The South African government has launched an initiative to revive and strengthen the social sciences and humanities in universities. A charter of recommendations, to be published in mid-2011, will put these oft-neglected areas back on the higher education agenda so that students who want a true liberal arts education can get a good one.
The rights of refugees in South Africa's Eastern Cape province are being safeguarded through a recently-launched refugee legal rights centre at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in Port Elizabeth. The goal is to assist foreigners seeking asylum.
Teachers in the arts and social sciences faculty at the University of Douala, who went on strike this month in support of pay claims, some dating back a decade, 'provisionally' suspended their action after receiving payment for 2009, reported Quotidien Mutations of Yaoundé.
About 30,000 freshers are starting their studies in Senegal's public and private higher education institutions, announced Amadou Tidiane Bâ, Minister for Higher Education and Scientific Research, at a ministerial meeting.
Every newspaper has its own story and ours began in early 2007, when a few dozen higher education correspondents scattered around the world found themselves with knowledge and skills but no newspaper to write for. Mostly freelance journalists, we had been fired en masse by Times Higher Education as it contracted its global coverage, retaining correspondents only in the US.
The East African Community's five member countries have inched closer to harmonising and standardising their university education systems, potentially boosting student access and mobility. But the improvements will require major changes to individual countries' education systems.
Last week the Rwandan cabinet approved a decision to cancel bursary loans used to support government-assisted students through their academic life. There is also talk of terminating merit-based college scholarships.
Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika has been forced to set aside a 220% university fee hike after protests from the general population, political parties and student organisations.
Egyptian Minister of Higher Education Hani Hilal has announced the planned cancellation of a decades-old system that helps under-performing university students to pass year-end examinations. "The borderline mark system or what is known as 'mercy grades' is illegal and encourages students to be under-achievers," Hilal told academics at Beni Sueif University in southern Egypt earlier this month.
The tertiary entrance examinations or the Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE), which started on 11 October and run to mid-November 2010, are under threat. Industrial action involving secondary school teachers commenced in September with a work-to-rule and go-slow.
Some 160 young Haitians were due to arrive in Senegal last week to start higher education studies, under a scheme proposed by President Abdoulaye Wade following the earthquake that devastated the Caribbean state in January.
Universities face overcrowding, with more school-leavers entitled to a place in higher education and students from other countries in the region applying to study in Cameroon because of its good reputation, reported the Cameroon Tribune of Yaoundé.
An expert study has recommended that a large number of South African students be sent abroad to study for doctoral degrees over the next 10 years, as one way to scale up the number of PhDs produced and boost the country's knowledge and innovation system. The proposal is one of 10 contained in a report launched last week by the Academy of Sciences of South Africa, Assaf.
Poverty alleviation and economic stimulation on the world's poorest continent are problems the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and Higher Education for Development intend to help solve. Last month the agencies announced strategic capacity-building partnerships between 22 universities in Africa and the US.
It may be early days for the Regional Initiative in Science and Education, but RISE has already helped to strengthen higher education in Sub-Saharan Africa. Before the end of its first round of funding some students have jobs, others have published papers in journals and the initiative's major output is soon-to-graduate MSc and PhD students.
An 'old men's club' image, exclusionist rules against younger members and lack of sustainable funding are among the characteristics of science academies in Africa, with more transparent member selection criteria being needed. This was the gist of a debate between students, academics and administrators at a conference of the Regional Initiative in Science and Education, or RISE, in Johannesburg this month.
It was inspiring to see the next generation of African leaders beginning to emerge through science, said Philip Griffiths, chair of the Princeton-based Science Initiative Group, SIG - leading scientists who share a passion for fostering science in developing countries. He was speaking at the close of a four-day Regional Initiative in Science and Education conference held in South Africa this month.
Challenging developments in South Africa, particularly in universities, have led to confusion around position-taking on political and other issues. Every now and then events in society bring position-taking to a point of crisis, and one such crisis is unfolding in the 'resolution' of the crimen injuria case against four former Reitz hostel students from the University of Free State who were at the centre of a racism controversy nearly three years ago. Who is to take responsibility? asks CRAIN SOUDIEN in an article in the South African Journal of Science.
South African, Zambian and Zimbabwean universities have signed a memorandum of understanding for the exchange of staff and students, a leading Zimbabwean academic said last week.
Senegal's President Aboulaye Wade has dismissed the rector of the troubled University of Thiès, Professor Pape Ibra Samb, and appointed in his place Professor Cheikh Saad Bouh Boye, dean of the medical faculty of Ucad, the University Cheikh Anwar Diop of Dakar.
Germany's Academic Exchange Service, DAAD, is providing funding of CFA46 million (US$94,000) for bursaries for African masters students, reported Sudonline of Dakar.
Scientists from West and Central Africa met to discuss setting up new academies to promote science and technology so development of the continent could be better managed, reported Le Soleil of Dakar. The meeting was convened in Senegal last month by the Network of African Science Academies, Nasac.
Erasmus Mundos has financed a new White Paper, disseminated last week in Brussels, which envisages European universities joining a strategic partnership with African universities to enable the latter to acquire the capacity to take leadership in developing their countries. The partnership is to be funded by the EU and its member states. The title of the White Paper is Africa-Europe Higher Education Cooperation for Development: Meeting regional and global challenges.
Although strides have been made, women academics are still losing out to male colleagues at South African universities, especially at the senior level. Pervasive patriarchal attitudes, the lingering effects of apartheid and a woman's childbearing responsibilities are the major challenges faced by female educators as they climb the career ladder, and statistics show their situation hasn't improved much this past decade.
New plans for broadening the two-way street between African and European universities were unveiled at a conference in Brussels last week, where 150 delegates from both continents debated closer ties in higher education. The conference focused on a newly published White Paper on bridging arrangements between institutions and greater cooperation between scholars in Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa.