Global higher education finds itself at a crossroads

Global higher education finds itself at a crossroads unimaginable at the turn of the century when the world basked in the possibilities of globalisation, democratisation and multilateralism.

Society is currently reeling from the multiple crises of climate change and loss of biodiversity, deepening inequalities, glaring developmental deficits, alarming democratic recessions, intolerant populisms, rising competitive imperialisms and persistent armed conflicts.

Higher education is facing its own reckoning: expansion with enduring disparities, changing funding approaches, technological disruptions, uneven internationalisation, rising complexity of accountability frameworks, and intensifying struggles over the epistemic scaffolding that has long sanctioned exclusions of vast segments of global knowledges, created imagined hierarchies of humanity, histories of oppression, exploitation and marginalisation, reproduction of social inequalities, and the enduring fixations with economic growth, consumption and avarice at the expense of nature.

A new social contract is required for higher education as part of a new compact of human solidarity and ecological sustainability.

Under such a contract higher education becomes a global public good to advance ecological, intercultural, interdisciplinary, international and information literacies, as well as collaborations and partnerships within and among institutions and countries across the global divides of North and South.

It must embrace the human rights principles of equity, diversity, inclusion, social justice, solidarity, and respect for life, human dignity, interconnectedness and collective responsibility.

It also must uphold enduring and newly established principles of inquiry, critical thinking and creativity, academic freedom and shared governance, inclusion, equity and pluralism, integrity and ethics, commitment to sustainability and social responsibility, and excellence through cooperation rather than competition.

These are the issues I would like to explore below. My remarks draw from several of my own publications on the politics of knowledge production including the persistent marginalisation of African knowledges, as well as some key studies produced in preparation for the third UNESCO World Higher Education Conference, held from 18 to 20 May 2022 in Barcelona, Spain, that offer a condensation of current global thinking on the future of higher education.

First, I outline the constellation of forces upending the world order and higher education. Second, I examine the imperatives for a new social contract of higher education. Finally, I focus on restructuring internationalisation for transformative African partnerships.

The world in turmoil

In 2021 and 2022 UNESCO produced several reports on the challenges facing higher education and an agenda for renewal.

They include Reimagining Our Futures Together: A new social contract for education and Beyond Limits: New ways to reinvent higher education.

And in my most recent book, Africa and the Disruptions of the Twenty-First Century (Codesria, 2021), I identified six key trends which are likely to continue: first, the globalisation of tribalism; second, democratic recessions and resistance; third, rising economic disequilibrium; fourth, shifting global hierarchies and hegemonies; fifth, the emergence of digital capitalism; and finally, the rebellion of nature.

By the globalisation of tribalism, I meant the spread of ethnocultural nationalisms, xenophobic racisms, religious fundamentalisms and jingoistic populisms. They were fomented by the pulverisations of neo-liberalism, which led to deepening social inequalities and marginalisation for masses of people who sought solace in the intoxicating and intolerant allure and illusions of identity politics.

Gripped by the politics of fear and resentment, powerlessness and panic, as well as desperate yearnings for dignity and control, they increasingly blamed their misfortunes, egged on by cynical ideologues, on internal and external ‘others’, elites and science.

The ascendancy and spread of political tribalism were accompanied by global recessions of democracy. Democratic backsliding, polarisation and breakdowns in civic discourse became evident as more countries including the so-called mature democracies slid from full to flawed democracies, or from free to partly-free political systems, or from electoral democracy to electoral autocracy, according to the nomenclature used by The Economist magazine, Freedom House and the Varieties of Democracy project, respectively.

At the same time, popular mobilisation for democratic renewal and inclusive citizenship grew coalesced around environmental, women’s, anti-racist, gay and disability rights movements.

Growing economic disequilibrium intensified following the Great Recession of 2008-09, which rocked the global economy and brought the chickens of neo-liberalism home to roost.

The COVID-19 pandemic further exposed and exacerbated the dysfunctions of the world’s economic, health and political systems. The pandemic shattered economic growth, disrupted global value chains and severely threatened the developmental strides made by many emerging and African economies.

The current Russian-Ukrainian war has further destabilised the world economy.

These developments have magnified international tensions and hegemonic rivalries fuelling the spectre of decoupling and de-globalisation that gathered steam under the trade war between the United States and China launched by the Trump administration.

Shifts in economic power occurred within regions and at a global level.

In Africa, Nigeria overtook South Africa as the continent’s largest economy. There was also the remarkable development of the middle-income countries that claimed rising share of the global economy; in 2018 they accounted for 53.6% of global GDP in terms of purchasing-power parity.

The biggest story of the decade, indeed the past thirty years, was of course the exponential rise of China. China became the world’s second largest economy, although in PPP terms it overtook the United States in 2014, and by 2018 its GDP stood at US$25.3 trillion compared with that of the US at US$20.7 trillion.

The Sino-American rivalry in Africa is likely to intensify, superimposed on competition by the European Union, Japan and the emerging economies. In the meantime, regional integration efforts are likely to expand through the African Continental Free Trade Agreement that became operational in January 2021.

Underlying the structural transformation of the political economy of the early 21st century is the unfolding Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

It is transforming all aspects of economic, social and political life as digital, biological and physical systems increasingly converge. It is changing manufacturing, agriculture, services, transport, trade, communication, media, entertainment, hospitality, politics, healthcare and education.

Digital technologies simultaneously connect and divide, require and build new capabilities that structure divergent opportunities and outcomes for different nations, social classes and communities.

Particularly critical for higher education is the impact of the digital revolution on the future of work. The 4IR is accelerating the disruption of work and the credentialling economy and requiring universities to retool themselves to cater to growing demand for lifelong learning, the needs for reskilling and upskilling, while retaining their role as the primary sites of knowledge production and the cultivation of enlightened citizenship.

As the 4IR accelerates, the challenge for Africa is to become an active player, not bystander, in building digital capacities and crafting the emerging international governance regime of digital technologies to avoid digital imperialism.

Finally, in the 2010s scientific consensus emerged about the perilous effects of climatic change that threatened the future of humans and all other life forms on Earth unless urgent, holistic and collective adaptation and mitigation measures are undertaken to stabilise and reduce the global output of greenhouse gases.

“The 2021 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change demonstrates that the speed of global warming is greater than anticipated even a few years ago. At the global level we have proven unable to steady the output of greenhouse gases, let alone reduce it dramatically.

“The impact of this inaction is all around us, and much of it is devastating with debilitating heat, more frequent and prolonged droughts, floods, fires and accelerating extinction becoming the norm,” UNESCO reported.

A new social contract for higher education

The global trends outlined above profoundly affect higher education in direct and indirect ways.

Rising political polarisation and authoritarianism cast their divisive shadows of intolerance, incivility and illiberalism on universities, undermining the cultures of shared governance, academic freedom, collegiality and inquiry on controversial topics. Economic pressures and inequalities compromise educational access and affordability for underprivileged communities, strain institutional finances and foster the devaluation of academic labour and careers.

Global conflicts, tensions and growing national barriers impact student and faculty mobility, research collaborations and inter-institutional cooperation.

The ramifications of the digital revolution encompass all aspects of the academic enterprise from pedagogy, knowledge production, management of institutional operations and services, to skills development to meet changing labour markets, demographic regimes and credentialing systems.

Extreme weather events inhibit access to education for vulnerable communities, exacerbate gender inequality, damage educational infrastructures and impact learning and cognition. This calls for curricular reform and research that raise ecological literacy, activism and capacities for sustainability.

Higher education institutions have a triple responsibility to address these changes and challenges.

First, they must help raise society’s comprehension and inform public policy. It also entails identifying and reinforcing the progressive countervailing forces. They include citizenship mobilisation for participatory democratic politics and ecological movements that are often youth-led. This requires that universities fiercely defend their commitment to the rigorous understanding of reality against rampant disinformation and solipsistic relativisms.

Second, they must create practices in their own institutions that promote the global commons through solidarity and cooperation based on the principles of non-discrimination, equality of opportunity and social justice that encompasses ecological justice, and vice versa. It is not enough for academics to offer trenchant critiques of society without focusing their analytical gaze on their own institutional dysfunctions.

Third, higher education institutions should harness scientific discoveries for public good which, as one of the UNESCO reports argues, with reference to the potential pedagogical impact of developments in neuroscience and biotechnology, “will depend on open data, open science and an expanded understanding of the right to education to include rights to connectivity, to data, to information and to the protection of privacy”.

The report proposes a five-pronged agenda in the new contract for education anchored on “new pedagogies, new approaches to curriculum, a recommitment to teachers, a new vision of school and a new appreciation of the times and spaces of education”.

This contract must “examine the best pedagogical and educational traditions, renew this heritage and add promising new elements that will help us shape the interlinked futures of humanity and the living planet”.

First, a new social contract for education must advance pedagogies of cooperation and solidarity.

This entails learning that is collaborative and participatory, problem-oriented and experiential; promotes interdisciplinary, intergenerational, intercultural, international and information competencies; and treasures and sustains diversity, pluralism and inclusion by recognising and redressing the systematic institutional, intellectual and ideological exclusions and erasures bestowed by the ugly histories of racism, sexism, colonialism and authoritarianism, the report says.

Furthermore, such pedagogies must strengthen systems of measurement and assessment that are appropriate, meaningful, carefully thought out and develop the talents that each student brings.

In this context, higher education institutions must also strengthen connections with primary and secondary education and “foster ethics and support students to be better and more capable citizens with greater awareness of their civic and environmental responsibilities”.

Second, curricula for a new social contract for education must simultaneously ensure socio-cultural relevance, meet the ever-changing needs of society at local, national and international levels, and embrace the incredible wealth of the global knowledge commons.

“Curricula should approach knowledge as a great human accomplishment that belongs to everyone. At the same time, curricula must account for the fact that the knowledge commons retain significant exclusions and appropriations that require correction in the light of justice,” the UNESCO report says.

“We should resist knowledge hegemonies and foster possibilities for creativity, border-crossing and experimentation that can only come through the full inclusion of humanity’s diverse epistemological perspectives. Inherited prejudices, arbitrary hierarchies and exploitative notions must be rejected,” it adds.

Emphasis needs to be put on developing curricula that enable “re-learning how we are interconnected with a living, damaged planet and unlearning the human arrogance that has resulted in massive biodiversity loss, the destruction of entire ecosystems and irreversible climate change”.

This requires incorporating feminist perspectives and indigenous knowledges that critique the binaries between humanity and nature and offer inclusive models and visions of a harmonious and sustainable ecosystem premised on the fact that humans are not just social beings, but ecological beings as well.

It needs stressing that “neuroscience shows that knowing and feeling are part of the same cognitive processes which play out, not in individual isolation, but in direct, extended relationships with others”, the UNESCO report says.

So, curricula must teach people as whole humans who bring into educational settings curiosity and thirst for learning, as well as their emotions and ethical predispositions, fears and insecurities, confidence and passions, sexuality and bodily capacities. This has implications for developing bilingual and plurilingual educational policies through the teaching of foreign languages, indigenous languages and sign languages, among others.

It also requires curricula that enhance literacies for quantitative, scientific, humanistic, imaginative and ethical reasoning. Skills for an increasingly digital world are essential, so are skills for active citizenship in a complex world, the ability to analyse inequalities, nurture critical consciousness, support democratic participation and human rights.

Specifically, curricula must address gender, racial and ethnic inequities in the production, dissemination and consumption of all branches of knowledge. Higher education institutions must take the lead in forging strong intra- and inter-institutional collaborations that are interdisciplinary and inter-professional, and in fostering intercultural and epistemic diversity, and an open knowledge commons.

Third, a new contract for education must revalue and reimagine teaching as an important and collaborative profession that requires support from all stakeholders including governments, business, civil society and their own institutions.

To carry out their complex work, “teachers need rich collaborative teaching communities, characterised by sufficient measures of freedom and support” across the life-entangled journey from initial training to recruitment to professional development. Educational institutions must ensure teachers from historically excluded and marginalised groups are recruited, affirmed and adequately supported, the UNESCO report says.

Moreover, teachers need to be recognised and facilitated as reflexive practitioners and knowledge producers, who “contribute to growing bodies of knowledge needed to transform educational environments, policies, research and practice, within and beyond their own profession”, the report adds.

Working conditions for schoolteachers and university faculty have deteriorated in many countries and need to be improved. For example, in the US about 75% of faculty are contingent and are under-recognised, under-appreciated, underpaid and inadequately supported.

Adjuncting in developed countries is often driven by the mismatch of faculty supply and declining demand for permanent positions, while in the developing countries including many in Africa, the limited supply of faculty and poor remuneration force permanent faculty into adjuncting.

Both conditions are consequences of neoliberalism that has reigned supreme over the past four decades. Higher education institutions must also pay greater attention to faculty pedagogical development and raise the value of teaching that is often under-appreciated compared to research.

Fourth, a new social contract of education requires a new vision of school as a site for the pedagogies of cooperation and solidarity, transformative curricula and the knowledge commons.

This has implications for the development, design and protection of learning institutions. It entails “Expanding the purview of learning beyond the classroom; reconsidering lesson times and structures to facilitate deeper engagements…; leveraging digital technologies positively; and modelling sustainability and human rights,” the UNESCO report says.

Universities must develop a more comprehensive agenda that embraces and recognises the interconnections between different levels and types of education.

They must build partnerships with, and facilitate transition from, primary and secondary education, as well as provide opportunities for non-traditional educational pathways for adult education and lifelong learning. They should also “model the futures we aspire to by ensuring human rights and becoming exemplars of sustainability and carbon neutrality”.

Finally, under a new social contract for education, learners “should enjoy and expand enriching educational opportunities that take place throughout life and in different cultural and social spaces”.

It cannot be overstressed that “in order to think about education towards 2050, we must understand the importance of all spaces, all times and all forms of education. However, this does not mean that we transform the world into an immense classroom.

“The fundamental shift in thinking that we must bring about is understanding that today’s societies have countless educational opportunities, through culture, work, social media and digital, which need to be valued in their own terms and built as important educational opportunities”, as the UNESCO report says.

The potential of digital technologies became evident during the COVID-19 pandemic as educational institutions transitioned to online platforms for teaching and learning and other activities such as conferences.

The pandemic revealed the unequal distribution within and among countries of digital literacy, devices, platforms and bandwidth. It also underlined that, as with other technologies, digital technologies have multiple logics that are both emancipatory and exploitative.

UNESCO warns against what it calls ‘platform imperialism’ in the exclusion of underprivileged groups including women among the digital design communities, the primacy of the logic of business, the redefinition of the social by digitality and privileging of numerical datasets over other types of data, knowledges and qualitative narratives.

Therefore, “it is necessary to ensure that key decisions about digital technologies as they relate to education and knowledge are made in the public sphere and guided by the principle of education as a public and a common good”, the UNESCO report says.

The extractivist imperatives of digital technologies that sanction surveillance for business profit and state control and have “chilling effects on freedom of expression and people’s sense of intellectual autonomy” must be resisted, while harnessing their participatory opportunities.

The palpable hunger to return to the physical educational experiences of campuses evident in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need to develop complex and effective modalities of teaching and learning encompassing face-to-face, online and blended, and the ethical use of digital technologies in other facets of higher education.

Restructuring internationalisation

Inter-institutional collaboration at national, regional and international levels is indispensable for creating the reimagined futures of innovative, inclusive and impactful higher education.

The incentives and justifications for internationalisation as variously articulated by its proponents are well-known. They include national development and demographic imperatives.

Many universities pursue internationalisation for financial reasons, as a critical revenue stream and an asset in the intensifying competition for talented students, faculty, resources and reputational capital.

For African universities, internationalisation is embedded in colonial history, which engenders continuous struggles for decolonisation and indigenisation.

In a series of papers, I have maintained that COVID-19 should be harnessed as an accelerator for rethinking internationalisation.*

Before I outline 12 proposed strategies, let me stress why partnerships with African higher education institutions are important for their counterparts in the Global North based on the principles of mutuality of benefits, co-development of curricula, co-creation of research agendas and co-sharing of institutional capacities. Unfortunately, epistemic communities in North America and Europe often exhibit and reproduce racist, Eurocentric and ethnocentric exclusions rooted in slavery and colonialism.

It is as if they are afflicted by an ever-mutating virus of Afrophobia that dehumanises, dehistoricises and disparages African societies, spaces, social systems and struggles. African-descended peoples and phenomena tend to be homogenised, pathologised and exceptionalised. So, they are conceived as ‘less than’ in the master references of global civilizations, cultures and citizenship. The recent COVID-19 vaccine apartheid underscores the unconscionable persistence of these global inequities.

Institutions in ‘Euro-America’ that are serious about the development of a new social contract for higher education in their own increasingly multicultural societies and global engagements, must incorporate Africa and the experiences, aspirations, problems and perspectives of its peoples.

There are five simple reasons for this.

The first is historical: the modern world system that emerged from the 15th century is inconceivable in all its economic, social, cultural, political and ideological dynamics without the contributions of enslaved Africans and their descendants.

Lest we forget, before the abolition of slavery, the forced migrations of Africans outstripped voluntary migrations from Europe to the Americas and helped lay the foundations of the new societies.

The second reason is demographic. Afro-descendants comprise a significant share of the populations of the Americas and a growing presence in Europe. They increasingly demand and expect epistemic inclusion.

Related is the fact that Africa’s population is exploding so that, on current trends, it will comprise 25% of the world’s population in 2050, rising to 40% in 2100, from 9% in 1960 (regarded as the year of African independence in which 17 countries achieved their decolonisation), and 17% in 2020.

Thus, Africa is slated to have the world’s highest demand for higher education and largest labour force as the century progresses. The implications of this monumental development for international affairs have yet to sink in. Higher education institutions everywhere must deal with this reality.

The third imperative is geopolitical. In an interconnected but increasingly polarised world, Africa’s voice is likely to grow, perhaps reprising the politics of nonalignment during the Cold War era.

The current forces of de-globalisation fomented by intensifying hegemonic rivalries between a rising China and a declining United States, currently spiked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine that has rekindled Europe’s propensity for war, are likely to intensify contestations over Africa among the major powers.

Ignorance of African geopolitical interests will not serve these powers well, as their ill-informed pressures will be met by African resentment and resistance.

The fourth reason is intellectual. It is the height of scientific perfidy to assume that analytical frameworks constructed out of the experiences, often idealised, of the limited historical geographies of European-descended peoples, have the epistemological and predictive power to capture the totality and trajectory of the human experience on this planet.

Insofar as Europe’s global ascendancy over the last half a millennium is neither eternal nor monogenic, monological discourses in the humanistic sciences and exclusionary preoccupations in the physical sciences, undermine the promise of higher education for holistic learning, the capacities of research to address global challenges in their complex intersections, and limit the social impact of universities in a world where the demands of national and global citizenship are mutually reinforcing.

Ethical considerations

Finally, there are ethical considerations.

Pedagogies and knowledges that systematically exclude, in intention or outcome, various human populations on dubious self-referential historical, geographical, racial, gender, ethnic, religious, sexuality, nationality and other bases of the social constructs of difference, flout the basic principles of human rights and social justice.

And when those societies and populations are as large as those of an entire continent and its massive global diasporas, the scale of the epistemic violence is incontestable and unconscionable.

Thus, the recruitment of peoples of African descent in North American and European universities as students, faculty, staff and administrative leaders, and engagements with their continental counterparts is a historical, demographic, geopolitical, intellectual and ethical imperative, not a favour to those communities.

It is not a concession to political correctness that the antiquarian and bigoted defenders of the old order of pervasive social discrimination love to proclaim. It is an essential part of a restructured higher education befitting the 21st century.

Let me conclude by broadly outlining a twelve-point agenda for a new contract of higher education internationalisation.

First, an expansive view of internationalisation that integrates internationalisation at home and abroad and of both curricula and research needs to be embraced.

Second, it is critical to promote transformative technology-enhanced partnerships through inter-institutional collaborations and consortia that offer innovative student enrolment and co-learning opportunities, online curricula development, virtual and in-person internships, quality assurance and seamless credit transfer.

Third, sustainable and equitable financing ought to be developed that entails coordinated internal and external resource mobilisation and sharing, building international partnerships and projects and rethinking student aid models.

Fourth, in addition to the traditional focus on student mobility and exchanges, faculty and staff capabilities and opportunities for international engagement and collaboration must be enhanced.

Fifth, it is imperative to pursue inclusive and ethical internationalisation. The treatment of foreign students as ‘cash cows’ or revenue streams raises troubling moral questions and is unsustainable. An article in the Globe and Mail of 10 June 2022, laments: “In addition to high fees, international students are among the only Canadian residents systematically denied adequate access to health care services… We need to treat international students with more respect.”

Universities must also fight the tendency to create hierarchies of partnerships based on crass racial assumptions and mercantilist interests in the students’ regions of origin. It was recently reported in University World News that in Canada ‘racist’ officials have been blamed for high African student visa refusals.

Sixth, smart internationalisation requires integrating internationalisation in institutional mission, values, strategic plan, budgeting priorities and culture beyond fancy rhetoric.

As a study by the International Association of Universities – Giorgio Marinoni, Internationalization of Higher Education: An evolving landscape, locally and globally, IAU 5th Global Survey – shows, the strategic plans of many universities champion internationalisation but they do not always develop the institutional capacities for implementation.

Seventh, as part of the internationalisation agenda higher education institutions need to become stronger advocates for more progressive forms of globalisation as the spectre of de-globalisation spreads its xenophobic tentacles. The growing targeting of Chinese-American scholars in the US because of rising US-China tensions is unacceptable.

Eighth, there is need to interrogate the impact of rankings that have become increasingly influential and ubiquitous. They help promote global academic capitalism and a mindless chase for limited positional goods that serves to sanctify the supremacy of an exclusive club of research universities.

Ninth, the growth of international research collaboration, its implications and how it can be improved require examination. The decision by the renowned medical journal, The Lancet, to reject papers with data from Africa that fail to acknowledge African collaborators underscores the problem of research exploitation.

Collaborative research must adhere to high standards of integrity and be anchored on pressing global and regional challenges and visions, as articulated in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

Tenth, the phenomenon of international programme and provider mobility, which constitutes a crucial leg in the internationalisation enterprise triad involving student and faculty mobility, needs to be critically assessed. All too often the transplanted programmes tend to be of lower quality from those at home.

Eleventh, the academic diasporas must be effectively mobilised, certainly in African higher education internationalisation agendas, on both sides. The new African diasporas are not only Africa’s biggest donor (in 2019 they remitted US$84.3 billion to the continent), they are a huge asset for what can be called intellectual remittances.

While Africa has the world’s lowest rates of higher education enrolments and qualifications, African migrants are among the most educated populations in their countries of residence.

For example, in the United States, the immigrant population from Sub-Saharan Africa, which increased from 600,000 in 2000 to two million in 2019, enjoys higher levels of education than the native-born population and all immigrant groups, according to census data.

This is a huge asset for brain circulation that needs to be strategically mobilised as we have tried to do with the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program that is being expanded under the consortium of African Diaspora Fellowship Programs for which we seek partnerships with universities, governments, international and intergovernmental agencies and philanthropic organisations on the continent and around the world.

Finally, global higher education collaborations must be based on the principles of open science outlined in the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science adopted in November 2021.

It defines open science “as an inclusive construct that combines various movements and practices aiming to make multilingual scientific knowledge openly available, accessible and reusable for everyone, to increase scientific collaborations and sharing of information for the benefits of science and society, and to open the processes of scientific knowledge creation, evaluation and communication to societal actors beyond the traditional scientific community”.

It says open science “comprises all scientific disciplines and aspects of scholarly practices, including basic and applied sciences, natural and social sciences and the humanities, and it builds on the following key pillars: open scientific knowledge, open science infrastructures, science communication, open engagement of societal actors and open dialogue with other knowledge systems”.

Open scientific knowledge, it says, “refers to open access to scientific publications, research data, metadata, open educational resources, software, and source code and hardware that are available in the public domain or under copyright and licensed under an open license that allows access, re-use, repurpose, adaptation and distribution under specific conditions, provided to all actors immediately or as quickly as possible regardless of location, nationality, race, age, gender, income, socio-economic circumstances, career stage, discipline, language, religion, disability, ethnicity or migratory status or any other grounds, and free of charge. It also refers to the possibility of opening research methodologies and evaluation processes”.

UNESCO urges states, universities and other scientific institutions to promote a common understanding of open science, develop an enabling policy environment, invest in open science infrastructures and services, as well as in human resources, training, education, digital literacy and capacity building for open science, foster a culture of open science and aligning incentives for it, promote innovative approaches for open science at different stages of the scientific process, and promote international and multi-stakeholder cooperation in the context of open science and with a view to reducing digital, technological and knowledge gaps.

In conclusion, a new social contract for higher education for the Global North and Global South, and partnerships between them, must discard colonial paternalistic models of engagement and be grounded in epistemic diversity and humility.

As those of us who have spent our academic lives navigating between the epistemological and institutional orders of Africa and ‘Euro-America’ only know too well, African knowledges remain grossly marginalised, largely absent in the disciplinary and interdisciplinary canons.

At best, they are often ghettoised in the highly racialised and peripheral spaces of African or Africana studies programmes or used as testing grounds for Eurocentric paradigms. We have an opportunity and responsibility to change that, to create new epistemic architectures for our universities at home and in their global engagements.

This article is reproduced from the paper for the keynote address at the Conference on the University of Toronto and Africa: Partnership for Mutual Excellence and Inclusive Impact, University of Toronto Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 23 June 2022.

Paul Tiyambe Zeleza is associate provost and North Star distinguished professor at Case Western Reserve University, Ohio, United States; former vice-chancellor of the United States International University-Africa, Nairobi, Kenya; and former college principal at Trent University, Ontario, Canada.

* Series of papers:

• Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, ‘Africa’s Fourth Industrial Revolution must be STEAM-driven’,
The Elephant;

• Paul Zeleza, ‘Quality higher education ‘indispensable’ for Africa’s future’,
University World News;

• Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, ‘Rethinking the internationalization of African universities post-COVID-19’,
The Elephant;

• Paul Tiyambe Zeleza and Paul Mzee Okanda, ‘Enhancing the digital transformation of African universities: COVID-19 as accelerator’,
The Elephant;

• Mark Paterson and Thierry M Luescher, ‘Find a balance between indigenisation, internationalisation’,
University World News.