African academic endeavours must accept the fact that the centre of gravity of knowledge production about Africa and Africans must be situated in Africa, so that the ‘otherness’ of the subject of scholarship which Western hegemony has imposed on Africa and Africans is eliminated.
A non-governmental organisation is helping to boost the eligibility of matriculants for university entrance and other further education and training opportunities.
Properly and thoroughly implementing the recommendations arising out of the recent universities audit by the Commission for University Education presents an opportunity to restore the reputation of the country's university system.
Explaining the past and understanding an increasingly uncertain future in South African universities requires that the ideological underpinnings of every intellectual past in the humanities be unravelled.
Student unionism in Zimbabwe has become synonymous with party politics, compromising the unions’ ability to represent students and causing a great number of tertiary students who want nothing to do with party politics to actually shun national unions.
Governments face a ‘trilemma’ in higher education policy as they can always only reach two out of three politically desirable goals – low public costs, low private costs (tuition fees), and mass access.
In their pursuit of competitiveness, higher education institutions across Africa set themselves the target of becoming ‘world class’, and labels such as a ‘world-class African university’ are not uncommon in their mission statements.
While the potential of regional cooperation to develop and strengthen Africa’s higher education sector has long been recognised on paper, progress towards its actualisation has been slow. Against this backdrop, the introduction next year of a Southern Africa masters curriculum in climate change and development represents an important test case for future academic harmonisation.
Since the bonfire of artworks at the University of Cape Town earlier this year, fire as a weapon of protest has spread throughout South Africa’s higher education system, and rekindled beyond. But when the portraits of the ‘colonials’ have been burnt, the timeless questions remain.
If you want to learn about Africa, there’s no need to go to Algeria, Mali, Zambia or anywhere else on the continent. Instead, you’ll need to visit – at great cost – institutions in the global North like Johns Hopkins University or the School of Oriental and African Studies. Places like these host a wealth of African knowledge databases.
On 19 January 2016, in an unprecedented demonstration of clout, the Kenya Commission for University Education ordered Kisii University, a state institution, to close 10 of its 13 branch campuses, and relocate the 15,000 students affected to the main campus. This move brings to 20 the number of campuses ordered closed by the authorities.
Nigerian scholar Oyekan Owomoyela suggested that “getting ‘Africa’ back into African Studies is to get African Studies back to Africa”. This can be achieved, among other ways, by creating a canon of scholarly literature by Africans, more citations of African scholars, and more African scholars influencing the research agendas of top-rated African Studies journals.
Oladapo Afolabi, professor of applied chemistry and former head of service for the Nigerian government, presented a futuristic and thought-provoking paper on transforming universities for this century and beyond, at the Annual Conference of the Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities held from 29 May to 2 June at the University of Jos.
South Africa’s government is planning a major overhaul of its student funding system. This comes in the wake of protests at universities that saw students successfully freeze fee hikes for the 2016 academic year. But there are hurdles to equitable student funding that can only be overcome if the student loans system is subject to public scrutiny.
The idea that Africa’s future depends critically on science, technology and innovation is embodied in the African Union’s Agenda 2063. The continent starts at a disadvantage but there are grounds for optimism. Progress will cost billions – but the money is there and the challenge is to invest it in science innovation and technology for development.
As the knowledge economy in Africa grows, so too will the need for more PhD graduates. New methods of teaching and research will be required along with supportive policies, regular assessments to ensure PhD outcomes match skills needs and greater support for research universities.
The Next Einstein Forum Global Gathering 2016 that took place in Senegal last month brought together African and global leaders from science, industry, civil society and government. The aim was to create “a unified African scientific identity integrated into the global scientific community and to inspire talented young people to pursue science”.
African scholarship on Africa is operating at only a fraction of its true potential. It is hampered by the preferences, policies and politics of the Western academy. There are three reasons for this assertion – the poor state of knowledge about African economics and politics; the structure of academic rewards and careers; and ‘Occidentalism’ in theory and policy.
A nascent initiative to create an African grant management standard could help institutions improve administration practices, making them more attractive to donors in turn. But the initiative will only fulfil this promise if African researchers engage with its design to make sure it addresses their problems.
Quality assurance definitely has a role to play at Ethiopia’s universities. But this role will only be truly positive if programmes are modified to take academic considerations into account. They must also become more flexible about collecting essential data at an individual level rather than just focusing on the institutional level.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.