New programme to study higher education leadership and governance

The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, CODESRIA, is calling for proposals for a new research programme supporting university-based academics in six African countries to undertake studies into higher education leadership and governance.

The countries that will initially benefit from the Higher Education Leadership Programme, or HELP, are Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda – countries where HELP projects are already under way.

The programme aims to produce high-quality knowledge on higher education leadership through: comparative research shared across countries, at the institutional and system levels; research teams; research grants and fellowships; case studies; and publication of findings.

The call is for researchers to constitute national working groups and-or comparative research networks, which will compete for one-year grants of up to US$35,000 to undertake quality research into higher education leadership and governance. The call closes on 15 September.

The grants will cover, among other things, field work, books, honorariums to members and three workshops that the teams will be required to organise – the first on methodology, the second to evaluate progress, and the third to review draft research reports, policy and recommendations, and results dissemination.

CODESRIA says research it has carried out into the dynamics of higher education in Africa has pointed to the twin areas of leadership and governance being critical to the sector’s development. The programmes objectives are to:
  • • Provide rigorous historical and social science analysis of higher education leadership and governance in Africa.
  • • Examine changes in and challenges facing higher education governance and leadership.
  • • Identify and analyse ways in which leadership and governance of African universities are constituted and exercised, and how leadership is trying to address challenges facing the sector.
  • • Elaborate models of university leadership that can serve as a basis for new policy on governance of the rapidly expanding higher education sector.

    The Senegal-based CODESRIA and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, which is supporting the programme, stress that comparative research networks should comprise scholars from two or more countries, and teams should be multidisciplinary, sensitive to gender composition and should as much as possible incorporate young scholars.

    “Globally, higher education has undergone profound changes over the past two decades. Traditional conceptions of the university have been challenged by the forces of globalisation, the increased use of ICTs, and the introduction and spread of the market logic into the higher education sector,” says a statement on the project.

    “Today, a variety of new types of higher education institutions exist. Student demographics, access and delivery modes have changed too. In the midst of these changes, traditional modes of higher education governance and leadership have come under close scrutiny.”

    Central to this questioning – especially for universities in Africa – is how traditional governance structures (where they still exist) are responding to these changes, and what kind of leadership and governance are needed to position institutions to confront and positively respond to challenges.

    Higher education leaders on the continent are having to respond to changes coming from the United States and Europe, such as Bologna, and higher education’s internationalisation. They face pressures to innovate and adapt to rapid changes affecting the sector and societies.

    Research under the programme will seek to better understand changes taking place in university governance and leadership in Africa, the forces at play in constituting leadership and governance organs, and the extent to which changes in governance and leadership have – or have not – contributed to changing perceptions of the mission and roles of universities.

    The programme will document case studies of governance and leadership that have helped reposition institutions to respond to their missions, and it will encourage research that investigates how changes in the higher education system and perceptions of the mission and roles of institutions are impacting on their leadership.