Proud to celebrate 10 years of UWN’s Africa edition

University World News (UWN) is proud today to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its Africa edition and partner University World News – Africa. Launched on 30 March 2008 by its founding editor Karen MacGregor, who was also one of the global edition’s joint founding editors, it has grown to play a vital and respected role in reporting on higher education developments across the continent to readers in Africa but also worldwide.

It now has more than 30,000 registered readers of its fortnightly newsletter – compared to 56,000 readers of UWN’s global edition newsletter – and has received accolades from leading higher education organisations, institutions and experts across Africa for its role in reporting Africa’s realities and potential, for its commitment to high-quality journalism and for its improvement of communication and understanding of Africa to African and global audiences.

In a message in today’s issue, the Association of African Universities extended its “heartiest congratulations” for playing “a key role in sharing and disseminating information among the African higher education community” over the past decade.

Professor Martin J Oosthuizen, executive director of the Southern African Regional Universities Association, said the edition has played an “indispensable role in discussing challenges related to the higher education sector” and has provided a means for “sharing good practices and innovative solutions” to these challenges.

Professor Abdullahi Yusufu Ribadu, secretary-general of the Association of West African Universities, said the publication is “unique, cherished and respected” and wished it success in striving to make academia “more collaborative, global and engaging”.

Jamil Salmi, a global tertiary education expert, congratulated UWN Africa on providing “insightful analysis and up-to-date information on the evolution of African tertiary education systems”.

Hans de Wit, Philip Altbach and Laura Rumbley, director, founding director and associate director respectively of the Center for International Higher Education, Boston College, United States, said in a joint message: “Higher education in Africa has long been rather invisible in mainstream media coverage of higher education, but the Africa edition of University World News has played an important role in overcoming this gap by bringing news and analysis related to higher education on the continent to a global audience.”

The full range of accolades can be read in today’s Africa edition.

As Durban-based former Africa editor Karen MacGregor writes in today’s issue of UWN, among the factors underpinning the success of the Africa edition are two factors: the commitment to use locally based African journalists to write about Africa – the edition uses 25 journalists located across the continent – and the partnership with University World News’ global edition, enabling sharing of stories and widening the reach of UWN Africa’s stories.

The Africa edition and Africa stories produced by its journalists for the global edition have played a significant part in making University World News the vibrant and high-quality publication it is today and in ensuring that it fulfils its mission to be truly global, tackling the news and issues of developing and developed countries with equal fervour week in and week out.

A major strength

“A major strength is that our articles on African higher education are overwhelmingly written by African journalists on the ground across the continent, and the majority of its commentary is by African academics; this is markedly different from the many news sources that deploy people outside the continent to choose and deliver information and analysis on Africa,” MacGregor said.

“There is, we believe, no publication that covers African higher education as comprehensively as UWN Africa, at a time of growing global interest in Africa. As UWN Africa celebrates its 10th anniversary, we can boast of major achievements. UWN Africa’s high-powered board and its journalists are working hard to strengthen the publication for the coming decade.”

Given enormous financial pressures on the media worldwide brought about by growth of the internet and social media, the open access movement and collapse of media advertising revenues, among other factors, UWN Africa’s survival has depended on generous funding first from the Ford Foundation and now from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, which the publication gratefully acknowledges.

One of the unusual aspects about University World News is that its Africa and global editions are produced via a partnership of two autonomous self-governing entities, a non-profit company registered in South Africa and headed by a board of directors and a private limited company, which publishes University World News.

The board chair of UWN Africa is Professor Teboho Moja, programme director of higher education at New York University in the United States, visiting research fellow in the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and extraordinary professor in the Institute for Post-School Studies at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa.

Other distinguished board members include: Professor Adam Habib, University of the Witwatersrand vice-chancellor; Professor Nico Cloete, director of the Centre for Higher Education Trust; Dr Bhekinkosi Moyo, head of the Southern Africa Trust; and Professor Goolam Mohamedbhai, former Association of African Universities secretary-general.

Moja, writing in today’s edition, says it was a bold move made by a group of journalists committed to reporting on education that led to the establishment of University World News as an international e-newspaper focusing specifically on higher education in 2007. The establishment of the Africa edition one year later was timely because of tremendous changes in the field of higher education that were taking place worldwide.

She said that since then, “we have witnessed the expansion and some massification of higher education in Africa, with participation rates that grew past the 15% level. With that kind of rapid expansion, new challenges emerged that were reported on continuously by the Africa edition of University World News”.

“In the last decade, countries in Africa have started sharing more news about their systems of education. Contributions by scholars published in University World News have promoted the sharing of ideas, highlighted common issues and have offered inter-regional lessons based on past experience.

“On this 10th anniversary of the Africa edition of University World News, it is impressive to see the work that is being produced by a small team, supported by writers and contributors made up of journalists and scholars who are concerned to highlight higher education issues in their countries and their institutions,” Moja said.

The future of the Africa edition is now in the able hands of Sharon Dell. Karen MacGregor ensured the legacy of her founding work will be kept intact by handing over the editorship in January 2017 to Dell, who has reported for UWN from South Africa for many years. When MacGregor stood down as UWN Africa director in December, Dell also took on that role, ensuring the smoothest of transitions.

Brendan O’Malley is chairman of Higher Education Web Publishing, publisher of University World News, and managing editor of University World News.