The third meeting of the Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa, or HERANA, held in Franschhoek in South Africa in November, was attended by representatives of seven of the eight participating universities: Botswana, Cape Town, Dar es Salaam, Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique, Ghana, Nairobi in Kenya, Mauritius, and Makerere in Uganda. Each gave detailed and fascinating presentations on key research indicators. Led by the Centre for Higher Education Trust, the goal of HERANA is to institutionalise data collection with a view to strengthening knowledge production in a group of emerging research-intensive flagship universities.
The notion of ‘Africa Rising’ has found traction in recent years, although the ascent is very uneven, says Nico Cloete, coordinator of the Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa. Certainly the continent’s flagship universities are rising. “There are upward trends in a number of areas that I think are very positive.”
Research by the Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa has produced data on flagship universities in eight African countries over a 15-year period. One outcome has been to improve data collection at the universities involved. Another has been to build a first accurate picture of leading universities across the continent, their performances according to key indicators, and their achievements and challenges.
Centres of excellence and related initiatives have become a high-profile feature of the African science landscape during the last decade, where the eye-catching ‘excellence’ tag usually reflects either worthy aspirations or challenging levels of ambition. We believe that African science can and should take the concept of excellence more literally, moving from aspirational to ‘outstanding performance’ or ‘highest quality’.
Recent data from Norway’s statistical office revealed that 50% of all jobs will require a masters degree in the next 10 years, while unskilled jobs will shrink to 5%. This means universities will have a growing impact on development, argues Peter Maassen of Norway's University of Oslo – and that ensuring their success will become increasingly important. What lessons in strengthening universities may be learned from Europe?
As the editors to this festschrift note in their introduction, Peter Maassen’s academic life is “very much entangled” with the development of higher education as a research field. Thus the publication is not only a celebration and a gift to a friend and colleague, but also an informal and “hopefully interesting peek into the historical and continuous development of an academic field”.
Higher education in Afghanistan has moved quickly from no women lecturers or students in 2001 to 22.4% women students and 14% women faculty in a war environment and amid major challenges. This, along with significant transformation of the sector, bodes well for the future success of both higher education and gender equity.
Among a collection of countries and territories in the Southeast Asian and Australian region concerned with building research-intensive universities, Singaporean higher education stands as a model for what can be achieved through planned growth and development and sustained investment.
Universities around the world need to adapt to changing external and internal circumstances, but achieving intentional change in these complex institutions is often more challenging than theories of organisational change might suggest.
After establishing itself as a key player in the South African higher education policy sector in the late 1990s, the Centre for Higher Education Trust or CHET has broadened its horizons, moving into the area of African institutional development with an emphasis on research. At last year’s Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa meeting in Franschhoek near Cape Town, members of its board reflected on the journey thus far, with a few suggestions for the future.