KENYA: Ministers to discuss Pan-African University

African education ministers will meet in Kenya this week to among other things prepare for the launch of the Pan-African University, a specialised postgraduate training and research institution comprising a network of university 'nodes' in five regions that is being created to help supply the continent's high-level skills.

Apart from charting details of how and when the university will be launched, the ministers will push two of the five geographical regions, North and Southern Africa, to hasten the selection of countries and institutions that will host the facility.

Problems encountered in selecting host universities and setting up infrastructural and administrative systems have delayed the planned 2010 launch of the Pan-African University (PAU).

Kenya will be the East Africa hub for basic sciences, technology and innovation, and has selected Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology, its fourth largest university by student numbers, to host the region's PAU node.

Vice-chancellor Professor Mabel Imbuga said the Institute of Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation will be hosted at the main campus in Nairobi and the first batch of postgraduate students will enroll in September.

West Africa will focus on earth and life sciences, with the node based at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. The Central Africa hub is Cameroon, whose University of Yaounde will cover social and human sciences and governance.

Southern Africa will concentrate on space sciences and North Africa was allocated water and energy sciences (including climate change). National bickering has delayed the selection of host countries and universities in these regions.

Discussions will be held during a Conference of Ministers of Education, being held in Nairobi from 11-13 May, organised by the 53-member African Union which is driving the Pan-African University project.

The AU has also kicked off the process of recruiting a vice-chancellor for the PAU, and hopes to have a person in place by December this year.

According to the AU, the Pan-African University was born of the need to strengthen higher education in Africa, especially postgraduate training and research, and to capitalise on the performances of strong universities to contribute to development in priority areas and build the continent's high-level skills and research production.

It will support research, encourage collaboration between scientists within Africa and in the diaspora, and promote greater collaboration between universities and industry.

New higher education infrastructure will not initially be constructed. Rather, existing universities the five regions will be used as satellites campuses. Most of the funding for the university will be spent on bursaries for postgraduate students.

The AU is also scaling up efforts to improve quality in Africa's universities. It is seeking to subject institutions to scrutiny, with the aim of establishing the quality and relevance of degree courses being offered at universities across the continent.

Related links

AFRICA: What happened to the Pan-African University?
AFRICA: Pan-African University close to starting