Websites relating to Transnational Higher Education in the Francophone World

Key Resource, March 2005

The Observatory is committed to tracking developments in transnational higher education among different language communities. The following is an introduction to cross-border developments in the Francophone world. A brief overview of national, regional and international activities is provided, including a list of major initiatives and key actors involved. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather serves as an overview of the organisations particularly active in this area. General details of each organisation are provided, including publications and other information made available free-of-charge. The following also features a list of selected Francophone online resources that the Observatory uses regularly for research purposes. These include journals, portals and research centres. Most information is accessible free-of-charge, but some sites require a fee-based subscription. All websites are in French, unless otherwise indicated.

1 National organisations and government agencies

A number of countries have established national organisations to promote the use of French in higher education, maximise international student mobility and enhance co-operation between Francophone higher education institutions. In several countries (mainly Canada and France), specialised development-based agencies are designed to bolster the higher education sector of French-speaking developing countries.

Agence Canadienne de Developpement International (ACDI)

The Canadian International Development Agency has a specialised body mandated to support sustainable development in French-speaking developing countries. The agency sponsors several scholarship programmes, facilitates linkages and networks among Francophone institutions and works to bolster the ICT capability of the higher education sector in French-speaking developing countries. The website provides a detailed overview of the ACDI’s initiatives in the Francophone world, and is also available in English.

Centre National d'Education à Distance (CNED)

In 1986, the French Ministry of Education launched the first Francophone distance learning centre aimed at offering programmes from the secondary school to post-graduate degree levels. The CNED currently has 400,000 enrolments in 200 countries (mainly in the Francophone world). The website hosts the CNED’s “virtual campus”, and is also available in English.

Commission Universitaire pour le Developpement (CUD)

The “Commission for University Development” was established as a joint initiative between Belgium’s Ministry of Development and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Under the auspices of the Interuniversity Council of Francophone Belgium, the CUD is charged with facilitating collaboration between Francophone higher education institutions to bolster the university sector of French-speaking developing countries (particularly sub-Saharan Africa and Asia). More specifically, the CUD is aimed at enhancing institutional capacity-building in Francophone developing countries, promoting international collaboration in research and funding underprivileged French-speaking students to pursue studies in Belgium. The website provides links to publications and provides a more detailed overview of CUD’s activities in the Francophone world.

Direction du Developpement et de la Cooperation (DDC)

Under the auspices of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the DDC is a specialised agency designed to bolster the ICT capacity of Francophone developing countries (particularly the higher education sector). In July 2003, DDC launched a major ICT initiative in ten Francophone African countries in partnership with Switzerland’s major e-learning vendor QualiLearning. The project, entitled Coselearn, is designed to establish a virtual campus to develop e-learning capacity in over forty partner institutions (mainly universities) in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Congo-Brazzaville, Mali, Morocco, Mauritius, Niger, Senegal, Chad and Tunisia. Refer to Coselearn's website for further details.


In 1998, the French government established Edufrance as a “public interest group” designed to promote French higher education programmes and services abroad. It aims to attract international students by facilitating the application procedures for visas, work permits, lodging, etc. Edufrance also “co-ordinates international co-operation with foreign countries” through its network of 175 member institutions worldwide. The website is also available in English.


Established in 1965, Égide is a non-profit organisation responsible for managing the French government's international cooperation initiatives in higher education (particularly in the Francophone world). Egide administers a wide variety of scholarships for international students, organises exchange programmes between French-speaking countries and co-ordinates collaborative research initiatives among Francophone universities. Egide has 800 partnerships with public and private organisations in the French-speaking world (e.g. research laboratories, universities, foreign governments). The site contains a catalogue listing the courses offered in French higher education institutions, and is also available in English.


2 Regional organisations and networks

An increasing number of Francophone countries are forging collaborative links in the area of transnational higher education. Francophone African countries appear to be particularly active in promoting regional cooperation in open and distance learning. Many of the following organisations work in partnership with their constituent national bodies, and receive funding from international higher education associations (see below).

A) Africa

Conseil africain et malgache pour l'enseignement supérieur (Cames)

Cames was established in 2000 as a co-ordinating agency for French-speaking higher education institutions in Africa. Funded by several international organisations including the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF, see below) and Unesco, Cames is aimed at disseminating research undertaken by French-speaking African universities, creating an online knowledge-sharing network, promoting student exchanges and harmonising the different higher education systems to facilitate the transfer of credits between countries. According to the website, the long-term view is to establish a regional accreditation agency. Member countries include Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Chad and Togo.

Groupe d'Etude sur l'Education en Afrique (Gretaf)

Established in 1991 under the auspices of the Association of Comparative Studies in Francophone Education (AFEC), Gretaf is a non-governmental organisation designed to promote wider access to higher education in Francophone African countries in collaboration with local development agencies and international organisations. Gretaf is active in nineteen French-speaking African countries. The website provides an overview of Gretaf’s activities and features an online observatory that tracks higher education developments in Francophone Africa.

Réseau africain de formation à distance (Resafad)

Founded in 1996 by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Resafad is a support network in eight francophone African countries to promote the design, implementation, and dissemination of online learning materials and products (particularly distance learning). The initiative is designed to carry out staff ICT training programmes, develop distance learning content in collaboration with French universities, and promote an online knowledge-sharing consortium of African universities offering distance learning programmes. Member countries include Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Togo, Benin, Senegal, Mauritius and Equatorial Guinea. A “telecentre” with Internet access and ICT-trained staff is located in each member country. A range of studies, reports and research are available for download, free-of-charge, on this web site.

Universite Senghor

Senghor University was established in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1989 by the heads of government who met at the Francophone Summit in Dakar. According to the website, the “international university is devoted to the development of Francophone Africa.” The institutional mission is to attract students from across the region and develop senior managers in four key areas: administration and management, environmental management, nutrition and health, and cultural heritage management.

Universite Virtuelle de Tunis (UVT)

The Virtual University of Tunis was established in 2003 as a government initiative aimed at providing open and distance education using multimedia technologies. The initial objective was to offer distance learning programmes and widen participation in Tunisia, but the UVT has increasingly become an online higher education provider across the French-speaking regions of North Africa. The website is also available in English.

B) Asia

Institut de la Francophonie pour l’Informatique

IFI was established in 1995 as an initiative to enhance collaboration in ICT initiatives and research between Francophone universities in South-east Asia and Canada, France and Belgium. The consortium brings together 11 universities in Vietnam, 2 in Cambodia, 1 in Laos, as well as 25 universities and ICT organisations in Canada, France and Belgium.

C) Central Europe

L'Institut de la Francophonie pour l’Administration et la Gestion (IFAG)

IFAG was established in 1996 in Sofia, Bulgaria, by the heads of government who met at the 1993 Francophone Summit in Maurice. The “international university” is aimed at offering ICT and entrepreneurial programmes to Francophone students from across the region (particularly Romania, Bulgaria and Moldova), and enhancing collaboration with Francophone universities in Canada, France and Belgium. The stated mission is to develop senior entrepreneurial leaders with the view to promoting the economic development of the region.

D) Indian Ocean

L'Institut de la Francophonie pour l'Entrepreneuriat (IFE)

IFE was established in 1999 as an “international university” to offer higher education programmes in entrepreneurial studies, with the long-term view to bolstering the economic development of the region. IFE aims to enhance collaboration in ICT initiatives and research between local institutions and Francophone universities in Canada, France and Belgium. The university has established a consortium comprising 3 local universities (1 in Mauritius, Reunion and Madagascar), 3 in Canada, 3 in France and 1 in Belgium.

Universite de l’Ocean Indien

Launched in April 1999, the University of the Indian Ocean is a regional institution that serves Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion, and the Seychelles. The university has no physical campus, but functions as a graduate-level distance education network based on a partnership between eight collaborating higher education and research institutes. (six in Madagascar, one in Mauritius and one in Reunion).


3 International organisations and networks

A number of international organisations have been formed to assist Francophone countries (particularly in the developing world) in bolstering the higher education system and in facilitating regional co-operation. Major activities include implementing ICT staff training programmes; supporting professional development and providing networking opportunities; investigating, developing and evaluating new policy approaches; disseminating best practice examples; funding student mobility programmes; and bolstering institutional ICT infrastructure.

Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF)

Since its creation in 1960, the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) has established itself as the forerunner of developments in francophone higher education. Comprising 525 public and private universities, research institutions, and international agencies, the agency co-ordinates major projects in over sixty French-speaking countries worldwide in an effort to realise its eight-point vision for higher education in the francophone world. The key institutional objectives include widening the use of the French language; spearheading ICT initiatives in Francophone universities; enhancing regional collaboration in research; disseminating distance learning materials in French; promoting student and faculty mobility. The AUF has a total of 25 regional offices across the globe, and is actively involved in a broad range of higher education ventures ranging from student mobility to university management. The web site features a wide range of studies, updates on regional developments and relevant links.

Association internationale de pédagogie universitaire (AIPU)

Aipu was established in 1980 as an international consortium of Francophone higher education institutions and organisations to promote collaboration in research, sharing of knowledge and pedagogical methods. Aipu is aimed at facilitating inter-university co-operation in pedagogy (e.g. exchange of ‘best practice’ models), staff training programmes, and disseminating research undertaken by Francophone universities. The website features an online newsletter that tracks the most recent scientific articles and research papers published by Francophone universities worldwide.

Conference des Ministres de l’Education des pays ayant le francais en partage (CONFEMEN)

Confemen was established in 1960 as an “action group” bringing together the Ministers of Education of every Francophone country across the globe during an annual summit meeting. Working committees are charged with carrying out the ‘action plan’ guidelines put forth at the summit. The objective is to enhance collaboration among Francophone countries in the area of education. More specifically, Confemen is charged with tracking developments in national education sectors (e.g. policy reforms), promoting the establishment of regional and international links between Francophone institutions and developing a knowledge-sharing network between French-speaking countries. A wide range of reports, studies, recent developments and relevant links are available on this web site.


4 Other useful research services

Carrefour International Francophone de Documentation et d’Information

Maintained by the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), this website acts as a portal to relevant resources for those working in or researching higher education in the Francophone world. It provides links to international meeting documents, national and international policies on higher education, and a number of news sources. The main areas of interest include: ICT developments and transnational higher education. There is an African focus to the site.


Thot is an observatory aimed at tracking developments in online learning (particularly distance learning) in the Francophone world. Thot also provides a forum for policy makers, strategists, practitioners and technologists across the Francophone world to explore the role of online learning in the development of human and knowledge capital. The website is divided into "subscriber" and "public access" areas. Available to the public are: a catalogue of distance learning courses offered by Francophone providers; a list of recent publications, key actors and relevant links; other related information including upcoming events. The online discussion forum, round-up of news headlines and reports are only available to subscribers.