Interview: ESPRIT Group and Honoris United Universities join forces to accelerate STEM education in Africa

Luis Lopez, CEO, Honoris United Universities


Honoris United Universities (HUU), the pan-African network of private higher education institutions, recently welcomed Tunisia-based education group ESPRIT into the organisation. ESPRIT significantly boosts Honoris’ strengths in engineering and STEM education. To find out more, How we made it in Africa spoke to Luis Lopez, CEO of HUU.

1. Give us an overview of ESPRIT Group’s offering.

ESPRIT Group is one of the largest education organisations in Northern Africa. Founded in 2003 by three pioneering Tunisian higher education academics – Prof. Tahar Ben Lakhdar, Prof. Naceur Ammar, and Prof. Mohamed Jaoua, the ESPRIT Group provides students with a dynamic range of specialties and courses in computer engineering, telecommunications engineering, civil engineering, electromechanical engineering, and management science. The ESPRIT Group comprises four institutions including a tertiary engineering/technology school, a tertiary business school, a kindergarten and primary school (Al-Kindi), and a secondary school (Al Fikr).

The addition of ESPRIT to the Honoris network will significantly boost Honoris’ pan-African strengths in engineering and in STEM education, critical areas for developing highly skilled and globally competitive professionals in the African, digital and globally disrupted worlds of work.

2. What motivated HUU’s partnership with ESPRIT Group?

The fact that ESPRIT Group is one of the largest education organisations in Northern Africa reaffirms our commitment to expand access to quality higher education for African youth. Considering Tunisia’s strategic importance for the development of education in Africa, we are pleased to make this investment in the country’s education system. In addition, ESPRIT’s high standards and achievements add important educational skills to the Honoris network and contribute to our collaborative intelligence at different levels. Whether for students or the academic body, Honoris encourages exchanges between institutions or through cross-cutting projects in different fields such as research, the development of new academic models, physical or virtual laboratories.

The integration of the group complements Honoris’ robust foundations in traditional education and in 21st-century learning ecosystems covering collaborative, solutions-oriented and creative ways of thinking. This structure across the broad age groups prepares graduates with a future-ready mindset upon reaching tertiary education or the workplace.

Honoris continues to expand its footprint in Africa. The institution recently welcomed Nile University of Nigeria and Red & Yellow Creative School of Business in South Africa to its network. ESPRIT represents the 14th institution in the Honoris network, which is now home to 57,000 students across the continent.

3. How will other institutions in the HUU network benefit from the addition of ESPRIT Group?

One of our core strengths is collaborative intelligence. ESPRIT will be part of the first pan-African private higher education network. By joining Honoris network, ESPRIT will provide enhanced support to its graduates in a highly competitive market through access to shared data and knowledge as well as unique work tools. The addition of ESPRIT to the Honoris family of institutions provides students across the entire network with access to innovative teaching methods – such as an active pedagogy methodology – and to strong relationships with the international industrial and business worlds, elements that have made ESPRIT the go-to institution for engineering qualifications.

4. What are the reasons for ESPRIT Group’s success since its founding in 2003?

ESPRIT School of Engineering has built its reputation on excellence in Tunisia and in several sub-Saharan African countries, which has enabled it to establish numerous partnerships in the industry and with renowned universities.

ESPRIT also boasts a research, development and innovation (R&DI) department, i.e., Esprit-Tech where several teams work on a variety of research projects related to cutting-edge technology. The flagship school of the Group has accredited all its programs with the French accreditation agency “Commission des Titres d’Ingénieurs” (CTI) and the French Conference des Grandes Ecoles and is an active member of the CDIO initiative (Conceive Design Implement Operate).

5. How would you describe the overall state of STEM education in Africa?

According to the African Development Bank, less than 25% of African higher education students are in STEM fields, with the majority of students studying social sciences and humanities. As higher education providers, there is the need to listen to what young people need and what today’s complex, globalised and evermore digitised world of work needs. Every African child’s education must be built upon a robust base of languages and STEM subjects before being enriched with powerful ‘soft skills’ including problem solving, communication, critical thinking, creativity, emotional intelligence, collaborative thinking, entrepreneurship and digital literacy. These skills, which serve as a driving force for the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), ensure that graduates enter the workforce with an understanding of 4IR challenges and opportunities. STEM is contributing to the current development demands of the continent, equipping people from all backgrounds to become part of Africa’s self-sufficient aspirations.

At Honoris, our focus is on Education for Impact, training our students to be collaborative, agile and mobile employees, innovators and entrepreneurs who are fully equipped with 21st-century skills. Honoris’ curricular structures reflect this critical connection between STEM and socio-economic development, recognising the need for a modernised, agile learning ecosystem. STEM also cannot stand still – it is ever-changing – which means that the teaching pedagogy must be in a constant state of evolution.

Honoris can boast of world-class engineering schools. In addition, we are also introducing across the network our Coding as a Second Language mandate as we recognise that coding is a fundamental skill for our students to be successful and competitive in increasingly digitised, automated and AI-driven economic models.

This 4IR is reshaping our world at such lightning speed that an educational focus on innovation, ideas, invention, and research must form the basis of a rounded and effective academic experience. Our formal programmes, our co-curricular and extra-curricular offers, and our focus on practical real-world engagement via internships, simulations and faculty practitioners, in STEM and in other faculties, are designed to capture future-proofing skills and mindsets for our students.