The Zimbabwean government last week cancelled the academic year as universities and schools found it impossible to continue operating with the collapse of the country's economy. At the University of Zimbabwe, the country leading tertiary institution, a notice on a faculty building told students lectures would begin "on a date to be advised". But university vice-chancellor Levy Nyagura was quoted as saying the university had no water, no electricity and no funds.
Nearly 1,160,000 students have started the new academic year in Algeria, including 260,000 freshers, according to the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. But despite the assurances of the Minister, Rachid Haraouabia, La Tribune of Algiers questioned whether universities had the capacity to cater for so many students.
The governing council of Nigeria's National Postgraduate Medical College has rejected moves by the National Universities Commission to undermine its autonomy on the issue of academics needing doctoral qualifications. Many lecturers at the country's only postgraduate medical college possess post-degree fellowship qualifications from the institution rather than PhDs.
Science departments in Zimbabwe's universities have been hardest hit by a brain drain that has been blamed mostly on poor salaries. Last week low pay prompted lectures at all state-run higher education institutions go on strike as part of wider civil service industrial action.
Two things never disappear from the grievance lists of South African students – fees and accommodation. No sooner had the 2010 academic year begun than students at some universities clashed with administrations and the police over fee hikes and lousy residences. Students renewed their call for free higher education while universities reported that student debt now tops R2.8 billion (US$363 million).
The University of Zambia was rocked by violent protests last week over the government's failure to pay student allowances. Riot police were called in as students' barricaded roads and stoned vehicles, and had to seal the institution to restore order. The country's oldest university has been disrupted by unrest every year for the past decade.
The government of Malawi has bowed to pressure against its controversial quota system by allowing partial implementation of it. The University of Malawi said last week that resident students had been selected using district quotas but non-resident students had been admitted purely on merit – and that it had achieved gender parity among students.
The academic future of 73 students who registered for two newly-introduced degree programmes at the Polytechnic of Namibia last year are uncertain after the government refused to recognise the degrees or provide the students with loans. New applications for the same courses this year have also been thrown into confusion amidst conflicting reports from the polytechnic and the Ministry of Education.
This month has been action-packed for the American University in Cairo, Egypt's oldest independent higher education institution founded 90 years ago. At high profile ceremonies attended by Egyptian and foreign dignitaries, the university launched three new schools – of global affairs and public policy, business, and graduate education.
The European Union will offer EUR20 million (US$27.3 million) to Egypt to promote research and innovation initiatives as well as establish technology-based industries. This was announced by the Ambassador of the European Delegation in Egypt Marc Franco at the first Euro-Mediterranean Innovation Marketplace held in Heliopolis, Egypt, from 26-28 January.
Private universities began to be established in Nigeria about a decade ago. They have refused to permit trade unionism among students and staff, allowing only loose associations with very strict guidelines. But there is a growing call for unions to be able to operate in private higher education, to promote democratic governance. Opponents are preparing to resist such a move.
In a recent report, the Southern African Regional Universities' Association, Sarua, started on the complex subject of regional integration and what it means for higher education. The Challenges of Regional Integration and its Implications for Higher Education aims to "set the background for engagement" around regional integration rather than provide definitive answers or proposals.
Universities are set to cash in on the 2010 Fifa World Cup with some institutions expected to earn up to R20 million (US$2.6 million), primarily from renting accommodation to some of the participating teams, their fans and media contingents following the competition. Universities have ploughed substantial investments into student residences and sporting facilities to take advantage of the huge event, and ultimately students will benefit.
Professor Diane Hildebrandt was one of two South African winners of the inaugural African Union Scientific Awards for basic science, technology and innovation, announced during an African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Hildebrandt said she represented "scientists and engineers in Africa – men and women – who are doing research in often very difficult conditions and always with too few resources".
Students in Douala are facing increasing housing problems as landlords prefer to rent to more lucrative tenants, as well as burglaries when they do find student accommodation, according to newspapers Douala's area of Bonamoussadi contained buildings composed of bedsits intended for housing students, said Quotidienmutations.info of Yaoundï¿½. But it was clear that many of these rooms were occupied by workers and their families. Baby clothes were hung out to dry and shrieking children ran along the corridors said the publication, which interviewed students living in the area.
The Arab Women Organization has announced five research grants for young researchers in women's studies, and a prize for higher academic and scientific research into questions related to women. Candidates must be nationals of one of the organisation's member states.
A campaign to replace English with Arabic as the language of instruction for medical studies in Egypt has worried academics, who have warned of the negative impact on medical education.
A Malawian Court has ruled in favour of reintroducing a controversial higher education admissions system that obliges universities to enroll students according to district quotas rather than straight merit. Disgruntled students have vowed to appeal against the judgment.
Representatives from more than 20 countries this month adopted a policy guide for promoting multilingual and multicultural education throughout general education systems in Africa, with a view to transforming societies.
A committee leading the drafting of a new constitution in Zambia has adopted a clause that requires any future president to have a degree from a reputable university. The move has sparked a raging debate in the media about whether an academic background is critical in conducting affairs of state.
Zimbabwe student leaders held a crisis meeting with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai last week after it emerged that 28% of students had dropped out of the country's leading university because of a lack of foreign currency to settle tuition fees.
A proposal by President Paul Biya to award nearly three billion FCFA (US$6.4 million) as 'bonuses for excellence' to the best students of Cameroon's seven state universities has divided students and academics and provoked accusations of corruption against university managements, according to a series of reports published in Le Messager of Douala.
Following the world's largest international clinic trial into an HIV preventative gel, scientists have concluded that it is not effective. The four-year trial was conducted in four African countries, ended in September last year, involved 9,385 women and proved controversial in Zambia.
The University of Cape Town (UCT), one of South Africa's top institutions, is undertaking an ambitious programme to balance race relations on campus. The university is accelerating its pace of transformation in the light of a government-commissioned probe into racism in higher education. "The report forced universities to think about these issues and to respond, which is what its real benefit has been," said Crain Soudien, chair of the committee that oversaw the investigation and head of the transformation programme at UCT.
One of Dr Blade Nzimande's first moves as South Africa's new Minister of Higher Education and Training was to institute a review of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, a step that heralded his concern with ongoing inequalities in the system and his intention to widen access to higher education for the country's poorest, mainly black students. It was also a sign that he intends to honour the African National Congress' election manifesto commitment to begin the process of providing free undergraduate study to financially needy students.