African researchers produce only 1.8% of the world's total scholarly publications - half as many as Latin America and substantially less than India - according to a forthcoming article in the journal Scientometrics on the state of science and technology across the continent. South Africa and Egypt produced half of all Africa's internationally recognised publications between 2000 and 2004, while 88% of inventive activity was concentrated in South Africa.
Egypt's public universities have unveiled a plan to computerise their curricula and ways of instruction - but the online move has met with criticism from professors and students. The Ministry of Higher Education said months ago it would make lectures and syllabuses available on the internet as part of a scheme to develop education, and now e-education facilities have been set up in state institutions.
Zimbabwean students have staged nationwide demonstrations against President Robert Mugabe's failure to form an all-inclusive government to extricate the country from economic and political crises that have caused educational standards to plummet. Five students were arrested in second city Bulawayo, while in the capital Harare two students were abducted, assaulted and dumped in bush outside the city by suspected state agents.
A Malawian court has issued an order barring the University of Malawi from implementing a controversial quota system deemed discriminatory by students. The system, which involves students being selected into higher education on the basis of district or region rather than straight merit, was outlawed by the judiciary 15 years ago but reintroduced this year.
Zambian students have petitioned newly elected President Rupiah Banda about their grievances, including low student allowances and industrial action by academics, which they say have been ignored for too long.
Tunisians have been marking the first half century of the country's university system with speeches, scientific, cultural and sporting events - and a conference on higher education and edification of the knowledge society. Meanwhile, Tunisia's Virtual University is looking to the future development of distance education.
The Zimbabwean government has introduced a student 'bonding' system in a desperate attempt to stem the brain drain as people flee the ruinous policies of President Robert Mugabe. Under the cadetship scheme, students will not receive a qualification on graduating but only after working for the state for a stipulated period.
Hassan Abbas, an arts student at Cairo University, did not know there were student union elections until he saw Islamist students staging a protest against their disqualification from candidate lists. In recent weeks the country's 18 public universities have held student polls marked by widespread apathy as well as fiery protests by ineligible students, particularly from the Muslim Brotherhood - said to be the largest opposition group on Egypt's campuses. Political or religious student groups have been banned from student leadership.
The National Universities Commission recently ordered the immediate closure of the offshore campuses of foreign universities on Nigerian soil, as they are prohibited under law. The move left hundreds of students stranded, and unable to move to 'legal' institutions that are full - and indeed only able to accommodate 30% of qualified school-leavers. Now the British Council is seeking partnerships between UK and Nigerian universities, with a view to creating wider opportunities for youngsters desperately seeking higher education.
The academic year has started with record numbers of new students in Cameroon but several universities have experienced problems including overcrowding, lack of teachers and even cancellation of a new faculty of medicine just before it was due to open. Newspapers reported that some universities were coping better than others.
Nigeria's Obafemi Awolowo University clinched second place in an international higher education competition aimed, among other things, at sharpening student skills by testing their understanding of market economics. More than 1,500 students, academics and business people from 41 countries converged in Singapore last month for the Students in Free Enterprise 'world Cup'.
The University of Bamako, Ouagadougou University and University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar, together with the French Conference of University Presidents, have agreed on a coordinated strategy for higher education and research, to promote a regional partnership between African and French universities and contribute to development of West African scientific communities.
The University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar has created seven doctoral schools with a multi-discipline emphasis, under reforms introducing the Bologna process which the university started planning in 2003, reported Le Soleil of Dakar.
Business school BEM Dakar has opened its doors to its first intake of 60 students, offering bachelors and masters courses and continuing education. The school, set up as a partner of the French grande école Bordeaux Ecole de Management (BEM), is headed by Pape Madické Diop.
The Africa-US Higher Education Initiative held an e-consultation from 24 September to 29 October, aimed at: enabling stakeholders to share ideas and best practice on higher education capacity-building; informing the Initiative's long-term plans; and influencing impending grant awards funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The consultation has ended but the forum remains open to provide a platform for further discussion.
The MacJannet Foundation, in partnership with the Talloires Network, last Thursday announced the first MacJannet Prize for Global Citizenship. The prize will recognise university-based programmes around the world that demonstrate active citizenship and student leadership at the local level on an issue of global importance.
Tertiary enrolments in Sub-Saharan Africa more than tripled between 1991 and 2005, expanding at an annual rate of 8.7% - one of the highest regional growth rates in the world - says a new report by the World Bank. But public funding did not keep up and spending per student plummeted over 25 years from an average of US$6,800 a year to just US$981 in 2005 for 33 countries. "Educational quality and relevance both suffered as a result," according to Accelerating Catch-up - Tertiary education for growth in Sub-Saharan Africa.
A plan tabled in Zambia's parliament in 2007, aimed at curbing the brain drain among science lecturers and researchers, lies in ruins amid ongoing academic disgruntlement. The plan included adjusting salaries regularly, introducing a home-ownership scheme, retention allowances and increased research grants for state institutions. But strikes have dominated Zambia's academic year and they have included science lecturers.
Candidates seeking admission into the current 2008-09 academic session in Nigeria are unhappy with high entrance examination fees charged separately by universities and the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, or JAMB. One newspaper analysis calculated that the amount spent by students sitting both sets of examinations was a whopping US$119 million.
Four student leaders were arrested last week for leading a protest of nearly 500 students against the collapse of higher education in Zimbabwe. No state universities are operating in the new academic year because of serious problems including a lecturer strike, lack of finance and unavailability of learning materials.
Academics at Al Azhar University, the Muslim world's oldest seat of higher learning, have reacted angrily to a decision by the Egyptian government to recategorise the institution's colleges. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, who doubles as Minister of Al Azhar Affairs, ordered separation of the university's religious colleges from ones teaching non-religious subjects to create two institutions.
The University of Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) in Dakar is planning to offer a masters degree in plant and microbic biotechnologies which will be accessible to students in other countries, thanks to distance learning. Academics and researchers from Senegal and other countries in the region including Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Mauritania, Mali and Niger, as well as France, met at UCAD for a sub-regional workshop organised by the university's Department of Biology.
A just-published review by the OECD of South African education has praised "impressive forward thinking" and reform post-apartheid, but has also called for improved management of change in higher education and a reappraisal of university funding. It suggests studies into factors affecting student performance in the face of high drop-out rates, a proactive approach to preparing and integrating new students, and pedagogical training for junior academics.
The seven big United States donors that comprise the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa have announced that they will continue support for universities across the continent beyond their original 10-year commitment - but the form of their collaboration after 2010 has still to be firmed up. By then the Partnership will have made grants worth $350 million to universities, institutions and programmes in nine African countries.
Universities in Cameroon need to make more progress in updating their libraries and digitising their documentation. Earlier this month, Jacques Fame Ndongo, Minister of Higher Education, and university presidents met for the presentation of a feasibility study carried out on the country's Inter-university Centre of Documentary Resources, or CIRD, project.