Financing Higher Education in Africa (Directions in Development)
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Notwithstanding this strategic rationale, the grants prompt queries on three different levels.
International Education Policies, Issues, and Challenges
The first relates to the grantees themselves. Have they been the right choices? Have the activities financed by Foundation support been wisely selected, in terms of creating a solid foundation for longer-term renewal, as well as redressing more immediate weaknesses? Are they being well executed? The second pertains to systemic shortcomings, as well as prospects for reform and innovation.
Many constraints the grantees are attempting to address stem from systemic failures. From the perspective of the national system of higher education, shortly to comprise 70 federal, state and privately financed universities, can we reasonably expect four strengthened institutions to generate significant momentum for major reform in others?
Can activities and innovations financed by the Foundation inform higher education policy more broadly? The report addresses these and other questions. Since an informed appreciation of Foundation financed activities depends on first understanding Nigerian higher education, we begin by reviewing its principal features and challenges. Our major findings and conclusions, as they pertain to all four grants are presented in Chapter 3. Part 2 of the report, comprising chapters four through seven provides more detailed information for each institutional grantee.
In Part 3, Appendix A lists the principal documents and Appendix B individuals consulted during the assessment. However, there does not yet exist a widely held consensus concerning priorities for reform. The most pressing issue confronted by policy makers is the limited number of places available to secondary school graduates. Although not articulated as official policy by federal government, the current intent is to expand the number of state and privately sponsored universities from the current seventy.
More generally, as elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa, the federal government is prepared to grant universities progressively greater control in running their internal affairs, in returning for shifting a greater share of the financing burden to them. Nigeria does deviate from this Africa wide trend is some important ways.
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One is the sheer size of the system. Associated with it is a potential differentiation in function among universities. A second is the pattern of public expenditure on education. Because of its direct responsibility for financing federal universities, the share of the federal budget spent on higher education is much higher than in other African countries. Given the decline in primary education enrolment, the federal government will be under considerable pressure to increase spending on primary education.
This policy, along with the continuing need for fiscal restraint to maintain macroeconomic stability, points to only minor increases in public funding for higher education. A third distinctive feature is the role played by national unions for senior non-academic staff, academic staff, technical and junior support staff — and students, not only in pressing for increased salaries and benefits, but in successfully lobbying on other higher education issues.
A fourth feature is the highly centralised control exercised over the higher education by the federal government through the National Universities Commission, a parastatal, viz. The NUC exercises two important, but oftentimes conflicting functions. The first, a regulatory one, is the accreditation, not only of universities, but specific undergraduate programs.
In contrast, little weight is assigned to published research or to feedback from students concerning their learning experience.
Not surprisingly, the principal preoccupation of the Academic Planning Unit in Nigerian universities, including the four grantees, focuses on the need to meet NUC criteria for the accreditation. The other major function of the NUC is disbursement of funds in the federal budget earmarked for specific items, notably laboratory equipment and consumable supplies, equipment maintenance, and library acquisitions.
With elections pending in , it appears highly likely that the Administration will not take any further action.
Over the longer term, however, the parameters within which the Foundation grantees currently operate are likely to change, especially with respect to the future role of the NUC and federal government financing of higher education. Two of the four grantees, the University of Ibadan and Bayero University Kano, have performed well, fully implementing both their initial planning and principal grants according to the agreed timetable and budget.
Each has now embarked on a second principal grant, building on activities initiated in the first round, along with others mutually determined with Foundation staff. Implementation at ABU has been affected, in part because of the advent of a new Vice Chancellor and grant committee chair midway through the grant period. Also hampering implementation have been bureaucratic procedures impeding the approval of individual grant activities. The field visit provided an opportunity to review perceived problems and possible solutions informally with the Vice Chancellor. We conclude that whilst grant implementation has flagged, the current arrangement should work well, provided there is strong direction from the top, retention of the performing members of the committee, and improved performance on the part of the bursary department.
The situation at UPH, where grant implementation has been slow, is more complex.
Financing Higher Education in Africa
The grant committee, formally responsible for implementation, appears to have met only intermittently. Some activities, in particular those relating to ICT, have been implemented, although its benefits will only be realised through additional investments, most notably completion of a comprehensive fibre optic backbone LAN linking facilities among three physically separate campuses.
Other activities, including staff development, are well behind schedule. As in the case of ABU, the field visit provided an opportunity to review these and other issues with the incoming Vice Chancellor, who assumed office only very recently, and to discuss possible solutions. With his strong personal backing, and the appointment of competent committee members, implementation of the remaining grant-financed activities could be completed over the next 12 months. Approval of a follow-on grant, however, should be contingent upon adoption of a structure and processes similar to those at the other three grantees.
Both Vice Chancellors also consulted widely outside university walls. The UI, with an established Endowment Fund, could complement investments financed by the grant with additional support. The Vice Chancellor of BUK inherited a small budget surplus, which was deployed, not only to complement grant funds and expedite implementation, but also to begin mobilising additional resources from the business committee and state governments.
In the case of the UPH, the Foundation, through President Jonathan Fanton, has been highly successful in attracting funds from Total to underwrite a regional post-graduate Institute for Petroleum Studies, and from Shell to build and partially equip an IT centre. Foundation support, it was believed, would draw in the additional capital investment needed to complete the building and equip it.
At present, this follow-on support has yet to materialise. The role played by strategic planning, financed through a pilot grant to all four universities, closely parallels actual outcomes. Our overall conclusion is that although implementation of two of the four grants does prompt some serious concerns, these can be rectified through informed leadership and specific measures identified during the assessment.
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Professionals: Those working in the secondary or tertiary sector, or as independents, wishing to acquire further knowledge and a certification of professional value continuing technical education. Citizens: All those wishing to gain advanced-level education for their own personal development, without necessarily seeking a professional certification. Table Too often, teaching staff do not have PhDs. In addition, MOOCs will enable them to present students with courses that are on a par with those delivered by world-class universities. By offering MOOCs co-developed by academics from the North and the South, EPFL aims to provide the necessary know-how and logistical support to design graduate courses of direct relevance to developing countries and to focus on themes that are in line with global issues water, energy, health, urban planning and that need to be addressed by the North and the South.
Booming demographics coupled with chronic underfunding create serious capacity problems. The advent of MOOCs is part of the solution as it has the potential to replace some of the ex-cathedra lectures and, as a consequence, increase the capacity of local instructors. Integrating MOOCs in the local curricula in emerging countries will, on the one hand, increase the teaching capacity of local universities, while freeing up local instructors for more and better face-to-face interactions with the students; on the other hand, it will avoid duplicating courses and the necessity to build real-estate capacity large lecture halls , especially for undergraduate courses 1 st and 2 nd year in basic, natural and computer sciences.
As of , million people used French to communicate or as a teaching language; of these, over million were in Africa. The number of universities using French fully or partially as a medium of instruction in Africa is estimated to be about the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie AUF , the higher education and research network of Francophone universities, has members. Among the RESCIF network, eight universities from developing countries represent a community of 72, students and 5, academic staff, while those from developed countries represent 71, students and 8, academic staff.
Options for access to quality courses are rather limited and often include a long stay in the North. Some students from French-speaking Africa typically undertake graduate studies in France, Belgium or Canada, something that is not possible for many.
As a result, there is a wide base of bright graduates mainly Bachelors who have entered professional life and for whom formal continuing education is either unaffordable or inaccessible. MOOCs represent a real opportunity for all those who have the educational background and intellect and are looking to further educate themselves self-learning approach.
For this to happen in Africa several challenges need to be overcome: first, improving Internet connectivity access and bandwidth in households and through wireless devices 3G and 4G ; second, reducing costs of IT hardware desktops, laptops, tablets by favouring parallel imports to Africa so as to shake up the existing cartels that artificially inflate prices.
In this model, universities from developed countries of the network, including EPFL, take the lead in developing a series of state-of-the-art undergraduate MOOCs in French, and help faculty from the South integrate them into local curricula. They also liaise with Southern partners to co-develop specialised courses for graduate or continuing education.