WENR, January/February 2013: Africa


Enrollment Growth Booming in Developing Countries

Enrollments among tertiary-level students in the developing world are increasing at a much quicker rate than in industrialized nations, with the lion’s share of the growth coming in vocational programs rather than university degrees, new research has found.

A report by The Research Base [1], an education-focused consultancy, shows enrollments on academic programs rising fastest in Africa, with growth averaging 16 percent a year. However, in South and West Asia increases in enrollments on vocational programs are averaging 41 percent a year.

In all four developing regions highlighted in the report – Latin America and the Caribbean, East Asia and the Pacific, Sub-Saharan Africa, and South and West Asia – vocational programs have seen stronger growth than their academic counterparts. In Sub-Saharan Africa, which has seen most growth in degrees and other academic programs, vocational enrollments have increased by 20 percent a year.

The report, The Education Advantage, says there is a clear link between economic growth and the number of students over the age of 16, particularly on vocational programs. The Research Base report argues that too little attention has been paid to vocational education in major international studies.

The authors conclude: “It is likely that developing countries are seeing growing student numbers because there are clear returns to education, especially in vocational education and training, which challenges much of the previous research in this area. In contrast, the developed world has seen increasingly diminishing returns to education, meaning that student numbers are static and, in some cases, falling.”

The Research Base [2]
Fall 2012


Government Looks to Raise Standards in Fast-Paced Higher Education Sector

The Ethiopian government’s Higher Education Relevance and Quality Agency, HERQA, is to implement new measures designed to raise standards in universities. The initiative comes amid major concerns about the state of the country’s fast-growing tertiary education sector, the employability of its graduates and the quality of instruction. The number of public universities in the country has grown from two to 34 over the past 12 years, and there are now seven private universities and 52 polytechnic colleges.

Dr Tesfaye Teshome, director general of HERQA, told University World News that a new quality assurance program is set to be introduced, focused heavily on measuring the specific skills and other attributes being attained by graduates. Teshome said that under the program, expert-led university audits would cover every subject area, closely assessing what students have learned, as well as measuring teaching standards and internal academic management procedures.

HERQA is also establishing an internal quality assurance system across all universities, based around 10 key standards and focused on core issues such as classroom size and minimum staff requirements. Teshome said this system had been piloted at two private and two public universities and was to be introduced soon.

Approximately 320,000 undergraduate students and 15,445 graduate students currently attend public universities in Ethiopia, according to figures from the Ministry of Education, and these numbers are targeted to reach 467,445 and 120,000 by 2015 under Ethiopia’s five-year Growth and Transformation Plan for 2011-15. An estimated 70,000 students now attend private universities.

University World News [3]
December 16, 2012


New Universities Law Puts Private Universities on an Equal Footing

Kenya has enacted higher education reforms aimed at streamlining and improving the management of university affairs. The Universities Act 2012 was signed into law in January and promises far-reaching changes.

Public universities, which were previously governed by specific acts of parliament, have been brought under the same law as private institutions, making existing charters and letters of interim authority redundant. The Joint Admissions Board (JAB) is being replaced by a new body called the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service, which unlike its predecessor will act as the central admissions body for public and private universities, with membership from both sectors. This move is expected to be a boon for private universities looking to recruit top students. In addition, the Commission for Higher Education, the body that regulates private universities, will be replaced by the Commission for University Education (CUE). Previously self-regulating public universities will also fall under the purview of CUE, which will monitor university programs and accredit new ones.

Foreign universities will be required to submit proof of accreditation from their home countries before they are allowed to offer courses in Kenya, under the hew law. For local institutions, the accreditation agency will require core programs to be declared before starting operations, and accreditation procedures will center on those programs. Public universities will also be subject to quality assurance procedures overseen by the commission – a role previously prevented by university acts. Hefty fines will be dished out to institutions offering unaccredited programs.

Other changes include provisions related to the recruitment of university leaders, who will now be picked by the university community and alumni rather than the president of Kenya. University funding mechanisms have also been altered with a move away from per-student funding, while a new committee has been appointed to investigate lecturer salaries and collective bargaining agreements. This is important for Kenya because low pay is frequently blamed for an exodus of lecturers from Kenyan universities. The lecturers’ lobby group, the University Academic Staff Union, says the number of lecturers in public and private universities has increased by just 2,000 over the last five years (to 9,000), despite a doubling of student numbers from around 91,541 to 180,000 over the same period.

University World News [4]
January 26, 2013

Columbia University Opens A Global Center in Nairobi

Columbia University [5] has opened a new Global Center in Nairobi [6] for the African continent that it says will serve as a regional hub for research and collaboration. The Nairobi Center will also host initiatives such as the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) founded by the university’s Earth Institute and headed by celebrated economist Jeffrey Sachs.

The center will seek to be a focal point for African scholarly research initiatives and will look to build ties and collaborations with higher education institutions, governments, NGOs and civil society.

Through its Global Centers, Columbia is looking to expand its global research reach and to respond to the challenges of globalization. There are seven other centers across the world, including in Santiago (Chile), Amman (Jordan), Paris (France), Beijing (China), Istanbul (Turkey) and Mumbai (India).

Nairobi was chosen by Columbia because of its location, availability of infrastructure, cost-effective research, international connectivity and willingness of the government to embrace and support the initiative, according to university president Lee C. Bolinger. The Nairobi Center, he said, would promote and facilitate international collaborations, research projects, academic programming and study abroad for certain categories of students, enhancing the university’s commitment to global scholarship.

Kenya’s Higher Education Minister Margaret Kamar called on local and regional universities to waste no time in pursuing areas of research collaboration. “Don’t just sit and wait to be invited. Just invite yourselves, with proposals in hand, and link yourselves to this vast body of knowledge, which is something that has been missing in Africa.”

Columbia had opted to use a different model of establishing a global presence, said the university’s vice-president for the global centers, Safwan Masri. The global centers, while not degree-granting, provided Columbia students with an opportunity to do hands-on research and service-learning abroad.

University World News [7]
January 18, 2013


Too few PhDs

Nigeria’s public university system is short of nearly 14,000 PhD-holders, according to a recent article in Leadership. Under government targets, 80 percent of university lecturers (30,003) should hold doctoral degrees; instead, just 43 percent (16,126) of the academic workforce in federal and state universities have doctoral degrees, a shortfall of 13,877 PhD holders in public universities nationwide.

The figures are derived from a report submitted to the Committee on Needs Assessment of Nigerian Universities in August of last year but not made public until January. The report also revealed a dearth of quality lecturers, with attendant poor quality of some graduates and the declining status of Nigerian universities globally.

Leadership [8]
January 25, 2013

South Africa

Students Told to Be Careful of Unregistered Programs at Registered Colleges

South Africa’s Department of Higher Education and Training has warned students to be wary of registered private colleges that offer qualifications that do not have official approval.

Spokesperson Vuyelwa Qinga said there was concern about institutions that secure registration for some programs, and then “hide behind” the status to offer unregistered programs. Felicity Coughlan, director of the Independent Institute of Education, said while there was malpractice in the sector, it was not widespread and it was very easy to pick up – provided students asked the right questions.

Independent Online [9]
December 10, 2012


Private University Loses UK University Certification Over Nation’s Stance on Homosexuality

The University of Buckingham [10] in the UK announced in January that it had lifted its accreditation of programs offered by private Kampala-based Victoria University [11] over freedom of speech issues and the controversy surrounding a homosexuality bill in the East African country. Three-quarters of the Ugandan university’s 200 students have been affected.

Buckingham, a private research university, said that in the past few months it had been in discussion with Edulink Holdings, an international investor in tertiary institutions and owner of the Ugandan institution, about continued authentication of some of its degrees.

Buckingham had been accrediting degrees that included bachelors in accounting and financial management, business and management, business and management with information systems, computing, communications and journalism, and an MBA. The university will remain open to cater for non-Buckingham University undergraduate programs in nursing science and public health.

Uganda has a legislative proposal that would broaden the criminalization of same-sex relations. Offenders could receive life imprisonment. Victoria University had been offering students in East Africa an opportunity to get a UK degree locally. Launching Victoria University in September 2011, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni hailed it as a model of North-South business investment in education and health.

University World News [12]
January 13, 2013