The Africa Union has merged its science and education bodies in a move designed to improve sectoral relationships, effectiveness and efficiency. The African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology and the Conference of Ministers of Education of the African Union will now operate as one entity.
Controversy stalked the appointment last December of Professor Peter Mbithi as vice-chancellor of the University of Nairobi, and has followed him ever since. Mbithi has fought bare-knuckled duels with colleagues, including his deputy over control of finances, exposing a cash crunch – the university is allegedly running on a US$25 million deficit and millions of dollars in bank overdrafts.
The Nigerian government is finalising plans to compel universities to provide student hostels on all campuses. Julius Okojie, executive secretary of the National Universities Commission, said the move was “aimed at ensuring better living conditions for students with a view to producing better graduates”.
Drastic changes in higher education are needed to improve quality and graduate employability in the Middle East and North Africa. A report from the African Development Bank says a new approach is needed that could be referred to as ‘education for (self-)employment’.
Malawian students have petitioned the government to increase allocations to the Higher Education Students Loans and Grants agency after some students failed to access loans due to inadequate funding.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
The Democratic Republic of Congo government has banned the Université Pédagogique Nationale from providing doctorate-level courses because of a lack of qualified teaching staff. Meanwhile, students from the Institut National du Bâtiment et des Travaux Publics held a violent protest against forced evictions from accommodation and fee increases.
Amid concerns that global rankings of universities prejudice African institutions, Peter Okebukola, former executive secretary of Nigeria’s National Universities Commission, has countered that league tables can encourage competition and improve performance.
Zambia has resolved to undertake major university infrastructure projects. The government is seeking to operationalise new higher education institutions and finish incomplete construction projects in 2016, in an initiative that involves around 12 universities and colleges.
A Shona-Chinese dictionary produced by academics at the University of Zimbabwe and its Confucius Institute will be launched on 20 November in Harare. But the dictionary – the first in Africa – is already on the market.
In spite of warnings and a conciliatory gesture by Morocco’s Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, medical students maintained pressure on the government by staging a mass demonstration against proposed legislation to make them carry out two years’ compulsory service in the countryside.
A season of disturbances is continuing at the Copperbelt University, Zambia’s second largest institution based in Kitwe. Lecturers embarked on a go-slow last week in a bid to persuade the government to install new management and in protest against late salary payments – and police engaged in running battles with students demonstrating against the academic stoppage.
For many years, cases of sexual harassment and rape were swept under the carpet by Nigerian universities. But times have changed. Female students, supported by parents and civil society groups, are hitting back and universities have introduced rules to combat sexual assault.
Medical students across Morocco are continuing a strike, begun on 1 September, against proposed legislation on compulsory medical service in the countryside.
The African Development Bank has released US$98 million for the establishment of four East Africa centres of excellence in biomedical sciences, to be established at universities in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. A fifth centre will be created later in Burundi.
Universities and other post-school institutions in Tanzania have been ordered to remain closed as the East African nation gears up for a general election on 25 October, according to media reports quoting higher education authorities.
Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr Blade Nzimande has issued guidelines for student housing at public universities, aimed at expanding and improving sometimes dire accommodation through minimum standards. South Africa previously had no policies governing housing at universities.
The Nigerian Medical Association and academics are once again at loggerheads over criteria for selecting vice-chancellors. The controversy is over the status of medical fellowships versus non-medical PhDs, and it has refused to go away.
Morocco has unveiled a strategy to tackle a shortage of teachers specialised in mathematics and foreign languages. It includes new initiatives that will be implemented by universities and other higher education institutions.
Independent engineering schools in Tunisia are awaiting the introduction of new, tougher specifications that should ensure the quality of their diplomas is up to standard. But some are accusing the higher education ministry of deliberately impeding development of the private sector – although the move follows a strike by engineering students complaining that private schools are favoured.
The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture, RUFORUM, has launched an ambitious crowd-funding campaign to raise money to train more postgraduate students over the next five years.
Higher education institutions have a key role to play in helping Africa to meet new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, academics told a European conference recently. Representatives from the African Network for Internationalisation of Education also called on the international community to develop “responsible partnerships” with African universities.
Algeria’s parliament has adopted a new framework scientific research law that Tahar Hadjar, the minister for higher education and scientific research, says will give priority to the country’s socio-economic needs.
One of Kenya’s foremost business education institutions, Strathmore University, is partnering with leading mobile network operator Safaricom Limited and innovation hub @iLab Africa to offer a masters degree in mobile telecommunications and innovation – a first in Africa.
The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa – CODESRIA – has stepped up initiatives to boost academic research, with two mega grant facilities meant to mobilise support for the continent’s universities.
Although Sub-Saharan African countries have allocated large shares of government spending to education, the region’s university enrolment rates are among the lowest in the world and a severe mismatch still exists between the skills young Africans have and those employers need, according to a new ‘State of Education in Africa’ report.