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Centres of Excellence in Africa is answer to brain drain

Five Centres of Excellence in Africa established more than two years ago by the German Academic Exchange Service could be part of the answer to the continent’s brain drain. There is demand for higher training by students and the centres feel they are yet to reach their full potential. This was the consensus among African and German cooperation partners at their annual networking meeting, held at the University of the Western Cape in January.

The Germany Academic Exchange Service, DAAD, was instrumental in setting up the training hubs across the continent, with the intention of nurturing future African leaders with the ability to tackle problems with an African agenda.

To read the full article by Munyaradzi Makoni on University World News Click Here!

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African universities score poorly in World University rankings

African universities again fared dismally compared to other universities in the Times Higher Education World Universities rankings. The only African universities in the top 200 slots globally are the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and The University of Alexandria in Egypt.

Five elements of higher education were considered:

  • the volume of research undertaken
  • how the institutions were relevant to the job market
  • ratio of the number of students versus academic staff
  • diversity on campus — a sign of how global an institution is in its outlook
  • the impact of the research conducted

“The ability of an institution to attract the very best staff from across the world is key to global success”, lead researcher Ann Mroz said. “The staff-to-student ratio is employed as a proxy for teaching quality”, she added.

The survey also showed that high density of research students are indicative of  more knowledge intensive institutions and that the presence of an active post-graduate community is a marker of a research-led teaching environment.

The teaching category also examined the ratio of PhDs to bachelor’s degrees awarded by each institution.

The University of Cape Town was ranked 107th among the global top 200 institutions.

To read more go to Benjamin Muindi’s article in the Daily Nation by Clicking Here!

or go to David McFarlane’s article in the Mail and Guardian by Clicking Here!

Education summit to tackle challenges in Africa

On 11 July, the South African President, Jacob Zuma, will host a special education summit. The event will mark the culmination of the ‘1 Goal Education for All Campaign’ – a partnership between Fifa and civil society organisations across the world. The aim of the campaign: to get the 72-million kids of primary-school age currently denied an education into decent quality schooling by 2015.

To read more go to Bua News Online by Clicking Here!

Also read Kevin Watkins’ article on the summit in Mail & Guardian by Clicking Here!

Africa needs collaborative networks to improve higher education

Collaborative networks are crucial to improve the state of African higher education, says innovation expert Mammo Muchie.

Higher education and research in Africa have largely been neglected, both internally and externally, since the 1980s.

If Africa is to join the global knowledge community as an equal partner, it must revolutionise its research, education and training systems.

This does not simply mean pumping money into individual institutions. This can help raise the profile of single universities or research institutes but will do little to improve the system as a whole.

Rather, the key is to foster and sustain a network that circulates knowledge and encourages the creative learner, researcher and knowledge producer.

The priority must be to promote networks for African researchers to engage with and learn from each other. These must initially work within Africa, set up at various scales in multiple forums. A first step would be to establish an Africa-wide university accreditation scheme.

It is scandalous that this has not already been done, although East African universities have recently revived the possibility of recognising each others’ degrees, paving the way for a university accreditation system operating throughout the African Union.

Working together

South Africa will clearly be an important player, as it has a strong higher education and research system that includes five universities recognised in international rankings. The challenge is to use these strengths to support the efforts of other countries.

South Africa must continue to keep its borders open to students and researchers from the rest of Africa — more African postgraduates now travel to South Africa for their training than to Europe or the United States.

The rest of Africa must encourage South Africa to engage in their local knowledge activities. This is already happening in some countries. For example, the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology is cooperating with researchers in South Africa on its Millennium Science Initiative and is working to stimulate innovation and improve relations between the two research communities through a joint science prize.

At a broader scale, Africa needs a network of locally relevant journals — such as The African Journal of Science, Technology, Innovation and Development — to disseminate research results and knowledge, to facilitate policy learning and informed dialogue, and to encourage emerging African researchers to publish their work.

Developing networks

Equally important are training networks to boost PhD numbers and reverse the sharp decline in doctoral training seen over the past 30 years.

There is already some progress to report. African scientific board members of the Global Network for the Economics of Learning, Innovation and Competence Building Systems (Globelics), for example, are inspiring and building research and knowledge capacity in Africa by inviting scientists from other developing regions and top researchers from the North to interact with and help their counterparts in Africa. 

The African Globelics Academy for Research, Innovation and Capability (AGARIC) will be running its first PhD school in 2010. The Globelics Academy has provided scholarships for ten African PhD students each year for seven years, where they have an opportunity to interact with the best and brightest from the rest of the world. By establishing AGARIC more African students will benefit by also inviting PhD candidates from the rest of the world to interact with them.

Another scheme, proposed by Stellenbosch University in South Africa, is the African Doctoral Academy, which aims to help PhD students develop generic skills. Although the project would initially focus on students studying arts and social sciences at the university, it is expected to grow to provide for other disciplines at other African universities in Botswana, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda.

Help from abroad

But efforts must not be limited to within the continent itself. We must engage the broadest possible mobilisation of everyone involved in higher education, research and knowledge to contribute to training and research capacity building. The diaspora could prove pivotal in achieving this. 

A good starting point is starting national initiatives to connect local researchers with those who have left to work overseas. For example, in Ethiopia we have recently launched a web-based Network of Ethiopian Scholars-Global (NES-Global) to encourage free and open communication between those at home and abroad.

The virtual space is home to e-books and an e-journal and also acts as an information library or kiosk where Ethiopian universities can upload scientific materials.

Similar efforts could help build links with the diaspora from other parts of Africa — all it takes is some initiative.

Africa has a long history of division and fragmentation — from the European scramble for Africa and the thousands of communities that preceded it, to today’s states that, for the most part, remain fragile and aid-dependent.

It is time for us to join up the pieces — through networking — and work together to improve the quality, productivity, capability and use of knowledge to transform African societies, economies, politics and ecology.

Mammo Muchie is a South African national chair on innovation studies at The Institute for Economic Research on Innovation, the Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa. He is also professor at Aalborg University, Denmark, and Senior Research Associate at Oxford University, UK.

This article was first published by SciDev.net  on 17 March 2010 under the title African networks needed to improve higher education. It is reproduced under creative commons licence.

25% of Doctorate students at South African Universities are foreigners

 A quarter of all doctoral graduates in South Africa are not from this country, according to the Council on Higher Education, and around one in 10 postgraduate students are foreign. Attracting students from other Southern African countries, especially postgraduates, is an explicit policy aimed at developing research in the region. But efforts to grow the number of research postgraduates are being thwarted by lack of supervision capacity.

In 2007 there were some 60,000 international students in this country, representing 8% of the total student population. according to Higher Education Monitor – The state of higher education in South Africa, published by the Council on Higher Education (CHE) late last year.

To read more go to Karen MacGregor’s article in University World News by Clicking Here!

Higher Education in Africa to receive boost

South Africa, Ghana and Uganda stand to benefit from a US$30 million assistance over the next three years in a bid to strengthen higher education in Africa. The Carnegie Corporation of New York will foresee competitive training fellowships to academics and researchers throughout sub-Saharan Africa. According to Vartan Gregorian, Carnegie’s President, the grant will be channeled in IT for research, stocking of libraries and access to information and investing in next generations in Africa.

To read more go to Suleiman Mbatiah’s article on Newstime Africa, by Clicking Here!

Inclusion of African History in curricula to fight xenophobia

South Africa has included the teaching of African history in the country’s education curricula as part of a new strategy to fight xenophobic attacks, which target mostly Africans living in the country, Basic Education Minister Angelina Motshekga said recently at a meeting of African Education Ministers in Mombasa, Kenya.

According to her the ministry of education had introduced teaching programmes, including manuals for teachers and learning materials for use in schools, to help learners understand the rights of refugees and other human rights issues.

The history and social science curricula have a greater focus on South Africa within the African continent.

To read more go to the Afrique en ligne article by Clicking Here!