External Evaluation of the AIMS Academic Program – Terms of Reference

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) was established in 2003 in Cape Town, South Africa. It is an innovative post-graduate centre for education, research and public engagement and outreach. AIMS offers a one-year taught Master’s Degree in Mathematical Sciences to talented students from all over Africa. The Master’s program trains hundreds of scholars each year and prepares them for leadership careers in academia, government and industry.

Building on the success of its first centre in Cape Town, AIMS launched the Next Einstein Initiative  (NEI) in 2008 to build a critical mass of scientific and technical talent in Africa, capable of driving economical, scientific and social advancement across the continent. The AIMS model was rolled out throughout Africa and four new centres were established in Senegal (2011), Ghana (2012), Cameroon (2013) and Tanzania (2014). A sixth centre is planned to open in Rwanda in August 2016.

Donor Support

In 2010, the Government of Canada contributed CAD 20 million to AIMS NEI, to be administered by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). In 2012, the UK Department for International Development committed £18.2 million to complement and build on Canada’s contribution to AIMS NEI, also to be administered by IDRC. In addition, IDRC provided a further contribution of CAD 2 million in 2013 to build the research capacity of AIMS. Mastercard Foundation committed USD 25 million in 2015, which includes two pilots: a Co-op Masters  and a teacher training program.

Context for External Evaluation

In keeping with the terms of the IDRC/DFID grant agreement, AIMS is commissioning an external evaluation of its academic program.

The evaluation of the AIMS academic program presents an important opportunity to assess whether the quality and rigour  of the Master’s program is consistent between centres, despite being a pan-African network of centres located in varying political, socio-economic, and academic environments. It is also an opportunity for AIMS to benchmark its Master’s program against other comparable programs in Africa and around the world. Finally, it provides an opportunity to identify and address any discrepancies in the delivery and management of the Master’s program at centres, to ensure consistency and a high level of quality across the network.

The evaluation will serve both a learning and accountability purpose for AIMS NEI, IDRC and DFID, as well as the Departments of Education in AIMS host countries. The evaluation will seek to validate the accreditation of the AIMS Master’s Program by host countries and determine what measures must be undertaken in order for AIMS to offer a unified Master’s degree across the network that is recognised both locally and internationally.

The evaluation will be informed by the recent results of the 2015 AIMS Mid-term Evaluation, which reviewed AIMS NEI at large including academics, research, public engagement and organisational development, as well as by the 2009 External Evaluation of the AIMS South Africa Academic Program.

Evaluation Deliverables

  1. Inception Report – Expands on the proposed objective, scope, approach, methodology, and key questions for the evaluation.
  2. AIMS Centre Visit Reports – Brief report outlining key findings from field missions to the five AIMS centres.