WENR, September 2011: Africa


Addis Ababa University to Spearhead Faculty Training

In a bid to address low tertiary enrollment rates (less than 2 percent), the Ethiopian government is developing plans to increase student numbers and, perhaps more importantly, qualified academic staff. Enrollment capacity is being increased by creating new public universities, from nine in 2004 to 22 in 2009, with 10 additional ones under construction. However, the faculty question is a little more thorny.

It is estimated that Ethiopia needs 3,000 PhDs to work as faculty at the public universities. The oldest university, Addis Ababa University (AAU), has not produced sufficient master’s and PhD graduates even for its own requirements. Recruiting foreign faculty has been difficult because of the meager local salaries, while expensive programs to train students overseas have largely failed as students have not returned.

The new plan, therefore, is to train graduates domestically. And AAU is the cornerstone of that plan with initiatives underway to convert the university from a primarily undergraduate institution to a graduate and research university, producing 4-5,000 PhDs over the decade 2009-18. As AAU has no capacity to embark on such a massive undertaking, international cooperation has been sought. Visiting professors come to teach graduate students and also supervise PhD students. Qualified local faculty take the responsibility of overseeing groups of up to eight or 10 graduate students in their respective field. To ensure that the PhD research topics address the priority development needs of the country, all the programs have to be in identified multi- and inter-disciplinary thematic areas.

The government has allocated significant funding to AAU, while a number of partners and donors, notably the Swedish Sida and the World Bank, have also given large grants. Initial results look encouraging. From relatively insignificant numbers only a few years ago, 2010/11 enrollments are over 9,500 for master’s and nearly 1,300 at the doctoral level. There are of course risks inherent in such a scale up of graduate education. These include lack of funds, shortage of experienced local faculty to supervise PhD candidates and uncertainty of the supply of visiting professors and distant PhD supervisors, all of which could jeopardize the quality of the graduate programs.

August 17, 2011

Quality Assurance Agency Closes 5 Private Colleges

The Higher Education Relevance and Quality Agency (HERQA) announced in September that it had banned five private higher education institutions from operating because they did not meet HERQA quality standards.

The agency also said it had given another 13 private colleges one year to improve their standards or face closure. General Director of HERQA, Dr Tesfaye Teshome, said that the five banned private institutions would not be allowed to continue as education centers. He also explained that private institutions of higher education are graded on a three-point scale from A to C. Schools graded with a C are considered to have a ‘visible shortfall,’ while those with an A grade are considered to have met all minimum quality standards.

According to Tesfaye, 57 institutions have been graded Level A and 13 institutions are categorized Level B. The Level C grade is subdivided into two categories (C1 and C2). A Level C1 classification indicates that despite the existence of visible shortfalls in some key areas, institutions are of sufficient quality to be given the chance to demonstrate improvement over a set period while also staying operational. Level C2 is essentially a failing grade resulting in a school’s closure.

The five colleges that received a C2 grade are Hayome College of Health Science (Ambo), Nile College (Mekelle), Aleph College of Health (Awassa), Orbit Information Technology College (Addis Ababa), Beklo Bet Campus, and Fura College (Yirgalem).

September 7, 2011


Government Looks to Private sector to Relieve Demand on Public Universities

The Ghanaian government is considering more private involvement in the provision of tertiary education as the public sector continues to suffer from a funding squeeze due to huge demand on the national budget and pressure from increasing student enrollments.

Education Minister Betty Mould-Iddrisu said in August at a national dialog on sustainable funding for the tertiary sector that high demand for tertiary education in recent years had in most cases outstripped supply in physical infrastructure, constraining capacity in institutions and placing pressure on public resources.

The minister said a draft bill was being considered by parliament, and a concept paper for re-positioning polytechnic education was “receiving serious attention.” On the government’s move to increase private sector participation in tertiary education, the minister said there were currently about 55 accredited tertiary institutions in Ghana.

“The evidence is that while some of the private institutions have succeeded in introducing innovations in course design and delivery in response to challenges in the labor market, others have given cause for worry about the quality of education they provide.”

She said the involvement of the private sector had also generated other issues, such as whether the government should subsidize private tertiary education and what form that should take.

University World News
August 28, 2011

Microsoft Engineer Sees Vision for IT University Come to Fruition

Ashesi University in Ghana started classes in information technology a decade ago, and now the university, which was the brainchild of a Microsoft engineer, finally has its own campus. The university is moving from rented space in the capital city of Accra to a 100-acre suburban campus, which formally opened at the end of August.

A contingent of supporters from the United States, many with Microsoft ties, was expected to join ambassadors, Ghanaian officials and village chiefs for the opening. Several said the campus is much more than a collection of new buildings for the school. It represents the vision and commitment of Patrick Awuah, who left the security of a job writing software in Redmond to pursue his dream of building a university in his homeland.

Awuah’s goal when he left for Ghana in 1997 was to offer Ivy League-standard education in Africa, to create ethical, broadminded leaders who would go on to elevate the continent. Ashesi began offering classes in 2002, and enrollment has grown from 30 to about 500. Current capacity will eventually be for 2,000 students. Most graduates have stayed in Africa and all have jobs in fields such as finance, technology and education.

Seattle Times
August 21, 2011


Universities Seek Private Funding as Government Looks to Reduce Admissions Backlog

Kenyan universities are being required to enroll more students as the government tries to ease a backlog of qualified students waiting to enroll at university. As a result these cash-strapped public institutions are increasingly seeking private investors to build new academic and residential facilities.

State-run universities will have to accommodate an extra 40,000 students over the next four years to clear a two-year backlog by 2015. To achieve this, the Joint Admissions Board (JAB) is planning to admit one in three rather than one in four qualified school-leavers, and also to initiate a double intake of students this year.

In August, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Kenya’s newest public university, invited investors to build hostels on its campuses to ease congestion in facilities as student numbers soar. The institution is short of accommodation for 7,000 students, according to officials.

While the government has promised extra funds to help with its plan to ease the admissions backlog, it has not matched the need for new facilities, meaning institutions have to tap funds from other sources like private investors to expand their infrastructure.

Last year Kenyatta University, the second biggest university by student numbers, said it was seeking US$11 million to help in building academic and residential facilities. The investors are required to build and operate the facilities for between eight and 12 years before transferring ownership to the institution. During this period, they are expected to recoup their investment.

Higher education enrollments have been rising by around 40 percent annually for the past five years, while real subsidies have increased by 4 percent to 5 percent over the same period. According to government figures, the number of students in public universities was 143,000 last year, up from 101,000 the previous year.

In 2015 the first cohort of beneficiaries of free primary education will enter university. The Education for All plan, started in 2003, has resulted in increased enrollments in the school sector of more than 1.5 million, meaning many more students will be looking for tertiary opportunities in just a few years.

University World News
August 21, 2011


University Campuses Closed Since April

Students in Malawi have not been able to attend college since April, and dialog efforts launched in June have so far failed to yield results. In an attempt to force authorities to reopen schools, students have been holding a vigil, which is the latest twist in the academic freedom saga that started in February and continues in what many report to be an increasingly autocratic climate.

The problems began in February when a police inspector quizzed a political science lecturer over remarks made during a lecture. The academic had drawn parallels between revolts in North Africa and the Arab world, and problems in Malawi. University staff staged protests, claiming academic freedom was under threat.

Lecturers, who have also accused the authorities of planting spies in lecture rooms, have since continued to demand academic freedoms, while President Wa Mutharika has accused academics of attempting to topple his government.

Talks to restart studies and teaching have so far amounted to nothing, while it was reported in July that 19 people were killed in violent demonstrations related to the closures.

University World News
August 28, 2011


Plans Announced to Create New Universities

The government of Mauritius has announced plans to create new universities in the coming years as part of its ambition to transform the island into a regional knowledge hub. The country aims to attract 100,000 foreign students by 2020, and campaigns are now being conducted in India and Tanzania to promote the island as a tertiary education destination.

Pans announced by the government, additional to the creation of new universities, include attracting respected foreign institutions of higher education to Mauritius through the provision of incentives and through bilateral and multilateral mutual recognition agreements. The government will also invest in the physical expansion of existing institutions and the setting up of new campus universitaires in different parts of the country.

Another recommendation is for the creation of a medical university. This project, says the local authority, will enable Mauritian students to complete their study on the island, as an increasing number cannot afford to study in European and Australian universities.

Admission to local universities has soared by 10 percent annually in the last nine years, and the tertiary participation rate for 18-24-year-olds is now estimated to be nearing 40 percent. Mauritius has a population of around 1.3 million people and scores highest in Africa on the United Nations Human Development Index.

University World News
September 4, 2011


Carnegie Mellon to Open Rwanda Campus

Carnegie Mellon University plans to become one of just a few U.S. colleges offering degree programs in Africa next year with the launch of its Rwanda branch campus.

The Pittsburgh-based university is receiving $95 million over 10 years from the Rwandan government to operate the program, which will initially offer master’s degrees in information technology and in electrical and computer engineering. The African Development Fund is also supporting the project with $13 million in funding.

An initial enrollment of 40 students at temporary premises is expected for 2012, with a goal of 150 students by 2017 on a 30- to 40-acre campus that is being built on the outskirts of Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. When completed, the campus will be the first branch campus of a U.S. university in Africa.

The university will recruit from East Africa and beyond, but give preference to Rwandans. The Rwandan government will offer scholarships for its citizens to cover the program’s fees and costs. The university has said that it may eventually add Ph.D. programs, but has no plans to enroll undergraduates.

For Carnegie Mellon, the Africa campus is part of a growing global network. It has established programs in Australia, Japan, Mexico, and Portugal, and runs an undergraduate branch campus in Doha, Qatar.

Carnegie Mellon Press Release
September 14, 2011

Posted in Africa, Regional News Summaries