WENR, May 2009: Africa


Re-staffing Africa’s Universities

International partnerships are seeking to help rebuild African academia, as universities expand quicker than they are able to produce doctorate-holding professors. Universities across Africa have expanded so rapidly in the past decade, in response to demand, that they have not had the money or manpower to invest in developing a new generation of academics, a situation that has led to massive overcrowding in lecture halls as the older generation of professors retires. The World Bank estimates [1] that 58,000 new lecturers will be needed throughout Francophone Africa alone between 2006 and 2015.

Young scholars who do earn advanced degrees are increasingly leaving academic life for business, government, and jobs overseas. In response, a number of African universities, many in South Africa, along with a handful of foreign colleges and foundations, are collaborating to develop initiatives to graduate more African doctoral students. However, the process is long and expensive. One program estimates, for example, that it costs US$100,000 to graduate a single doctoral student.

Much more is needed. According to Africa education expert, William Saint, in an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, between a quarter and half of all staff positions at African universities are typically vacant. The shortage is partly a result of donors and governments concentrating their limited resources on primary and secondary education. Only recently, ambitious programs like the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals [2] have encouraged those benefactors to view universities as critical to Africa’s economic and social development, particularly in such key areas as agriculture and engineering.

International partnerships are helping, and American foundations have been particularly aggressive. The multimillion-dollar Partnership for Higher Education in Africa [3], a consortium of seven foundations, has served as a catalyst for the revitalization of African higher education over nearly a decade. Only now, however, are American universities seeking comprehensive involvement — most notably through the Africa-U.S. Higher Education Initiative [4], led last year by the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges [5] (now the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities).

In 2007, Cornell [6] introduced a master’s-degree program in water management at Bahir Dar University [7], in Ethiopia, which makes use of professors flown in from New York State for three-week teaching stints. Foundations, meanwhile, have mostly preferred to engage directly with African institutions.

The oldest African-led collaboration, established in 1994, is called the University Science, Humanities and Engineering Partnership in Africa [8] (Ushepia). It is designed to strengthen teaching and research at eight universities across Africa by giving young faculty members time off to complete their Ph.D.’s. Most divide their time between their home institution and the University of Cape Town [9], where they are assigned a local supervisor and gain access to resources like up-to-date journals that they would otherwise lack. South Africa’s comparatively well-resourced universities are well placed to serve as catalysts for institutions elsewhere on the continent, says Nan Warner, director of Ushepia.

Since its inception in 1996, Ushepia, which is financed by the Rockefeller and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundations and the Carnegie Corporation — all members of the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa — has produced just 41 graduates, at a cost of around $100,000 each.

The Chronicle of Higher Education [10]
February 20, 2009

More Focus on Social Sciences, Humanities Recommended

African universities have been advised to increase research in the humanities and social sciences in order to deal with the continent’s most pressing problems, according to a report [11] issued by the British Academy [12] and the Association of Commonwealth Universities. [13]

The advice in the report runs contrary to the advice of experts on African higher education in recent years, which has focused on the advancement of research in science and technology at the continent’s universities.

The study, “The Nairobi Report,” is a joint project of British and African academics, and lays out a series of recommendations for improving the management of research offices, developing staff members, and encouraging collaboration and networks between researchers in order to foster a better climate for research. The main recommendations are: research structures and governance should be improved; collaborations between researchers in different African countries should be strengthened; and universities must invest in early-career researchers.

British Academy [11]
March 29, 2009

U.S. University Associations Partner with South African Peers

The American Council on Education [14] and the American Association of Community Colleges [15] have been awarded a three-year, $6.7-million grant by the U.S. Agency for International Development [16] to strengthen curriculum and expand work-force-development programs at a dozen colleges in South Africa.

The project, called the U.S. -South Africa Partnership for Skills Development [17], builds on past efforts by the U.S. and South African governments, and will help expand institutional capacity for student-services and faculty-development programs at South African further-education and training colleges, helping them to better prepare underemployed South African workers for the labor market.

Partner institutions in the United States include: Bronx Community College [18], the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System [19], Springfield Technical Community College [20], the National Center on Education and the Economy [21], and YouthBuild International [22] (a nonprofit organization).

American Council on Education [17]
April 8, 2009

Partnership Grants Awarded to African, American Universities

A total of 40 universities – 20 American and 20 African – have been awarded $1million in grants by the U.S. Agency for International Development [16] and a Washington-based group, Higher Education for Development [23], for collaborations in agriculture, health care, and teacher training, among other crucial fields.

The announcement marks a significant step in a broad and ambitious effort to strengthen higher education in sub-Saharan African as a way to develop the region’s economy. Each of the 20 winning proposals, selected from some 300 applications, will receive a grant of $50,000.

The projects will focus on regional and national economic-development priorities. One partnership, between North Dakota State University [24] and Makerere University [25], in Uganda, will create a regional center of excellence to improve surveillance, risk assessment, policy development, and response to potential pandemic diseases. Another partnership, between California-based University of the Pacific [26] and the School of Finance and Banking [27], in Rwanda, will focus on microfinance and business, particularly as they relate to women’s economic empowerment in Rwanda and Uganda.

USAID [28]
Apri1 3, 2009


Tertiary Expansion Plans On Hold

Botswana’s economy has relied on diamonds and mining, cattle and tourism for decades. Now, amid the global economic recession, the country is suffering. For universities, the recession has resulted in threats to current development plans.

The government remains committed to building the country’s second public university, but it will not open until March 2011. Nonetheless, the Botswana International University of Science and Technology [29] (BIUST) held a groundbreaking ceremony recently at its site in Palapye, 160 miles north of the capital Gaborone.

Budgetary constraints may prevent the government from supporting grants and loans for students at private tertiary institutions of higher education. Students already enrolled will continue to receive aid in 2009-10, but the Education Ministry will not sponsor any new students in private tertiary institutions. The government currently sponsors more than 19,000 students at five private institutions of higher education

The way forward is unclear, but current government negotiations suggest cuts will definitely be made. The question is, how severe they will be? Some cabinet members want a freeze on all intakes in 2009, private and public, while others proposed only funding public tertiary institutions, including the University of Botswana [30], and colleges of education and health.

This raises questions concerning the future of private institutions after they have been allowed to expand in the last three years, absorbing thousands of students who otherwise would have been educated abroad. An independent assessment of the quality of private tertiary institution is said to have found that the education offered by some institutions is not “worth the cost” and that some graduates are “unemployable”.

The Tertiary Education Commission [31] has denied any knowledge of this study and is still in the process of accrediting these institutions.

University World News [32]
April 26, 2009


New Grants to Boost University Research

The government of Cameroon has announced a US$2 million grant program aimed at boosting research output at the nation’s universities, reports the Cameroon Tribune.

According to the Tribune, a presidential decree was signed in April to create a special account for research under the 2009 Finances Act. The decree provides for funds including those from foreign aid, donations and legacies.

The Ministry of Higher Education [33] told the Tribune that the decision amounted to a ‘small revolution’ in terms of speeding up matters. A representative said: “Disbursements will be made quarterly… for the research projects submitted. This account will modernize research, along with the University Fund for Support of Research which already exists and which has experienced several funding difficulties.”

Cameroon Tribune [34]
April 15, 2009


Government Closes Three “Illegal” Universities and Goes After Many More

The Nigerian government and police have begun the prosecution of the owners of three private universities deemed illegal, according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

The three institutions were named as National University of Nigeria, based in Keffi, Nasarawa State; North Central University, Otukpo, Benue; and Christians of Charity University of Science and Technology, Nkpor, Anambra.

The National Universities Commission [35], the sector’s regulator, said it would also begin proceedings against Christ Alive Seminary and University (Enugu) and Volta University College (Aba). The operations of Houdegbe North American University (Lagos) are also being closely scrutinized, according to NAN.

The NUC has issued closure notices to 17 illegal universities, according to officials, and investigations continued into the activities of 15 others with no known addresses.

News Agency of Nigeria [36]
April 8, 2009


New Qualifications Authority in the Works

The Zambian government’s plans to introduce a new higher education qualifications authority are at an advanced stage, according to University World News. Other tertiary plans include the opening of three new university colleges in May, and the upgrading of facilities at existing institutions.

The new qualifications authority will be responsible for the implementation of a new National Qualification Framework, which is currently being floated to stakeholders through an initial white paper.

Nkrumah and Copperbelt Colleges of Education are being upgraded and transformed into university colleges and will open with an intake of 600 students. The academic calendars of the colleges would be aligned with that of the University of Zambia [37], “under whose academic superintendence the institutions will fall.” Mulakupikwa University College will also open in May.

University World News [38]
April 19, 2009