WENR, February 2010: Africa
Building Regional Research Capacity
The Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) launched an experimental program in November aimed at growing the number of West and Central African faculty members with doctoral degrees. Horizons Francophones, as the initiative is known, has a principal objective of establishing a network of African French-speaking higher education institutions that will develop scientific partnerships.
By promoting mobility within the network, the program aims to help non-doctoral lecturers earn PhDs, and then support them upon graduation with their integration into programs of scientific collaboration.
The first phase of Horizons Francophones will cover the areas of water science; health and animal products, and quality of food for human consumption; and economics and development. Mobility grants are being made available to beneficiaries of the program. The call for applications opened in January and selection of candidates and teams by the AUF regional commission of experts will take place at the end of March.
– AUF news release
December 10, 2009
$15 Million for US-Africa University Partnerships
A U.S. federal spending bill for the 2010 fiscal year, signed into law in December, contains $15 million for partnerships between African and American universities.
The spending will be targeted at expanding collaborations designed to strengthen higher education in sub-Saharan Africa as a way to develop the region’s economy. The U.S. Agency for International Development and a Washington-based group, Higher Education for International Development, last year announced an initial round of grants to 20 African and 20 American colleges for projects in crucial fields such as agriculture, health care, and teacher training.
– The Chronicle of Higher Education
January 12, 2010
Online Database of Recognized Diplomas in Francophone Africa Launched
The Conseil Africain et Malgache pour l’Enseignement Supérieur (CAMES) has launched a database of recognized diplomas in Francophone Africa. The database (in French) is organized by country and institution.
– IAU Bulletin
Democratic Republic of Congo
Ministry Asks Legitimate Institutions of Higher Education to Absorb Students from Recently Closed Colleges
The Minister of Higher and University Education, Léonard Mashako Mamba, has asked the 49 institutions of higher education deemed viable by the government in June of last year to enroll students from the 47 non-viable institutions that have recently been closed according to government orders. The 49 recognized institutions are listed at: http://www.digitalcongo.net/article/63431
– Digital Congo
December 23, 2009
Dealing with the Issues of Expanding Higher Education
Ethiopia is hoping to transform itself from one of the poorest and most agrarian-based countries in the world to a modern economy, with a highly educated citizenry. The government, therefore, has been expanding the capacity of the higher education system at an incredible pace in recent years. However, the rapid pace of expansion has created a number of issues, from uneven enrollment growth among the sexes to a serious undersupply of instructors.
From two public universities in 1990, the sector now counts an additional 19 public universities – many through upgrades and many through mergers of existing colleges. There are also 26 regional teacher education colleges and approximately 60 accredited private post-secondary institutions (only one recognized as a university).
With increasing secondary graduation rates, demand continues to grow at a breakneck pace, especially among males. Ministry of Education statistics show that during the 2000-01 academic year, undergraduate enrollment at public universities was approximately 34,000. By 2007-08 regular undergraduate enrollment had increased to more than 125,000; however, less than 30 percent of the undergraduate enrollment and barely 10 percent of graduate enrollment is female.
The number of instructors has also been a major issue. Quite simply, there are not enough qualified staff available to match the rate of growth in institutions, and while some have hired from abroad, most have had to increase the students to teacher ratio. The number of instructors has grown just twofold to 7,500 since 2000, compared to the fourfold growth in enrollments, growing teacher-student ratios from 1:8 in 1995 to 1:15 today. Many instructors are also under-qualified, with fewer than 20 percent of the current teachers holding a master’s degree and fewer than 4 percent holding doctorates. Infrastructure and funding constraints are also a major concern.
– International Higher Education
$1.7 Billion to Reform Education System and Universities
Morocco has launched a four-year US$1.7 billion emergency plan to overhaul its education system. This includes reforming universities in an effort to boost the country’s science and technology workforce, promoting knowledge-based sustainable development, enhancing the research reputation of Moroccan universities, and increasing the higher education sector’s carrying capacity.
Under the education reform plan, the King of Morocco, Mohamed IV, recently oversaw the signing of 17 agreements between the government and universities to improve higher education. These ranged from hiring additional lecturers and raising teaching credentials to expanding infrastructure.
The plan commits universities to take the necessary steps to improve performance, promote high-quality teaching and develop scientific research, with a view to enabling Moroccan universities to become internationally competitive. The government has voiced a goal of accrediting 92 percent of its universities as research institutions by 2012, compared with 69 percent last year.
– University World News
December 13, 2009
British Universities Granted Permission to Establish Branch Campuses
Nigeria’s National Universities Commission in late 2009 agreed to initiate a pilot program that will allow British universities to establish a presence within selected Nigerian universities under twinning, branch-campus and distance-learning arrangements.
With demand for university places far outstripping supply at Nigeria’s 93 public and private universities, the move is aimed at increasing the supply of places, while keeping Nigerian talent in the country rather than travelling abroad. The move comes despite a recent crackdown on cross-border higher education, which comes after the proliferation of unrecognized and unaccredited offshore institutions that have been preying on frustrated students unable to get into licensed institutions.
Recent statistics released by the National University Commission, the regulatory body in charge of tertiary institutions, indicate the total carrying capacity of Nigerian universities is 170,000 new students a year. More than a million candidates have annually been seeking tertiary places in recent years.
The British Council, which has been in negotiations with the NUC for two years over the deal, said that UK institutions were better placed to move into Nigeria than their international rivals. According to figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, there were 12,680 Nigerian students at UK institutions in 2007-08, up from 4,590 in 2002-03 – a 176 percent increase in five years.
– University World News
December 17, 2009
Nigerian Academics Abroad Helping Universities at Home
During the oil boom of the 1970s, Nigerian universities enjoyed a golden age that produced a particularly strong cadre of academics, thousands of whom were and continue to be driven away by economic and political turmoil in the country. Today, many of those living and working in Europe and North America are building partnerships and networks to reach back and help the Nigerian university sector rebuild, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Many academics are returning on sabbaticals to teach and build academic and institutional partnerships. The nation’s most prestigious tertiary institution, the University of Ibadan, for example, has 135 international collaborations, many of them involving academics who have left Africa.
“We had superb training. We had no loans. We got government scholarships,” says Sola Olopade, a pulmonologist who graduated from Ibadan and has spent the past 25 years at the University of Chicago’s medical school. His wife, Funmi, a geneticist whose work on the molecular genetics of breast cancer in African and African-American women earned her a “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 2005, also works at the medical school. “As long as we have been here, we have been sensitized to that issue and the need to give back,” she says.
“We’re using our position here to open doors for higher-education institutions in Nigeria,” says Dr. Olopade, who serves as president of the newly formed Nigeria Higher Education Foundation, which was established by prominent academics from the diaspora to support Nigerian universities, with seed money from the MacArthur Foundation.
These relationships help attract financing, but more importantly, provide Nigerian academics with opportunities to work on papers, attend conferences, and gain specialty training overseas, all essential for building careers. Technology is also enabling less-formal collaborations to grow, often involving nothing more than the e-mailing of journal articles to colleagues who can’t get them.
– The Chronicle of Higher Education
December 14, 2009
Promises of Free Education Put on Hold
The Swazi constitution adopted in 2005 committed the country to provide free primary education (FPE) to all within three years, and while the government delayed the implementation of its constitutional obligations, citing a lack of funds, a 2009 court order forced the government to implement the program. The education ministry has started with the first two grades, and plans to add one grade each year until 2015.
However, at the start of the academic year, hundreds of Swazi children eager to take advantage of FPE were turned away as schools opened because the government is struggling with the administrative challenges of implementing free education. Although the authorities insisted that all was ready for the new school year to begin, most schools did not have enough classrooms or teachers to cater for the influx of pupils.
The government has so far constructed 89 classrooms across the small and mountainous southern African kingdom country, and it has requested funds for 225 more teachers from the civil service commission. The ministry has instructed pupils to continue registering despite the infrastructure shortage, promising that mobile classrooms will be provided until permanent structures can be built.
Some schools have significantly raised their fees for all grades above second grade to make up for the low government fees paid for children in grades one and two, resulting in drop-outs among older children. Donor assistance for education has been difficult to come by because the kingdom is classified as a middle-income country, unlike Malawi, for example, where FPE is funded by donors.
– Inter Press Service
January 28, 2010
Making Loans Available to Reduce University Drop-outs
According to the Monitor newspaper, financing (or lack thereof) is the primary reason why students fail to finish their university programs in Uganda. The high drop-out rates have led the government to embark on an education finance scheme that is scheduled to begin this year.
Last September, Education Minister Namirembe Bitamazire announced that the government had earmarked Shs250 million (US$3.3 million) as seed money to kick-start a loan scheme for university students. “Demand [for the program] has been on board for some years,” she said. “Now we will be in a position to help students to access funds.”
Students are expected to pay back loan money on completion of their studies. And therein lies a problem. Banks, which are the alternative source of finance, are not comfortable with the idea of lending to students with no guarantee that they will be paid back. The Financial Institutions Act of 2004 states that where the collection of debt in full is highly questionable or improbable, such a facility should not be provided. And the Bank of Uganda actually penalizes banks that offer such loans.
– The Monitor
December 14, 2009