10 February 2016 Register to receive our free newsletter by email each week
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Africa Analysis
Where to from here for the African PhD?
There is broad agreement that Africa needs tens of thousands more PhDs, to renew an ageing professoriate and to staff rapidly expanding higher education, boost research and generate the high-level skills growing economies need. How is this to be achieved? Last week African university leaders and experts thrashed out a range of proposals, including on networks and collaboration, supervision incentives and the diaspora, political support and funding.
Reflections on new government cost-cutting measures
Last October Dr John Pombe Magufuli became Tanzania’s new president. His slogan is Hapa Kazi tu, which means “It is only work that counts here”. Magufuli has rapidly become a continental icon, and the hash tag #WhatWouldMagufuliDo has been trending for months. His approach has been to cut lavish public spending and redirect the money to development – and universities have not escaped.
China-Africa – Higher education gains
Relations with China have revived Africa’s prospects in diverse ways, with investment, trade and development activities that have helped the continent achieve economic growth of 4.5% in 2015. An increasing focus on higher education and skills training was highlighted at the second summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.
Still ‘publish or perish' under research funding policy
South Africa’s Department of Higher Education and Training has approved a revised version of a contentious 2003 research funding policy. The Research Outputs Policy 2015 comes into effect in January. It has been welcomed by academics as having the potential to introduce considerable changes in how research output funds are awarded. But will the apparently ‘new’ policy actually just be more of the same?
Engineering graduates can help Africa to meet its SDGs
Engineers will play a vital role in meeting the challenges laid out by the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals. But there is a long road ahead for engineering in Africa, which needs at least a tenfold increase in relevant skills. To do this, it must dramatically raise the number of people who make it from the first year of an engineering degree to graduation.
Building nations, connecting cultures – The role of HE
Universities are the anchors, shapers and innovators of nations. Universities also provide the mechanisms for building and rebuilding nations. During the independence period, African leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah believed that higher education would be critical to development and growth.
How universities are governed is the biggest challenge
Stories emerging about black students’ experiences in South African universities are nothing short of tragic. Higher education needs to get to grips with transformation. There is no silver bullet, but rethinking how our universities are governed must be central to our efforts.
The blunder of ranking African universities
The Times Higher Education, one of the publishers of global university rankings, recently co-hosted an Africa Universities Summit titled “Moving Africa’s Universities Forward: Building a shared global legacy”. Disappointingly, this took place in the absence of critical African players, despite indicating that the summit included a consultation on regional university rankings.
Investing in peer review to strengthen African science
Strengthening African scientists’ capacity to conduct credible peer review would be one small step to improving the quality of the continent’s science and building the skills of its scientists. Both are key to helping Africa develop its own research agenda.
When and how science spending leads to social returns
The rapid expansion of government funding for science in South Africa is perhaps surprising given the present climate of spending cutbacks amid urgent social priorities. Funding for public science in South Africa has increased by 71% in five years. It will reach R7.6 billion in 2015-16.
Facing hard challenges – A tale of two universities
The old University of Botswana and the new Botswana International University of Science and Technology, both public institutions, have been experiencing a time of turmoil. At one university the vice-chancellor has faced challenges. The other’s leader resigned after only 17 months and left the country.
How citizen scientists classified millions of Serengeti photos
In Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, more than 200 hidden cameras are snapping photos day and night, capturing the secret lives of the Serengeti’s most elusive animals. When we found ourselves with even more pictures than the 1.6 million wildebeest and zebra that take part in the annual migration, we turned to citizen scientists to work through the images and extract the valuable information they contain.
The opportunity to pursue higher education
The recent news that thousands of would-be students had withdrawn from the University of Zambia where they were accepted to pursue studies because they could not get government bursaries is disgraceful.
Tuning higher education as an engine for innovation
When Nigeria's Dangote Group advertised for 100 truck driver jobs in 2012, six PhDs, 704 masters and more than 8,460 bachelor degree holders were among the 13,000 applicants. Why were the applicants not employed in careers they trained for? We argue that universities are not imparting the knowledge and skills required by Africa’s economies or the world.
Africa’s three key science and research issues of 2013
At this time of year, it is always good to take a step back and reflect on the past 12 months. Where are we now, compared to a year ago? What does the future hold? There are three developments of significance for African science and research – a new continental plan for science, the first IBM laboratory in Africa and the downturn in global health research funding.
University-to-jobs transition and youth unemployment
The International Labour Organisation’s Global Employment Trends 2013 estimated the global youth unemployment rate last year at 12.6%, representing 73.8 million young people without jobs. The highest rates are recorded in the Middle East and North Africa.
Science advisory body needs resources
Will the innovation council created to advise African nations on science – and comprising prominent academics, industry representatives and policy-makers – have enough funding? It would be a great pity if the council ended up as a glorified prize-giving committee.
Donors should focus on national research funds
Finding reliable sources of funding has been a perennial problem for African researchers. A long-term lack of interest in university research means that few countries have substantial national research grants open to scientists.
Fragmented science system needs a dedicated ministry
A paralysed science system means that Uganda's desire to fund a landmark project out of its own coffers could backfire. A science ministry is needed to tackle fragmentation of research between government departments that is damaging the country’s entire science system.
Accessing science as a human right to development
Making access to science a human right is a worthy goal, but how can it be enshrined? And will it really deliver? Are developed nations ethically bound to improve the availability of scientific data and to increase the capacity of poorer nations to conduct their own research?
Southern Africa must grow student numbers
Without long-term planning and aggressive policy interventions, the tertiary education participation rate in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is unlikely to keep up with the demand from the region's 276-million strong population, let alone match the progress of regions such as East Asia and the Pacific or participation rates in the rest of the world.
Gender disparity in higher education
As a signatory to the Millennium Development Goals, Ethiopia pledged to pursue a series of benchmarks and targets relating to gender equality. The targets aim to empower women and eliminate gender disparity in all levels of education by 2015. But despite vast expansion of higher education, female students remain chronically underrepresented.
GLOBAL: Leaders need better understanding of science
A Ugandan report suggests that policy-makers' interest in science and technology is growing. But they need support to turn it into action. The lessons of the report are significant, and not only for Uganda.
AFRICA: West African higher education reforms
Since the advent of the knowledge economy society, higher education has been seen as a major contributor to poverty reduction and sustainable human development. Over the past two decades, many regional organisations have invested in the revitalisation and further development of their higher education systems, in order to benefit from the opportunities offered by the knowledge economy.
SOUTH AFRICA: Bill is a threat to democracy, research
The Protection of Information Bill, which was passed by South Africa's national assembly with a majority vote on 22 November, has raised the ire of researchers, who have slammed it as a threat to democracy and academic freedom.