Attempts to revitalise African higher education are being eroded because of under-funding, competing forces that try to influence who goes to university and what they should be taught, and the rise of ethnically-based institutions, according to experts.
As the Association of African Universities lamented lack of quality assurance at many of the more than 1,000 universities spread across the continent, the Economic Community of West African States – the powerful regional political grouping known as ECOWAS – was preparing to develop regional criteria for harmonising pre-university qualifications.
Revelations by a global team of researchers that a previously unknown but ancient relative of humankind had been discovered in a South African cave have generated media coverage around the world. That is not just because a new species has been added to the Homo family, but also because of the record number of fossilised bones – 1,550 – found in the cave.
Further investigation and more data are needed to develop the knowledge, management and skills needed to drive effective online learning practices at universities in Southern Africa, a meeting of higher education leaders heard last week.
The battle for funds earmarked for reducing global poverty by 2030 is expected to take centre stage during the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 in New York next month. Africans will push hard for robust support for education and science, technology and innovation.
The private sector is stepping in to provide higher education in information technology in Morocco, as the government struggles to match demand from the North African country’s growing economy with an output of highly skilled graduates.
Tanzania has made progress in expanding access to higher education in order to gear young people towards a middle-income economy by 2025, according to a World Bank report. It provides a snapshot of how the East African country is catching up with tertiary education growth trends in neighbouring states such as Kenya and Uganda.
South Africa needed 14% of gross domestic product generated by entrepreneurs to achieve the economic growth rates essential for sustainability and development – and entrepreneurship was a skill universities could be training students – the 17th annual African Renaissance conference heard in Durban recently.
Graduates of the public University of Nairobi and the private Strathmore University are by far the most preferred by employers in Kenya, according to a poll by the Nairobi recruitment firm Corporate Staffing Services. The findings reveal long-held biases among employers and are likely to spark rivalry among universities, as the battle for the best students hots up.
In three years the State University of Zanzibar has doubled its student intake, albeit from a low base – from 1,224 in 2011 to 2,489 in 2014. In so doing it has bust the myth that the small island of 1.3 million off the coast of Tanzania cannot support more than one university.
The Open University of Tanzania is reaching out to higher education institutions in neighbouring countries to establish collaborations that will encourage more international students to enrol for distance learning.
After two decades of teaching at the college of veterinary medicine, animal resources and biosafety at Makerere University in Uganda, Professor John David Kabasa has heard enough of the same request. After graduating, many of his students beg him for tips on job opportunities – not only in their field of study; they could do ‘anything’.
In an effort to improve access and encourage needy students to enrol in higher education while at the same time containing government spending, the cost-sharing model has been introduced worldwide – including in East Africa – along with student scholarships and loans.
The new academic collaboration strategy of the German Academic Exchange Service, or DAAD, aims to train more students to become university lecturers, build university capacity, and strengthen research and graduate training. Launched in Germany on 25 June, the strategy will run from 2015 to 2020.
USAID recently launched a strategic framework for building the capacity of African higher education institutions and systems. Research has indicated that the social and private rates of return for tertiary investments in Sub-Saharan Africa are among the highest in the world.
The civil war that devastated Somalia also closed down Somali National University in the capital Mogadishu. But thanks to the determination of a group of academics a new institution arose out of the ashes, the private, non-profit Mogadishu University. From an initial student intake of 225 in 1997, the university has grown to 6,000 students.
A World Bank assessment of Sub-Saharan Africa's high-level skills has revealed critical shortages in both numbers and quality - and African universities must share the blame for not meeting the workforce needs of the continent.
The University of Professional Studies, Accra, is determined to make its mark on the international scene through quality assurance, says Vice-chancellor Joshua Alabi. "We were the only African university to subject ourselves to two major programmes - the African Quality Rating Mechanism and Europe's Institutional Evaluation Programme."
Botswana’s first private university, the Malaysian-owned Limkokwing University of Creative Technology – Limkokwing Botswana – has continued to flex its muscles in this diamond-rich Southern Africa nation, taking advantage of a fast growing tertiary education sector.
The room has only three simple beds and a roughly hewn coffee table with an overflowing ashtray, some A4 notebooks and a lot of dust. It is one of 16 student rooms built in a block on a minute piece of land surrounded by a barbed wire fence at Chuka University, until a year ago a former constituent college of Kenya’s Egerton University.
Should governments in East Africa create laws compelling the private sector to offer internships to students, to enable them to gain practical experience in their fields of study – or should a more cooperative approach guide relations between universities and industry?
Namibia’s President Hifikipunye Pohamba officiated at a groundbreaking ceremony for a long-awaited campus of the University of Namibia in Keetmanshoop. The new campus, 500 kilometres south of the capital Windhoek, will be the 12th set up under an ambitious initiative to take higher education closer to the people and achieve more equitable access.
At the height of winter in Southern Africa, a major historical society meeting was held in Botswana following the theme “All for One, One for All? Leveraging national interests with regional visions in Southern Africa”. It was the first time in 48 years that the Southern African Historical Society had met outside South Africa.
The increasing demand for access to higher education in East African countries has opened opportunities for universities to develop robust distance education programmes, according to University of Nairobi Vice-chancellor Professor George Magoha.
After losing out to local universities in the battle to attract East African students, India’s robust higher education sector is back in the region and determined to reclaim its place as a leading destination for African students.