Academic brain drain threatens university education

Harsh economic conditions during 2016 led to a significant brain drain among university staff in Sudan – including professors and lecturers – that is directly threatening higher education development, according to a new government report.

The report, released by Sudan’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and outlined by alnilin website on 25 October, revealed that 2,158 university staff had left the country so far this year.

They included 108 professors, 315 associate professors, 873 assistant professors, 548 lectures and 314 teaching assistants.

The ministry report follows on the 2016 UNESCO Science Report: Towards 2030, which stated that conflict and brain drain were undermining development. It pointed out that between 2002 and 2014, Sudan lost more than 3,000 junior and senior researchers to migration.

The warning in the ministry’s report was also echoed in other official figures, which indicate that more than 600 university professors and PhD holders left Sudan in 2011, 1,002 professors left universities in 2012, around 50,000 skilled workers migrated in 2014 – and some 300 professors left Khartoum University alone.

Brain drain reasons

Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Somaya Abu Kashawa told a forum on higher education organised by Parliament’s education commission on 24 October that conditions for university lecturers had been “deteriorating tremendously” in recent years.

This was a result of low salaries, which according to official figures are around SDG3,100 (US$480) a month for a professor.

Economic problems were exacerbated by 1997 United States sanctions and the 2011 independence of South Sudan, which took with it about 75% of Sudan’s oil output.

The US sanctions led to restrictions and isolation that has seriously hobbled research and knowledge production, and encouraged the brain drain of highly educated individuals, according to a 2015 publication entitled The Efficacy of United States Sanctions on the Republic of Sudan.

Impacts on universities

A recent report indicated that more than a quarter of Khartoum University professors have emigrated in search of a better livelihood, which has led to the closure of some departments and cancellation of a number of courses, and has affected research and postgraduate studies as many students are unable to find a supervisor.

Also, political and financial challenges to Sudan's universities – there are 31 public and 11 private universities – have resulted in weak performance in regional education and research indicators.

To deal with challenges facing Sudanese university staff, Abu Kashawa said the government was being asked to allocate 2% of gross domestic product for higher education and create a fund to finance universities in order to improve conditions for staff.