WENR, November 2014: Africa

Stakeholders Across Africa Agree on Need for Improved Quality in Higher Ed, Closer Cross-Border Collaboration

Positive tones emerged from the 6th International Conference on Quality Assurance in Higher Education [1] in Africa, held in Bujumbura, Burundi. As the quality of African higher education remains under severe pressure, the need for quality assurance mechanisms and institutions now appears to have been universally embraced.

The number of national quality assurance agencies in Africa has risen from just six in 2006 to 23 today. New initiatives are being launched to promote their further development and link them across the continent. Supporting this, the European Union is developing a new line of support to quality assurance and accreditation in Africa.

In the face of massification and globalization, the quality of African degrees is so severely threatened that everyone now appears to accept that quality assurance is part and parcel of modern higher education and that the development of a continental framework for quality assurance is a matter of utmost priority.

University World News [2]
September 25, 2014

Research Production Rises in Sub-Saharan Africa

Research output in Sub-Saharan Africa has grown significantly over the last decade – but it is still not adequate to fuel the region’s fast-growing economies – according to a report published in October by the World Bank and Elsevier, a global provider of science information.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s contribution to global research output increased from 0.44 percent in 2003 to 0.72 percent in 2012, suggesting a reversal of the trend reported in 2007 that Africa’s contribution to worldwide research was declining.

Focusing on research output and citation impact, the report [3]A Decade of Development in Sub-Saharan African Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Research, reveals that while research in the region has doubled over the past 10 years, research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – STEM – fields has lagged behind other subject areas.

Research in the region is principally driven by health science research, which has been growing by 4 percent annually and currently accounts for 45 percent of all scientific research in the region. The report’s authors found that the impressive improvement in African research capacity in the health sciences was due to pressing need and persistent support and funding from development partners as well as collaboration with top global universities on health issues.

Some of the top academic institutions identified as key collaborators in health sciences in Sub-Saharan Africa included the universities of Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Copenhagen, Liverpool and Oxford, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Other leading collaborators were the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Pasteur Institute.

University World News [4]
October 2, 2014

Morocco: Higher Education Reform Plans Include Big University Hubs, English-Language Provision

Morocco is considering a number of higher education reforms, including grouping big universities together into ‘hubs’ to increase their visibility, promoting research and making mastering English compulsory for students wanting admission to science universities.

According to a report in Almaghribia, the new measures were announced by Morocco’s Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Training, Lahcen Daoudi, at a Maghreb Arab Press Forum held under the theme “2014-2015 Academic Year: Expectations and challenges” in mid-September.

People should stop calling Moroccan universities ‘unemployment factories,’ Daoudi reportedly said. Universities are not responsible for the jobless rate among young graduates, which has reached 24 percent. Instead, the minister blamed the national economy.

To reform university education, there are two main areas of focus, including restructuring higher education by grouping big universities together into ‘hubs,’ in order to increase their visibility across the region and Africa and to help promote university research.

Second, according to a September circular, from January 2015 it will be mandatory for science students and research professors in science, technology, health sciences and economics to master English before being able to study or be employed in science universities.

 University World News [5]
October 3, 2014

Rwanda: Italian Research Center to Open Branch Campus

The Italy-based International Centre for Theoretical Physics [6] (ICTP) will open a branch campus in Rwanda by January 2015, to operate as an East African regional base and to offer education, training and research at the graduate level in physics and mathematics.

The ICTP, founded by Pakistani Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam in 1964, is an international research institute for physical and mathematical sciences based in Trieste that aims to promote scientific excellence in the developing world.

“The ICTP’s commitment to establish its East African regional center in Rwanda is of great practical and symbolic importance to us as a nation. We look forward to working together with the rest of the region and ICTP to make this venture a success,” said President Paul Kagame in an October keynote lecture [7] at the Center.

The ICTP regional center will be hosted at the University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology [8] and will have a budget of RWF500 million (US$0.72 million), according to a Pan African Visions report [9]. It will make new PhD and masters degrees and fellowship programs accessible for Rwandan and other African students to study and conduct research in theoretical high energy physics, condensed matter, statistical physics and material science, pure and applied mathematics as well as earth system physics which includes climate change and geophysics.

University World News [10]
October 10, 2014