WENR, April 2015: Africa


Continental University Research Alliance Launched

Fifteen universities from eight African countries launched an alliance of research universities at the recent African Higher Education Summit [1] in Senegal’s capital Dakar. The focus of the group will be to build African research excellence as a “vital precondition” for the continent to develop and exert control over its future.

Leading institutions with strong research and graduate training joined the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) with its first chair being Dr Max Price of the University of Cape Town. The alliance follows in the footsteps and shares the aims of other research university consortia around the world – such as the League of European Research Universities and the Group of Eight in Australia – that advocate for strengthening research and graduate training in higher education.

The universities include Lagos, Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo in Nigeria, the University of Ghana, Makerere University in Uganda, the University of Nairobi in Kenya, the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, the National University of Rwanda, Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Senegal, and in South Africa the universities of the Witwatersrand, Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Pretoria, KwaZulu-Natal and Rhodes.

The vice-chancellors stressed that the alliance should be seen as a catalytic rather than an elitist group. It will use the strengths of member universities to boost research and higher education across the continent. While the number of universities in the group will not expand much – experience has shown that large groups can become unwieldy and ineffective – ARUA will also identify research nodes and centers of excellence around Africa to work with.

There will be three main thrusts to the work of ARUA – improving training and support for PhD students, capacity building to enhance research management, and collaborative research. One of the first actions of ARUA will be to conduct an audit of what is available across member universities. The alliance will identify a few big research programs that will span a large number of member universities, and seek funding for them. Research areas will be selected in line with African priorities, as articulated in the African Union’s recently approved ‘Agenda 2063.’

University World News [2]
March 10, 2015

Initiative Announced to Bring Home 10,000 Academics from the African Diaspora

Africa – which more than a decade ago declared the diaspora to be its sixth region – plans to launch a ‘10/10’ initiative that will sponsor 1,000 scholars in the African diaspora a year for 10 years to continental universities and colleges for collaboration.

The ‘Mobilize the Diaspora’ project is one of six proposals in the Draft Declaration and Action Plan of the 1st African Higher Education Summit on Revitalizing Higher Education for Africa’s Future, that came out of the continental gathering held in Dakar, Senegal, in March.

The ‘10/10’ program is to sponsor in total 10,000 diaspora academics across all disciplines “for collaboration in research, curriculum development, and graduate student teaching and mentoring,” according to the declaration. The initiative flows out of the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program, which was launched two years ago in an effort to help turn Africa’s chronic ‘brain drain’ into ‘brain circulation’ through fellowships with African diaspora academics in North America.

A proposal to radically scale up the program was submitted to the African Higher Education Summit. During one of the sessions the initiative’s brainchild and leader Dr Paul Zeleza, vice-president for academic affairs at America’s Quinnipiac University, said:

“The diaspora is a huge force. In the United States there are at least 25,000 African academics working at universities. And a lot of the diaspora is ready, willing and able to contribute to Africa’s engagement with regards to higher education institutions.”

The current African Diaspora Fellowship Program [3], which is administered by the Institute of International Education in partnership with Quinnipiac University, is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. By last December there had been 165 project requests from 81 African universities for collaboration with diaspora academics in the areas of curriculum co-development, graduate student advising and teaching, and research – and 93 of a potential 100 had been granted. The 81 universities are in the six African countries in which Carnegie operates – Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. The lion’s share of 38 collaborations went to universities in Nigeria followed by 16 in South Africa and 15 in Kenya.

University World News [4]
March 13, 2015

East African Credit System Enters New Phase

The East African Credit Accumulation and Transfer project undertaken by higher education authorities in the region’s five countries has entered a fifth phase, with experts agreeing on minimum standards for psychology, counseling, community development, developmental studies and social work programs.

The harmonization initiative is meant to ease the movement of students from one university to the other across the countries of the East African Community [5]. It is also part of a quality assurance initiative that was started in 2007 before picking up pace in 2010. Experts in the above disciplines started deliberations at a meeting in Nairobi in February, and benchmarks for the four programs were agreed upon.

During previous phases, minimum standards were developed for human medicine, basic sciences, engineering, agriculture, business studies and information technology, computer science, bachelor of education with options in arts, science, primary, special needs and early childhood, bachelor of laws and masters in business administration.

In addition to universities and higher education regulatory bodies, employers under the auspices of the East African Business Council and the Inter-University Council for East Africa have been brought into the process to ensure the relevance of training offered across the region as well as the employability of graduates within the unified East African trading bloc.

A 2010 law passed by the East African Legislative Assembly, which binds all member countries to observe and implement its provisions, has given impetus to student mobility. The Inter-University Council for East Africa [6], which facilitates higher education cooperation from within the East African Community operational framework, allows students to move freely across the bloc’s institutions via a credit transfer arrangement.

University World News [7]
March 20, 2015


Polytechnics to Upgrade to Technical Universities

The government of Ghana is planning to convert the country’s 10 polytechnics into technical universities by September 2016. As part of the plans to convert polytechnics into technical universities, in August 2013 the government tasked a committee to construct appropriate conversion plans. In May last year the committee submitted to the government its report, in which it made 10 recommendations.

In its report, the government states that the country’s polytechnics have lost focus of their mandates as technical or technology institutions and are offering predominantly business management-oriented programs such as marketing, accounting, hotel management, secretarial studies and real estate. The government argues that technical universities need to do a better job acting as a bridge between training and industry. This symbiotic relationship, the government contends, would allow technical universities to utilize industry resources to promote innovation and technological advancement in Ghana.

The government asserts that technical universities will be different from traditional universities in that the former focus on technology development, innovation and technology transfer, while the latter set their sights on fundamental research and cutting-edge technology development. It also argues that technical universities will be responsive to industry needs and learner interests whereas traditional universities are responsive to disciplinary approaches to learning and promotion of scholarship.

University World News [8]
February 6, 2015


Record Numbers of Secondary Graduates Spells Problems for Universities

The good news is that a record number of Kenyans passed the nation’s school leaving examinations this year. The bad news is that Kenya’s already strained universities will struggle to absorb the resulting demand. In the coming nine months, institutions will need funds and infrastructure to enroll tens of thousands more students.

The release of the results of the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education Examinations in March showed that at least 30 percent of candidates, some 149,717 students, attained the minimum university entry mark of C+ or better, a 27.5 percent increase from 123,365 last year.

Hardest hit will be Kenya’s seven public universities, which have to admit at least half of the students to their campuses. The rest will head to private universities and tertiary colleges. State universities enrolled 53,010 new students in 2014, more than double the number in 2010.

The surging demand for tertiary education is largely a result of Kenya’s successful investment in primary education over the last two decades, according to experts, who state that the nation now needs to back it up with greatly increased investment in the tertiary sector. Kenya has an estimated 8,000 lecturers; many education watchers believe that double that number is needed to meet demand.

University World News [9]
March 6, 2015