A new online search portal called the HERANA Gateway provides access to the latest research on African higher education. Using Google technology, the Gateway returns focused search results from more than 15 sites worldwide - including University World News and the Centre for Higher Education Transformation in South Africa - making it one of the most specialised resources of its kind.
The relationship between research-based information and policy decision-making often swings between two extremes: on the one hand, those who want to do research that will directly 'dictate' practice and, on the other hand, researchers for whom producing the report is the final step in the process.
The result of the first approach is often 'consultancy' rather than research. The effect of the latter is that the limited research undertaken in Africa is ignored as policy-makers are made aware, through various distribution channels, of the latest developments in Europe and the United States, while there is little or no sharing of, or debate about, what can be learned from policies and practices in Africa.
One solution is to provide a single information source that pulls together the fragmented and scattered research outputs on African higher education. Numerous organisations are participating in the project, including University World News, which also produces a bi-annual, subject-specific electronic newsletter for the Gateway.
Other participants are varied but have in common the fact that they produce and make available much-needed research on African higher education. The participants include:
* African Higher Education Research Online (AHERO): South Africa
* African Higher Education Resource Directory: US
* African Network of Scientific and Technological Institutions (ANSTI): Kenya
* Association for the Development of Education in Africa (Adeanet): Tunisia
* Association of African Universities (AAU): Ghana
* Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU): UK
* Centre for Higher Education Research, Teaching and Learning (Rhodes University): South Africa
* Centre for Higher Education Transformation (CHET): South Africa
* Codesria: Senegal
* Council on Higher Education (CHE): South Africa
* Harvard University project on African Higher Education: US
* HSRC Press: South Africa
* International Network for Higher Education in Africa (INHEA): US
* Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA): Uganda
* Partnership for Higher Education in Africa: US
The list of HERANA Gateway participants is set to increase in the future and will further enhance the site's comprehensiveness.
The HERANA Gateway forms part of the Centre for Higher Education Transformation's (CHET) Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa (HERANA) project, and makes an important contribution to CHET's broad objective of developing a network of higher education expertise in Africa.
The Gateway is an essential part of this overarching objective, as it integrates relevant information from numerous sources and makes it available at a central point to a growing network of academics, policy-makers and researchers.
Why not simply rely on search engines such as the ubiquitous Google to retrieve policy-relevant higher education research? The reason is simple: whereas search engines such as Google can easily deliver more than 20 million search results for a single search query, the HERANA Gateway delivers more focused results thereby reducing the possibility of search engine fatigue.
The Gateway also ensures that information contained on websites that may be buried deep within the overwhelming search results, but which nevertheless contain valuable research on African higher education, is made accessible.
For example, a search for the term 'differentiation' on Google.com returns 18.7 million results. The same search on the HERANA Gateway lists 4,550 higher education-specific results. Furthermore, the site can access search results from PDFs and MS Word documents.
It has never been easier for academics, policy-makers and researchers to access research-based information relating to African higher education.
Visit the site at www.herana-gateway.org.
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