Academy to deliver German engineering knowledge to the water sector in the MENA region. With financial support from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, AQWA Academy aims at meeting the educational needs of water sector employees with varying qualifications, at different stages throughout their careers, whilst enabling them to continue their day-to-day job.
The MENA countries have the most serious water scarcity. Exacerbating the problem of secure water supply are crumbling or non-existent waste disposal systems, water pollution, and sometimes conflicts regarding the development of water resources. Population growth and increasing urbanization add to the critical situation. Investment in infrastructure, water supply, and sanitation technologies are essential, but an improved education framework for water sector professionals is also urgently required. Integrated solutions that combine technology with management know-how regarding administrative, ecological and commercial factors are in demand.
This is where AQWA Academy comes into play: Private companies cooperate with higher education institutions to develop practical, high-quality, certified training programmes for the water sector in the MENA region. The AQWA Academy content encompasses the essential issues of design, construction, management, maintenance and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure, water supply and waste water facilities.
A key goal is to transfer theory into practical action. AQWA Academy's answer is a blended learning concept, combining traditional classroom attendance with e-lectures and practical training, adaptable to different degrees of difficulty and the local setting. The crucial factor is close cooperation with partners in the MENA region to design appropriate content and didactical methods to meet the regional demand. AQWA Academy uses a modular framework comprising basis modules and optional learning units so that formats can be created quickly while maintaining the university's high and widely recognized quality standards.
A good example of how AQWA Academy works is the cooperation between programme partner FiW (Research Institute for Water and Waste Management at RWTH Aachen University) and the Tunisian wastewater authority, ONAS. At the outset intensive dialogue about the content and formats was held. The agreed programme was a visit to Aachen for Tunisian engineers to experience hands-on training on a semi-industrial pilot plant, testing the theoretical knowledge they had acquired in lectures held in advance. These theoretical modules had been provided via the AQWA Academy e-learning platform and in classroom lectures. Finally, the participants discussed practical details with experts during field visits. AQWA Academy is adaptable to the participant’s qualification level which is ascertained in advance. For example, technicians receive longer practical training than the engineers from mid-level management.
Based on the blended learning-concept and the good results of its evaluation, the certified training course “Waste Water Collection & Treatment – WWC&T” has been designed by AQWA Academy, comprising a four weeks e-learning preparation phase, a two weeks stay in Germany with theoretical instructions, practical training and excursions to waste water plants. The course is open both for academic and non-academic target groups. Quality is assured by a triple certification: RWTH, external accreditation agency and a representative national water/waste water association. The certificate course will be on offer starting in 2014.
The courses are all run to the highest academic standards, adhering to the ethos of RWTH Aachen University. Appropriate accreditation and continual improvement based on established evaluation processes underpins the success and provides quality assurance. However, flexibility to meet the needs of participants at various stages in their careers while considering global and industrial logistics of transferring knowledge ensures success.
This sucess story was first published in the iMOVE publication Developing Skills for Employability with German Partners • 8 Success Stories from the Renewables and Cleantech Sector. The brochure was published in 2014.