Association of African Universities loses new leader

The struggling Association of African Universities (AAU), the umbrella body for higher education institutions across the continent, has lost another secretary general prematurely.

Professor Olugbemiro Jegede, who was appointed in 2011 and has been in office for less than two years, will leave the association at the end of this month after apparently being recalled to Nigeria to attend to ‘national duties’.

Jegede had replaced Professor Goolam Mohammedbhai, a former vice-chancellor of the University of Mauritius, who left office before the end of his term for personal reasons and is now an international higher education consultant.

With the impending exit of Jegede, the AAU governing body has been advertising the secretary general’s position, with the deadline for applications ending last month.

Interested candidates must have worked in senior management positions in the past, and have excellent communications skills and a sound academic background.

The resignation of Jegede, an expert in distance learning, will come as a blow to the pan-African body, which is trying to grow its university membership and run numerous leadership and university capacity-building projects.

This is especially so considering that some members of its governing board are serving in an acting capacity.

The AAU currently has some 270 member universities, and continues to struggle to get universities to pay subscription fees and to thwart perceptions of an Anglophone bias among Francophone institutions.

“We have more than 600 universities on the continent and 242 are members. That’s where the problem starts: lack of interest among universities,” AAU President and University of Nairobi Vice-chancellor Professor George Magoha, lamented last year.

“We struggle to bring people on board from different regions of Africa.” Many Francophone and Lusaphone universities have opted to cooperate with university agencies outside the continent, rather than with the association.

Founded in 1967, the AAU calls itself the "Voice of Higher Education in Africa". It has previously been unable to use some donor and other funds at its disposal, although that appears largely to be a problem of the past.

The AAU seeks to promote cooperation and exchange of ideas among African higher education institutions, and runs ICT fellowship, dissertation database, leadership development, HIV-Aids training and other programmes.