Making Higher Education Work for Africa: Key Resources – Irene Friesenhahn


Irene Friesenhahn rounds up sources of online information, highlighting key initiatives on Africa's higher education

Several organisations address higher education in Africa through their work. The Carnegie Corporation of New York and UN agencies including UNESCO and the World Bank provide great online resources.

In 1980 UNESCO set up the African Network of Scientific and Technological Institutions (ANSTI), a regional NGO that facilitates collaboration and strengthens capacity for training and research. Since 2005, ANSTI has organised a biannual conference series – the Conference of Vice-Chancellors, Deans of Science Engineering and Technology (COVIDSET) – to discuss strategic issues in science and engineering education.

The COVIDSET reports propose action plans for making science, engineering and technology training more relevant to development in Africa. UNESCO's Education for All Global Monitoring Report identifies effective policy reforms, best practice and emerging challenges and assesses progress towards achieving the 'Dakar' Education for All goals, which include increasing the number of students in higher education and linking education to the workplace.

Another UNESCO initiative, Education Transforms Lives, promotes education as a development catalyst that increases health and raises the chances of employment. The UNESCO Institute for Statisticsprovides statistics and data on various aspects of higher education in Sub-Saharan Africa, such as enrolment and mobility, and how graduates are distributed by field. UNESCO provides an up-to-date overview of educational spending in Africa in a spread sheet.

The World Bank has recently launched 19 centres of excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, located at universities in seven countries in West and Central Africa.

A separate World Bank programmeTertiary Education In Africa, focuses on six areas within the higher education sector in Sub-Saharan Africa: sustainable financing; diversification and public-private partnerships; governance and management; quality; labour market relevance and linkages; and regionalisation.

The programme website offers publications analysing developments in these areas, including comparisons between different African countries. The World Bank also makes statistics and indicators on tertiary education worldwide available through EdStats. And its Open Knowledge Repository contains the Africa Development Indicators reports, one of the most elaborate series of statistical indicators on Africa's development status. The repository also offers reports on the status of education, including tertiary education, in various African countries.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York's Higher Education and Libraries in Africa programme offers financial support and resource access to institutions and projects working to enhance capacity development in Sub-Saharan Africa. It also promotes networks and provides fellowships for scientists and scholars across the continent.

The programme focuses on public libraries in South Africa and onexcellence in postgraduate training, research and retention of scientistsin their home nations (Ghana, South Africa and Uganda). In 2007, the Corporation also launched the Africa Regional Initiative in Science and Education. This aims to strengthen science and engineering research and teaching by supporting university-based networks – helping students access grants and career opportunities and training new faculty or upgrading staff qualifications.

Quality, innovation and the post-2015 agenda

A recent report commissioned by the UK's Department for International Development reviews literature on how higher education drives development. Several studies have discussed funding challenges and possible future strategies in Sub-Saharan Africa.

They include : World Bank reports arguing for more knowledge-intensive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa and comparing financing and policy options across countries; a working paper by Marta Montanini, an expert on African culture and politics; and a book edited by Damtew Teferra, professor in higher education at the University of Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa.

Other studies have focused on quality assurance and internationalisation in African higher education – the growing mobility that follows globalisation as well as international standards, curricula and university rankings, and intercultural perspectives in research and learning. Researchers led by Philip Altbach, director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College in the USA, have published a study discussing recent changes that are shaping global higher education.

report by World Bank expert Peter Materu assesses quality assurance in Sub-Saharan Africa, where only one third of all higher education institutions have structured quality assurance mechanisms. Fred Hayward, higher education specialist and former executive vice president of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation in the United States, has presented one of the first studies to map and assess accreditation and audits in African higher education institutions.

A 2009 article by James Jowi, from the African Network for Internationalization of Education, analysed the process of internationalisation and the main challenges it poses to higher education in Afri
ca while in the same year Olusole Oyewole, Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture in Abeokuta, Nigeria,discussed the opportunities of internationalisations for African higher education but argued that without regulation it can also threaten quality.

In a report commissioned by the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa, Wisdom Tettey, Africa expert and Dean at the University of British Columbia, Canada, compares African countries' staff recruitment and retention processes and recommends how to deal with staff shortages and growing student enrolments.

Other publications address the link between higher education and innovation. A report on innovation for public health, by the New Partnership for Africa's Development, explores the link with higher education and argues that higher education institutions are too inflexible to respond to social and economic challenges.

book on agricultural innovation, by Calestous Juma, international development professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, argues that universities play a vital role in building knowledge and stimulating community development in agriculture. For example, Juma points to how industry partnerships that offer entrepreneurship programmes can help graduates create jobs for themselves.

The UN's eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agreed by all countries and leading development institutions, aimed to reduce poverty rates, halt the spread of HIV/AIDS and provide universal primary education by 2015.

Now the UN is working with governments, civil society and other partners on the post-2015 development agenda. A consultation by UNESCO and Unicef on this agenda showed the importance of adding higher education to the primary and secondary education provisions included in the MDGs. Additional resources on the post-2015 agendaare provided by the UN's End Poverty website.

Institutional and other resources

Many other articles and more background information is found on magazine websites such as University World NewsTimes Higher Education and The Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as in academic journals such as The Journal of Higher Education in Africaand the Review of Higher Education in Africa. The Guardian's development data site holds much country and regional information.

Several universities maintain websites on related topics. Harvard University in the United States has surveyed Sub-Saharan Africa students to help develop recommendations for policies on expanding university access, strengthening university training and retaining graduates.

The survey's web pages contain statistical information on enrolments and drop-out rates, loan programmes, educational costs and employment rates across Africa. News, data and academic and governmental publications are also held online by institutes such as theAfrica Research Institute in London, the UK's Oxford Internet Institute, the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, the African Studies collection at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences and the Sussex Africa Centre (at the UK's University of Sussex).

The International Network for Higher Education in Africa, hosted by the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College USA, publishes the Chronicle of African Higher Educationbooks and other scientific publications reflecting on developments in higher education in Africa. The Center also publishes a blog, Inside Higher Ed, which provides news and opinions on higher education worldwide. TheEducation Policy and Data Center, a research initiative of the non-profit organisation FHI 360, provides access to education data (at country and subnational level) and profiles of countries and regions.

The British Council has fostered knowledge transfer from universities into industries in Nigeria through the Africa Knowledge Transfer Partnerships initiative, introduced in 2007.

The Association for the Development of Education in Africa is a forum for policy dialogue, comprising the 54 ministers of education in Africa and 16 development partners. Its website's higher education section offers publications addressing the challenges of research and teaching in Africa. South Africa's Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology provides regional studies, knowledge resources and publications focusing on science and technology as well as evaluation studies across Africa. The Centre for Higher Education Transformation (CHET) provides open data on higher education performance indicators for South Africa and for eight flagship universities across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Irene Friesenhahn works on the Global Young Academy's 'Global State of Young Scientists' project. She can be contacted at and on Twitter @GlobalYAcademy

This article is part of the Spotlight on Making higher education work for Africa.