Pan-African University selects first 193 masters students

The African Union-backed Pan-African University has reached another milestone with the selection of the first intake of masters students for three of its institutes, in Cameroon, Kenya and Nigeria. The 193 pioneer students from across the continent are to start later this year.

The three Pan-African University (PAU) institutes are the most advanced among five hubs being set up in existing universities in Africa’s five regions. The North African institute will be located in Algeria, while Southern Africa has yet to settle on a host.

Each regional institute will eventually be linked to 10 PAU centres under the same research theme, located in different countries across the continent, to create a network of programmes that comprises the Pan-African University.

The PAU is aimed at revitalising African higher education and at boosting research and postgraduate training.

The masters students were selected from thousands of applicants and their studies will be fully sponsored by the African Union. PhD student selections are expected to begin next year.

The three institutes enrolling the first PAU students are the Institute of Governance, Humanities and Social Sciences (PAUGHSS) at the University of Yaounde II in Cameroon; the Institute of Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation (PAUSTI) at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya; and the Institute of Life and Earth Sciences (PAULESI) at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria.

Out of the 193 selected, PAUGHSS in Cameroon took the lion’s share with a total of 80 masters students, 23 in the field of interpretation and translation and 57 in governance and regional integration.

PAUSTI in Kenya selected 70 students – 16 in civil engineering and construction management, 13 in electrical engineering, 14 in molecular biology and biotechnology, 10 in financial mathematics, six in computational mathematics and 11 in statistics.

And PAULESI will enrol 43 students, with eight in reproductive health, six in mineral exploration and geoscience, 21 in environmental management and eight in plant breeding.

Only 42 women made it into the initial cohort, or 22% of the intake. Women are best represented in the governance, humanities and social sciences masters at Yaounde, with 27 students.

Most of the students are from Ethiopia, Tanzania or Uganda as well as the three host countries of Cameroon, Kenya and Nigeria. Kenya and Ethiopia have around three dozen students each, followed by Cameroon, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

But there are students from around the continent studying at all three institutes and other countries represented are Benin, Botswana, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

There are no students from North Africa except for Sudan, and few from Southern Africa. Algeria is to have a hub specialising in water, renewable energy sciences and climate change, and Southern Africa – probably South Africa – will create a space sciences institute once the squabbling over host nation ends.

Mooted in the late 1990s, the PAU has been long in coming, with critics initially dismissing it as yet another grand dream of the continental African Union. But it was launched at the union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last year and now seems to be progressing steadily.