21 September 2017 Register to receive our free newsletter by email each week
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Tempest in the rankings teapot – An African perspective
It is that season when ranking entities announce their 'findings' on the comparative stature of the world’s universities. There are many reasons why the world, especially Africa, would be well served to ignore reputation-based international university rankings.
As by Fire – The end of the South African university
My book As by Fire: The end of the South African university warns against the new normal of violence and disruption on campuses and the closing down of space for dissent by the dominant (though not majority) student voice. The book tries to push back against what some already see as inevitable.
Open data on universities – New fuel for transformation
Accessible, usable and relevant open data on South African universities makes it possible for a wide range of stakeholders to monitor, advise and challenge the transformation of South Africa’s universities from an informed perspective.
Continent risks fading from digital knowledge economy
The rapid growth of internet use on the African continent has sparked hopes for the democratisation of knowledge production, but recent research suggests that connectivity is not enough to boost Africa’s position in the knowledge economy.
Universities – Learning from society for society
The context of societies in developing countries must determine the mission and role of their universities. These cannot simply be borrowed or adopted from the Western world. They should be crafted on the basis of the needs and aspirations of the society where the university is located.
A rough but rewarding road to educating ethical leaders
At a private liberal arts college in Ghana’s eastern region, where engagement with ethics is embedded into the curriculum, a ‘new normal’ for the region’s businesses and universities is being forged.
Higher education on the brink of disastrous closures
The market value of many university staff salaries is as little as US$200 a month, down from US$3,000 two years ago. Persistent underfunding of South Sudan’s universities in the face of soaring inflation could force many to close, hampering economic recovery and long-term growth.
How to get more women into engineering at university
African universities have low numbers of female students in their engineering departments. Some have attempted to address this through affirmative action to improve access, but they do not make a dent in the fundamental causes of gender disparity in engineering.
African languages – Lifting the mask of invisibility
There is a need to intensify resistance to the metaphysical empire of language, literature and scholarship and make African languages and what is produced in them more visible. Every African university should become an advocate of African languages.
Leading the way to high-skilled jobs?
Creating high-skilled and relevant jobs will help the world’s youngest region – with close to 60% of its population under 25 years old – and to do that it requires dynamic new higher education leaders.
Rethinking the university for an online era
At the virtual university academics are not teachers so much as curators of knowledge and innovation, able to offer better quality learning materials than the materials that could be delivered in traditional classrooms.
Model for the transformation of higher education in Africa
A model system of around a dozen pilot universities across West, Central and East Africa, implementable within a decade with some 2,500 new academics and US$1 billion, is proposed to kick-start the transformation of African higher education.
HE and the dawn of a new Marshall Plan for Africa
While I agree with Philip G Altbach and Hans de Wit of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, when they write in their recent contribution that the aggressive posturing of United States President-elect Donald Trump is far from helpful to higher education around the world, I do not believe it will seriously dent the system as a whole. Nor will it have a significant impact on African higher education.
Early career academics in Africa – The need for induction
For all the debates on ‘massification’ and revitalising higher education in Africa, little attention has been paid to the teaching skills of academics. As student demand rises and quality diminishes and senior academics retire, the systematic enhancement of the calibre and skills of early career academics – who now dominate the academic landscape – is paramount.
African research universities to create hub of expertise
The African Research Universities Alliance is working to build strong research capacity to grow new sectors and expand existing industries across the continent over time, by aligning Africa’s leading research universities into a hub of research expertise.
The revival of polytechnics
Across Africa there has been a move to upgrade polytechnics to universities, but in so doing countries are failing to train enough vocational workers, such as technicians. Could the change of policy in Mauritius where a replacement is being sought for polytechnics be the way forward?
Treat the cause, not the symptom of student protests
Student unrest in the United States and South Africa are symptoms of deeper problems with the education system than access to knowledge. Until students and academics see that their concerns are aligned, we will continue to avoid hard questions and treat symptoms and not causes.
Sliding doors – Securing study visas to South Africa
The metaphor of sliding doors indicates the hit-or-miss enactment of immigration policies by South Africa, in that the obstructions and eventual results seem unforeseeable. The almost haphazard nature of securing study visas might be why several international students interviewed for research described themselves as ‘lucky’.
Literature from the diaspora creates diverse narratives
One element of the ‘Africanisation’ debate involves assessing the value of contemporary literature written by Africans in the diaspora. Critics complain that Afrodiasporic literature is not in tune with the continent, and is sanitised and Westernised. But these works take students beyond their national and personal borders, which is crucial in times of global cultural flux.
Achievements and challenges of private higher education
Before 2000 there were fewer than 15 private higher education institutions in Ghana. By 2015 their number had grown to 106, compared to 83 public institutions. The private sector mainly absorbs excess demand from the tuition-free public system – but elite private institutions are emerging that target applicants from wealthy families locally and globally.
Rethinking curriculum approaches in challenging times
Seriously rethinking approaches to the curriculum, and to teaching and learning, requires staff development that draws on unacknowledged expertise, gives status to teaching and learning, and builds collaboration between institutions. In August, fellows from 22 South African universities will emerge from a pilot programme that set its sights on these ambitious goals.
Global universities and their global responsibilities
If all of the world’s leading research-intensive universities partnered – even modestly – with African institutions to boost research capacity, there could be a transformative impact on the continent’s capacity to produce knowledge.
HE cannot wait for 2030 global goals
Africa cannot wait until 2030 for the next round of global goals to address the urgent need for quality higher education. The Sustainable Development Goals in which higher education targets are included sideline quality and instead focus on incremental development, enrolment rates, unsustainable practices and international dependency.
Norway’s new academic partnerships with global South
Norway recently unveiled its new programme for academic collaboration with the global South. Significantly, this major partner of African higher education has shifted from full degree study abroad scholarships that intensify the brain drain to postgraduate-level partnerships and short exchanges.
African higher education development – Competing visions
Ministries in Africa must simultaneously modernise higher education systems while widening participation. To do this they must convince governments and donors that system innovations and societal benefits have an equally important rate of return in terms of truly sustainable development.