WENR, October 2015: Africa


Growth in Numbers Versus Growth in Skills

Universities have ill-equipped graduate recruits for the new demands placed on them by the working world – a problem highlighted by the estimate that 365,000 South African graduates are unemployed, despite the economy experiencing 450,000 vacancies for skilled graduates.

Addressing the 9th Annual Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Conference in Durban last week, Council on Higher Education CEO-designate Professor Narend Baijnath said one major problem was the growing mismatch of graduates to the country’s skills demands. Too many students were graduating and not finding work in the fields in which they had been trained, or were leaving university with qualifications not required in the current environment. The University of South Africa, or UNISA, registers around 22,000 first-year economics students yet the country has a dire shortage of economists, reflecting that these students were not continuing with studies in this field.

Baijnath said the focus of the Council on Higher Education was on boosting teaching and learning as well as the quality of higher education, but there were several factors pushing and pulling on that goal. This included the rising number of students coming into universities, placing strain on resources and teaching staff. There were also unprecedented levels of regulations, compliance reporting and performance management requirements.

The pull factors affecting higher education considered the technological advances in teaching and learning in line with expanded national broadband internet infrastructure.

Currently the government was looking to connect the thousands of state-owned buildings nationally with high speed internet connectivity. This would enable every South African – regardless of their geography – access to First World internet connectivity within walking distance or short taxi drives from their homes.

University World News [1]
September 24, 2015

Sub-Saharan African Students Living in America

The United States is by far the most popular destination country for potential students from Sub-Saharan Africa, with high quality education being the main draw, according to a recent study. The crux of the matter is that the US is perceived to have a top quality higher education system and many scholarships, especially for talented students.

As of last year, there were 31,113 students from Sub-Saharan Africa and they comprised 4% of the 886,052 international students in the US. The top Sub-Saharan African countries of origin are Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Cameroon and Ethiopia. The study, which focused on Nigeria and South Africa in its Africa section, found the United States to be by far the most popular destination among students: it was ranked the first choice for 89% of prospective Nigerian and 92% of South African students.

UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics predicts that the US will remain a strong magnet for students from Sub-Saharan Africa seeking a high quality education, despite the expansion of higher education in most African countries and competition from other popular destinations for globally mobile students. Quality higher education in the US and Western Europe is alluring to African students aspiring to acquire qualifications in foreign destinations, but many encounter barriers that prevent them from realizing their dreams. However, taking into account the academic success of many Africans in the United States, there is little doubt that many students are able to navigate the sometimes stormy seas of international education.

University World News [2]
September 18, 2015

Strengthening African Science Councils

A US$15 million initiative to strengthen science granting councils in Africa held its inaugural forum in the Kenyan capital Nairobi this month. Over the project duration, 16 science councils will be supported. The aims are to strengthen the capacities of science councils “in order to support research and evidence-based policies that will contribute to economic and social development”, according to the NRF.

The five-year Science Granting Councils Initiative has four primary objectives including research management and establishing partnerships with other science system actors such as universities. Other objectives include designing and monitoring research programs and supporting knowledge exchange with the private sector.

These objectives will be achieved through activities including customized regional exchange and training, regional forums, online training, on-site coaching and collaborative research. A virtual hub and learning platform will facilitate resource sharing, community building, collaboration and mentorship, archiving of results and data, access to resources, and dissemination of the initiative’s results. Following the launch, the NRF said, representatives of science granting councils would work to shape the initiative’s implementation plan and agenda for the next five years.

University World News [3]
September 25, 2015


Egypt Replaces Higher Education Minister

Egypt’s controversial minister of higher education has been replaced in a cabinet change unveiled recently. The sacking of El-Sayed Abdel Khalek, who got the portfolio in June last year, followed a series of disputed decisions that angered the country’s lecturers and students. The massive criticism in local media prompted then Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab to scrap Abdel Khalek’s move.

Months earlier, academics accused Abdel Khalek of ignoring them while drafting a law amending higher education regulations. Relations between Abdel Khalek and academics further soured last month when he lashed out at a spokesman for an independent union of university lecturers during a live TV debate on the proposed changes to the higher education law. He was also accused of blocking the holding of student union elections for the third year in a row, allegedly to create student groupings loyal to him at universities.

Replacing Abdel Khalek is Ashraf el-Sheehi, former president of the provincial public university of Zagazig. El-Sheehi, an engineering professor, has in the past few days sought to depart from his predecessor’s line. He also promised to hold student union elections in the new academic year, due to start later this month. El-Sheehi is Egypt’s eleventh higher education minister since the 2011 ‘Arab Spring’ uprising that forced long-time president Hosni Mubarak out of power.

University World News [4]
September 24, 2015