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NEWSLETTERAfrican higher education – Setting the agenda for ‘going global’
University World News is a media partner to the British Council’s Going Global 2016 conference, to be held in May in Africa for the first time. We preview this big international higher education event in an interview with Jo Beall, director of education and society for the British Council, and look at university rankings in discussion with Gerald Wangenge-Ouma, while Brendan O’Malley explores how universities can respond to the refugee crisis.
In Africa Analysis, Patrício Langa, Gerald Wangenge-Ouma, Jens Jungblut and Nico Cloete argue that South Africa should look to Africa to see that free higher education, which local students are demanding, failed to universalise access or advance social inclusion. In Africa Features, Wachira Kigotho finds three African countries among the top 50 globally that are leading in science and engineering publication.
With the British people due to vote on 23 June on whether to stay in the European Union, Commentary brings opposing views on Brexit: Anne Corbett confirms that the university sector has been pro-EU from the start and explains why; while Alan Sked contends that Brexit is the obvious future for Britain and vice-chancellors should stop panicking.
In World Blog, Grace Karram Stephenson takes up the plight of the rising number of precarious, part-time instructors in academia. And in Academic Freedom, Pavin Chachavalpongpun reports from personal experience that critical Thai academics are being threatened and their families harassed, while the West turns a blind eye, and Laurie A Brand says the Middle East Studies Association has written an unprecedented number of protest letters on academic freedom violations in the Middle East, with targeted attacks on academics in Turkey being the worst.
Karen MacGregor – Africa Editor
Nigeria’s education minister has sacked the vice-chancellors and governing councils of 13 federal universities. In the same breath, he announced the university leaders’ successors. Strangely, no reason was given for the mass firing that has shocked the higher education community and the country.
SOUTH AFRICAMunyaradzi Makoni and Karen MacGregor
Violent protests and racial clashes closed universities around South Africa last week. Vice-chancellors called for help in identifying perpetrators of campus violence, who showed “total disregard for the academic project, the rules of engagement and the laws and Constitution”. There have been arrests, injuries, burning of vehicles and destruction of buildings.
An agreement has been signed that will see Zimbabwe sending nearly 20,000 graduates for employment in South Sudan. This is in line with an initiative by Zimbabwean authorities to export labour from a country that has Africa’s highest literacy rate and one of its highest jobless rates – estimated at over 80%.
After months of union strikes and protests against the government of Senegal’s ‘lack of respect for signed agreements’, the national assembly adopted laws improving the status of university lecturers and living and working conditions for students. Higher Education Minister Mary Teuw Niane has also announced that a new university will open in October.
The Pan African University’s Institute of Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation, based in Kenya, is seeking to boost its faculty by recruiting up to 32 short-term lecturers from across the continent to teach for periods ranging from four to 16 weeks.
Former academic and activist Dr Jessie Kabwila – who led academic freedom protests against Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika four years ago, when he was higher education minister – was arrested on treason charges last Monday.
GOING GLOBAL 2016
On 3-5 May education world leaders will descend on Cape Town, South Africa, for Going Global 2016, an open forum to debate international higher and further education issues and challenges, and to discuss collaborative solutions, for which University World News is a media partner. The focus will be on 'Building nations and connecting cultures: education policy, economic development and engagement'. This week and next, our reporters preview some of the key topics that will be discussed.
Going Global 2016 really began with a “constructive but feisty” steering meeting in Cape Town about what the focus could be – and why the British Council was even leading such a global higher education debate. The theme of “Building Nations and Connecting Cultures” came out of a rich discussion on local versus international priorities and how they mesh or don’t, said Jo Beall, director of education and society for the British Council.
“There can never be a single, reliable, overarching ranking system that is acceptable to all universities and interested parties, because universities mean different things to different people,” says Gerald Wangenge-Ouma, director of institutional planning at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. But universities should use ranking as a means to improve, while ranking systems should support stability and recognise multiple expressions of excellence.
Refugees spend on average 17 years in exile, often stuck in a state of limbo where they cannot work outside their camp, and fewer than 1% gain access to higher education. Providing scholarships or collaborating to offer connected learning in the camps are two key ways that universities can address this social injustice.
AFRICAPatrício Langa, Gerald Wangenge-Ouma, Jens Jungblut and Nico Cloete
In South Africa, where students are demanding free higher education, the norm is to draw lessons from the global North. But if the country looks to Africa it will find that free higher education failed to solve the challenges of universalising access or achieving social inclusion.
A nascent initiative to create an African grant management standard could help institutions improve administration practices, making them more attractive to donors in turn. But the initiative will only fulfil this promise if African researchers engage with its design to make sure it addresses their problems.
Quality assurance definitely has a role to play at Ethiopia’s universities. But this role will only be truly positive if programmes are modified to take academic considerations into account. They must also become more flexible about collecting essential data at an individual level rather than just focusing on the institutional level.
South Africa, Egypt and Tunisia are the only three African countries among the top 50 globally that are leading in science and engineering publication, according to the American National Science Foundation’s ranking index that is topped by the United States and China.
UNESCO is strongly committed to using its General History of Africa project in teaching in African Union countries to highlight the continent’s common heritage, said Angola’s Science and Technology Minister Maria Cândida Teixeira Pereira at the close of UNESCO’s fourth international scientific council meeting on the ninth volume of the publication.
Academic and non-teaching staff unions at the University of Mauritius, the country’s biggest higher education institution, have expressed their mutual distrust in interviews with L’Express of Port Louis, which reported that the university was in chaos.
NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report
The vast majority of university vice-chancellors have expressed unreserved support for the campaign for the United Kingdom to remain within the European Union following the announcement of a referendum to be held on 23 June.
NEW ZEALANDJohn Gerritsen
New Zealand's tertiary education system is facing a year-long investigation by a government agency charged with providing advice on productivity improvements to help institutions meet technological changes and international challenges. But there are fears it will pave the way for cost-cutting.
Universities in Malaysia should stop using “broadly worded” laws to silence students and restrict debate on matters of public interest, according to Human Rights Watch. Laws that impose criminal penalties for peaceful expression – such as the Sedition Act, which is used to target critics – are of particular concern because of their chilling effect on free speech.
Six members of the Council for Higher Education resigned last Sunday in protest against the dismissal of its deputy chair, Professor Hagit Messer-Yaron, by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, and the appointment in her place of a senior lecturer, Dr Rivka Wadmany Shauman, a move that is strongly opposed by academics.
HONG KONGYojana Sharma
Hong Kong’s last British governor Chris Patten has raised hackles in Hong Kong by claiming the autonomy of local universities is being reined in because of students’ involvement in the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement.
UNITED KINGDOMBrendan O'Malley
There are no off-the-shelf solutions from other countries for the government to copy in its plans for a framework to rate and reward teaching excellence. But there are lessons to heed from rating systems in other education and care markets, according to a paper from the Higher Education Policy Institute.
UNITED STATESCourtney Kueppers, The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Fulbright programme, run by the US Department of State, is widely seen as a prime opportunity to add international experience to one’s résumé. The programme seeks to send the message that they are committed to promoting diversity in the scholar and student programmes for the long term.
On 23 June British people will vote on whether to stay in the European Union. University groups have been quick to respond and they are being joined by the European students’ union.
Universities are acting as vested interest groups, lobbying the press to push their pro-European Union agenda, but changes to the regulations show that British researchers can still cooperate with the EU after Brexit.
A sense of belonging is key to student well-being, but what can universities do to help create this, particularly for groups such as international students who may face more barriers than others to feel part of an academic community?
SAUDI ARABIAAdamu Ahmed
King Saud University has instituted a series of research support programmes to promote the production of excellent research so that Saudi Arabia can compete with the world’s best universities.
CANADAGrace Karram Stephenson
A recent conference in Canada has addressed ways of improving conditions for the rising number of precarious employees working in academia and highlights the need for them to organise collectively.
Exiled academics are being threatened and harassed for criticising the Thai regime. The pressure is being applied not just directly but also by intimidation of their families in Thailand. Yet Western countries which regularly posture about democracy and human rights, particularly the United States, have been reluctant to punish the junta.
MIDDLE EASTLaurie A Brand
This year has seen an unprecedented level of protests from the Middle East Studies Association on academic freedom in the Middle East, with attacks in Turkey representing the broadest targeted assault against academics the association has seen. Campaigners have been aided by an explosion in information about violations on digital platforms.
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Frustrated by soaring tuition costs, crushing student loan debt and a lack of skilled workers, particularly in science and technology, more and more states have adopted the idea of rewarding public colleges and universities for churning out students educated in fields seen as important to the economy, writes Patricia Cohen for The New York Times.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury last week castigated the Bharatiya Janata Party for trying to suppress dissent and impose their idea of a “theocratic, fascistic Hindu Rashtra” on the country, and asked the government to "stop interfering" in universities which have been set up under central laws, reports Press Trust of India.
A new report on the gender gap in Scottish universities has suggested that by 2030 no individual course will be permitted to have more than 75% male or female students, writes Andrew Wade for The Engineer.
Tuition fees at US universities have risen five-fold since 1985 and continue to rise. But German universities offer free education to everyone – including Americans, writes Rick Noack for The Washington Post.
Australian universities are making a global push into free online education with nearly 50 courses either scheduled or under way with the major international massive open online course providers, writes Tim Dodd for the Australian Financial Review.
Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh says any decision on professors’ contract renewals will be decided by the public universities themselves, writes Hashini Kavishtri Kannan for New Straits Times.
The Young African Leaders Initiative says the continued closure of the University of Zambia and the Copperbelt University is a cost to the country and parents, reports Lusaka Times.
A few universities from Britain are keen to set up local campuses in Malaysia following their interest in the potential of higher education, reports Bernama.
Students have called for a bronze statue adorning a Cambridge college to be returned to Nigeria. It was taken from the country in the 19th century, writes Corey Charlton for MailOnline.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan did not say much about the funding of universities in his Budget speech, except that extra support amounting to R16 billion will go to the higher education system over the medium term (three years), writes Jaco Leuvennink for Times Live.
Chinese universities will re-introduce paediatrics as an undergraduate major this year for the first time in 17 years. The move is to ease the severe shortage of paediatricians in the country to prepare for possible baby booms brought by the end of the one-child policy, writes Wu Guoxiu for CCTV.com.
A bombshell funding deal has left north and north-east universities bearing the brunt of sweeping cuts to higher education. Last week opposition politicians lashed out at the Scottish National Party over the cuts, saying they would leave Scottish education in the “Dark Ages”, writes Andrew Liddle for The Press and Journal.
The University of Oklahoma has agreed to return a painting that the Nazis stole from a French family during World War II, a lawyer and university officials said last week in announcing a settlement of a drawn-out dispute over the artwork's ownership, writes Daniel C Houston for Associated Press.
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