AFRICA

Universities Day – Calls for greater academic mobility

African countries have been urged to push for the harmonisation of higher education systems and the sharing of educational resources on the continent to ensure greater mobility of staff and students.

Speaking at the commemoration of African Universities Day on Monday last week, Ghana’s Minister of State for Tertiary Education, Professor Kwesi Yankah, said African countries need to remove barriers that impinge upon the academic destiny of African youths who want to move from one national frontier to another in search of a global education.

African Universities Day was declared in 2005 to coincide with the birth of the Association of African Universities (AAU) in Rabat, Morocco, on 12 November 1967.

The AAU – headquartered in Accra, Ghana – has since expanded commemorations into the African Universities Week under the theme ‘The Africa We Want: The role of young people’. The AAU said the theme focuses on the continental vision enshrined in the African Union’s ‘Agenda 2063: The Africa we want’.

Among the topics discussed during the commemorations were diversification, differentiation, harmonisation and accreditation of African higher education; open universities and the future of African higher education; the role of higher education institutions in achieving continental initiatives such as Agenda 2063 and the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA); women's participation in leadership; and the landscape of higher education in Sudan.

Lack of uniformity

Yankah said, like the rest of the world, Africa must participate in intellectual tourism.

Over the years, movement of students from one African country to another has been frustrated by, among others, lack of uniformity in education systems, lack of uniformity in grading systems, constraints in cross-border mobility and the transfer of funds, he said.

Yankah said African universities must forge ahead with a common vision of sharing resources to optimise the impact of higher education and find means to facilitate mobility among students and faculty across the continent and beyond.

He said cultural diversity on campus is considered a measure of quality and international acceptability in an institution of higher learning.

“The very nature of a modern university compels internationalisation regardless of location; universities today undertake research in a wide variety of disciplines that transcend local interests and may arouse intellectual curiosity throughout the world.

“Universities do not only have a multipurpose agenda, they address both local and global issues and encourage curricula that are not static but are responsive to changes in global and international trends; thus local training for global jobs has been the trend,” he said.

Yankah said the perception of low academic standards in Africa by Western countries, exemplified by global university rankings, slows down academic migration and weakens Africa’s competitive edge.

Partnerships

He said African universities must embrace partnerships in research, teaching and learning.

“Indeed, partnerships have become a measure, a benchmark in determining university credibility in the global domain. They demonstrate a university’s preparedness to make itself open for comparative assessment by peers and [for being] tested according to international standards,” he said.

Peter Kodjie, secretary general of the All Africa Students Union, said young people are critical to development and what countries choose to do with them will determine whether Africa will progress or not.

He said the AAU had facilitated the students’ voice in many continental processes around issues such as quality assurance and harmonisation.

AAU Secretary General Professor Etienne Ehile urged all stakeholders to continue to support the continental agenda for higher education.