Accreditation a critical instrument that lies at the heart of development
In Africa Analysis, Eric Fredua-Kwarteng and Samuel Kwaku Ofosu say the National Accreditation Board of Ghana needs massive capacity building to function effectively as a state-sponsored quality assurance agency and perform its vital role in improving higher education.
In Africa Features, Patrick Swanzy reports on a lecture delivered in Cape Town by Professor Goolam Mohamedbhai about the implications of changes in higher education, such as rapid growth in student numbers, for the quality of teaching and learning.
In Africa News, Wadgy Sawahel reports that a female student’s death at sea during an illegal migration throws the spotlight on Morocco’s inadequate higher education policies; and Wadgy Sawahel also writes on reactions to the Mauritanian government’s shutdown of two Islamic higher education institutions. Also in News, Alex Abutu reports on academics rejecting proposals to significantly increase the number of public universities in Nigeria, when existing institutions are being neglected.
In a Special Report, Wachira Kigotho reports from the eLearning Africa conference in Kigali, Rwanda, on calls for African leaders to work towards ‘digital parity’ to enable the continent to participate equally in both digital and material contexts; and Rodrigue Rwirahira writes about calls for African universities to adopt brain-gain, facilitated by e-learning programmes.
In another Special Report, Sharon Dell writes about the 2018 South African Technology Network International Conference in Durban, South Africa, where the role of universities in the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) was explored. In another story, Sharon Dell interviewed Sampan Silapanad, vice-president of Western Digital in Thailand, on the value of industry-university collaboration for producing graduates with skills for the 4IR.
In a continuation of our Special Report on the Publishing Crisis, Philip G Altbach and Hans de Wit reiterate the need for differentiation of institutions and in academic publishing, without which the knowledge distribution system will remain dysfunctional and ridden with inefficiencies and corruption.
Fiona Crooks – Editor
Student demonstrations erupted and two academics were arrested by Mauritanian police in the outcry following a government shutdown of two Islamic higher education institutions at the end of September, after their teaching licences were revoked due to alleged links with the main opposition Islamic political party and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Thousands of students protested after a student was killed by the Moroccan navy during an illegal migration journey at sea, which has highlighted the ongoing emigration by young Moroccans in search of a better education and living standards in Europe.
Academics have lashed out against proposals to significantly increase the number of public universities in Nigeria, as the government unsuccessfully grappled with an assessment report of public universities that highlighted glaring weaknesses within the sector.
Kenya’s beleaguered public universities have been told to further tighten their belts after being slapped with a US$10 million budget cut that will worsen their cash woes, in austerity measures that are meant to avert a looming economic crisis.
Nigeria’s university staff union has joined a national strike to demand that the government stick to the terms of the agreement that it made with the union over public university revitalisation.
Tonderayi Mukeredzi and Kudzai Mashininga
Zimbabwe’s new and extensive development plans include creating innovation hubs at universities, upgrading student accommodation, making higher education more affordable for students and establishing the country’s first geospatial and space agency.
Eric Fredua-Kwarteng and Samuel Kwaku Ofosu
Accreditation performs a vital role in improving higher education, but it needs more resources and to be linked to government policy on development, making it strategically relevant as a tool of national planning.
Although Ethiopia’s higher education budget is substantial, the government needs to change its focus from capital expenditure to investing in quality education.
eLEARNING AFRICA 2018
The eLearning Africa Conference, the largest in Africa on learning, training and technology, was held in Kigali, Rwanda from 26-28 September under the theme of “Uniting Africa”. The conference, which attracted hundreds of experts, focused on how technology can break down barriers, enabling Africans to share knowledge, learn and prepare for the future. University World News – Africa was there as a media partner.
African leaders were urged to work towards 'digital parity' so as to enable the continent’s inhabitants to participate in and be represented as equals in both the digital and material worlds.
Universities in Sub-Saharan Africa need to move away from the idea of libraries as buildings that stock books on dusty shelves to learning spaces that can facilitate access for students, academics and researchers to information at any time or place. For those libraries to attain cutting-edge status, however, they need to be properly funded.
The once glittering allure of massive open online courses (MOOCs), viewed as new learning vehicles to carry most of Africa’s youth to the frontiers of a university education, has dimmed.
Experts have called on African universities to immediately adopt the philosophy of brain-gain, facilitated by e-learning programmes, in a bid to reduce the cost of academic services and management, and invest more money in research and development.
Rwandan universities have called for extensive funding to research how information and communications technology (ICT), including mobile phones and the internet, could be leveraged to benefit ordinary users in various sectors.
“This house believes Africa has nothing to fear from a fourth industrial revolution and should seize the opportunity it represents,” was the motion of a highly contested debate at the 13th International Conference and Exhibition on ICT for Education, Training and Skills Development in Kigali, Rwanda, on 28 September.
SATN CONFERENCE 2018
The South African Technology Network, a consortium of technology-focused universities, held its annual international conference in Durban from 11-13 September on the theme “Fourth Industrial Revolution – The role of universities”. The conference explored how institutions in other countries are addressing the challenges presented by the fourth industrial revolution as well as the changing demands of industry and business in South Africa and around the world. University World News was there as a media partner.
If universities exist in part to solve the most pressing problems of our time, they have their work cut out for them. The reality is that if humans maintain their current rate of consumption, which already exceeds the capacity of Earth to renew itself, we will soon need two planets to live off, National University of Singapore Professor Seeram Ramakrishna told the annual South African Technology Network Conference held in South Africa last month, which explored the role of universities in the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).
The fourth industrial revolution is set to bring radical changes to the workplace – including the loss of jobs through automation and artificial intelligence – but industry will still need universities to provide the right kind of people. This makes effective collaboration between the two sectors even more important.
For the developed world, the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) brings with it celebrated innovations such as cardboard beer bottles and driverless cars – both of which originated in a university and have clear benefits to society. In the developing world, the implications of the 4IR are perhaps a little less clear, as a recent conference on the role of universities of technology has shown.
South African Technology Network member universities last month secured an invitation to visit Saab Grintek Defence, South Africa’s leading defence and security company, with a view to understanding how to foster a mutually-beneficial working relationship between the industry and universities of technology.
SOUTH AFRICA-UNITED STATES
South African higher education institutions should demand respect from prospective partners and ensure that partnerships are mutually beneficial and reciprocal, the recent South African Technology Network conference heard.
Sub-Saharan Africa is under increasing pressure to increase enrolment at higher education institutions as a result of recognition of the sector as being vital to development, rapid growth in young populations in African countries and improved access and success at school levels. But what are the implications of such pressures for quality of teaching and learning?
Drug abuse on campuses in Nigeria undermines student health and increases violence in wider society, say campus health staff, yet university authorities remain silent about how they will tackle this explosive issue.
As Cameroon carries out a programme to develop advanced digital infrastructure in all its universities, Jacques Fame Ndongo, the minister for higher education, visited the two universities in Yaoundé to inspect the project’s progress.
As the University of Lomé prepared to host the international science conference JSIL-2018 (Journées Scientifiques Internationales de Lomé 2018) in the coming week, its director of research and innovation, Essohana Batchana, said he regretted the lack of resources allocated to research and innovation and their absence from university programmes.
NEWS – Our correspondents worldwide report
The Trump administration earlier this year considered banning Chinese nationals from studying in the United States, as part of a national security crackdown on industrial espionage, including intellectual property theft – but shelved the proposal, fearing damage to the economy and diplomatic relations.
Between fall 2016 and fall 2017, first-time graduate enrolment of international students at universities in the United States fell by 3.7%, a quadrupling of the rate of decrease. Experts have linked the sharp fall with the Trump administration’s hardline visa and immigration policies and rising costs.
Universities in Europe sharing research data with institutions in China could be in breach of new European Union laws on data protection, legal experts said, a warning that could have an impact on Europe-China research collaborations, particularly in the medical field and artificial intelligence.
Malaysia’s Education Minister Maszlee Malik last week announced major reforms to overturn laws barring students from campus political activities, lifting restrictions that allow students to hold campus elections only with the permission and oversight of university administrations.
A former rector of the Vienna University of Economics and Business has made an emphatic appeal to university leaders to demonstrate solidarity in the face of "growing populism" and ensure that universities counter "issue diagnoses" that are fabricated or exaggerated with evidence and reward critical thought.
Jan Petter Myklebust
The draft reforms of university governance and funding distributed by Sweden’s special investigator on higher education, Professor Pam Fredman, have come under heated criticism from academics and academics’ rights advocates, who say they will sideline academics and reduce university autonomy.
An obsession with their body weight and shape could be contributing to elevated stress levels among the nation’s lawyers and law students. A research study has found that both groups are far more concerned than the typical Australian about their weight and shape.
President Vladimir Putin’s ambition to get at least five Russian universities into the top 100 in global university rankings by 2020 looks set to fail miserably, judging by the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and lack of true university autonomy is behind the slow progress.
Igor Chirikov and Evgeniia Shmeleva
Research shows students become more dishonest as they progress through higher education in Russia. Universities should be incentivised to develop policies and programmes against dishonesty and punish misdemeanours. The new Ministry of Science and Higher Education needs to make combatting academic dishonesty a top priority.
Chinese private higher education faces a series of mergers and acquisitions – with the latter currently hitting record levels. To stand out, private institutions need to focus on career-oriented education as students seek qualifications that are in demand in the labour market.
Patrick Blessinger, Shai Reshef and Enakshi Sengupta
A growing chorus of people now see affordable lifelong education as a moral imperative and more universities are seeking ways to make university more affordable for more of their students – in some cases, or even in some states, making it tuition-fee free.
THE PUBLISHING CRISIS
Philip G Altbach and Hans de Wit
Without recognition of the need for institutional and individual differentiation, the knowledge distribution system will continue to be dysfunctional and ridden with inefficiencies and growing corruption. There is need for differentiation in academic publishing too, with more attention given to diversity and inclusion.
Major changes in the global order will have implications for higher education partnerships in Europe and China, with China’s massive New Silk Road initiative playing a role that could even see China emerging as a global higher education leader, international academic experts say.
The role of higher education is changing, and the existing research-led university model and the system of university ranking and evaluation need to evolve with the times, Singapore’s Education Minister Ong Ye Kung told an international higher education conference recently.
Jan Petter Myklebust
A better gender balance in the workforce and top management and more women recruited to the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – at universities is the key to Danish technological advancement, according to a new report by the Innovation Fund Denmark.
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Research funders from France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and eight other European nations have unveiled a radical open-access initiative that could change the face of science publishing in two years – and which has instantly provoked protest from publishers, writes Holly Else for Nature.
There are 343,400 foreign students in the French higher education system, signalling a growth of 4.5% since 2016, according to figures released by the ministry of education. The number of foreign students in tertiary education in France has grown 18% since 2012 and almost doubled between 2000 and 2017, the ministry document states, writes Claudia Civinini for The Pie News.
One in three universities in Brazil does not meet the legal requirements to be considered a ‘university’. According to the Brazilian constitution, private or public universities must have academic programmes, continuing studies offerings and scientific research – activities that rely on full-time faculty and solid graduate programmes, write Dante Ferrasoli and Estêvão Gamba for Folha De SPaulo.
Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Li Jie has said that China will continue helping Africa with no political strings attached to aid. Li said that no political strings includes non-interference in the internal affairs of those states. He was speaking in Lusaka during the 69th Chinese National Day, reports the Lusaka Times.
The Communist Party of the Philippines is allegedly trying to brainwash and incite students in various Metro Manila colleges and universities to rebel against the government through film-showing activities that depict the dark years of martial law under the Marcos dictatorship, according to the military, writes Michael Punongbavan for The Philippine Star.
Ten of Mexico’s public universities are on the brink of collapse, staff and government officials have warned, a situation that can only be resolved with emergency funding of MXN4 billion (US$210 million), reports El Universal.
SOUTH AFRICA-UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
The prospect of earning the equivalent of five years’ salary in one year is luring South African teachers to classrooms in the Gulf, a university study has shown. But apart from the lure of higher earnings, teachers are being driven from South Africa by the high crime rate, religious intolerance, race-based policies, burgeoning class sizes and workloads and an ineffective curriculum, writes Suthentira Govender for the Sunday Times.
A senior scientist has given what has been described as a “highly offensive” presentation about the role of women in physics. At a workshop organised by CERN, Professor Alessandro Strumia of Italy’s University of Pisa said that “physics was invented and built by men, it’s not by invitation”, writes Pallab Ghosh for the BBC News.
Kim Il Sung University, North Korea’s most prestigious institution of higher learning, has established an exchange and cooperation relationship with Germany's Free University of Berlin in the field of humanities and sociology, reports Yonhap News.
The Swedish government is discontinuing funding research at public universities and redirecting its resources to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law. “The issue of funding universities is a matter of development of and for a country, and needs to be steered nationally,” said Per Lindgard, the Swedish ambassador to Uganda, writes Stephen Otage for the Daily Monitor.
The University of Malta is involved in a four-year multinational study that is exploring how best to embed a culture of responsible research and innovation and make this part of the governance and practice of research institutions, reports the Times of Malta.
Academics in Pakistan have expressed regret at the lack of emphasis on research at the undergraduate level in the country during a conference at Habib University, writes Zaina Qaseem for The Express Tribune.
With energy a hot topic in Australia, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is looking for a better way forward for providers and consumers. The CSIRO Energise app has been developed to allow individuals to contribute to national energy research in Australia, writes Asha McLean for ZD Net.
To study philosophy in South Africa today is to study a series of pronouncements from white, European men. Tony Shabangu, a philosophy lecturer and doctoral student at the University of Johannesburg, has read them all. But he’s looking for something new, writes Olivia Goldhill for Quartz.
India’s Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar has appealed to universities across the country to replace their "British-inspired" convocation attire with traditional Indian clothes as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, reports the Press Trust of India.