1. University World News

The challenges of growing PhD graduate numbers (Africa)

Sub-Saharan African countries need to increase the production rate of PhD graduates and substantially improve investment in doctoral education, according to recommendations emerging from a six-country study examining the PhD landscape in the region. While there is little disagreement about the need for more PhDs in Africa, experts say caution is needed on the issue of how such expansion takes place. The report Building PhD Capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa, produced jointly by the British Council and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in cooperation with the African Network for Internationalisation of Education and University College London Institute of Education, builds on two key studies – the joint International Association of Universities and Catalan Association of Public Universities report, and the Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa (HERANA) 2014 report focusing on flagship African universities. Countries covered in the report include Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa. Released last month, it aims to widen the evidence base on PhD provision “using national-level data, and to take into account doctoral training provision in a cross-section of diverse institution types”. It also seeks to address gaps in areas such as format and conditions of provision, patterns of engagement between PhD programmes and industry, the private sector, the community and policy-makers.

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  1. The Guardian

Where are the black scientists, artists and thinkers in university syllabuses? (Africa)

What do you think of when you hear the word “black”? Do you think of a colour? A race? A culture? A movement? There are many different ways of interpreting “blackness”, prompting the question: is it a concept worth studying? Although there is a tradition of “political blackness” in the UK, by referring to someone as black you are usually describing them as having sub-Saharan African origins. These people have been in the UK for centuries, and many important black British figures of the past, such as Olaudah Equiano, Ignatius Sancho and Walter Tull, have too often been overlooked in our nation’s history. Black people have also interacted with our island nation more recently through slavery, colonialism and the Commonwealth. Yet there seems to be collective amnesia in the UK about the contributions of people of sub-Saharan African origin. So much so that, when prominent black figures criticise our government for their inaction or complain about the racism they have experienced, they are often told they should be “grateful” to be here in the first place. Luckily, in many institutions, there is a burgeoning movement of higher learning that seeks to change our widespread ignorance, and to value the experiences and contributions of black people in Britain. Many UK universities offer degree programmes centred on Africa and black people. For more than 50 years, Soas and Cambridge University have provided excellent graduate programmes dedicated to the study of Africa, and Edinburgh, Birmingham and Oxford universities have followed suit. What’s changed more recently is the emergence of the study of blackness, which looks at the cultures and politics of the African continent, as well as the lived and historical experiences of the African diaspora.

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  1. University World News

Agriculture e-learning hub goes live (Africa)

An e-learning hub for African universities mooted by the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in 2017 is now operational, offering more than 35 member universities from across Africa access to free content intended to enhance the teaching of agriculture. The hub will enable students, staff and researchers in universities to access free online learning material, providing them with up-to-date quality material on subject areas such as sustainable food systems, food and nutrition security, responsible governance to secure tenure rights and equitable access to land, fisheries and forests, among others. The RUFORUM-FAO e-learning hub for African universities will also offer material on climate-smart agriculture, food losses and waste, food safety, social protection and resilience, child labour, gender equity and women empowerment, and responsible agriculture investments. “As a RUFORUM member, you are invited to visit the RUFORUM-FAO e-learning hub, assess the offer and match the various courses to your existing university learning programmes being regularly offered through your academic institution or university,” said a statement by RUFORUM. The content, developed by experts in various fields for learners from Africa and across the globe, will be delivered in major international languages used in Africa, including English, French, Portuguese and Spanish. It comprises a mixture of multimedia content, targeted learning strategies, dynamic screens, interactive tests, and exercises with feedback and illustrative case studies, that help to make complex topics accessible to both new and more experienced learners wishing to update their skills in a way that is not covered by the traditional university curriculum.

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Download complete Media monitoring here Media Monitoring.Extract for Higher Education news in Africa. 22

  1. Mail and Guardian

Science will unlock Africa’s potential — if it is funded (Africa)

Africa’s leading scientists, innovators and policymakers met in Kigali, Rwanda, in March this year to brainstorm solutions to an increasingly pressing problem: the poor quality of science on the continent. Any good leader knows that scientific discovery and innovation fuel progress, facilitate development and can tackle issues such as food insecurity, water shortages and climate change. But most African governments are failing to fund research and development (R&D) adequately. According to the Unesco Institute for Statistics, countries in sub-Saharan Africa spend, on average, just 0.5% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on this. In the West, the figure is closer to 3%. This disparity underscores the development challenges Africans face. Africa is home to 15% of the world’s population and 5% of its GDP but accounts for a paltry 1.3% of total research spending. Moreover, African inventors hold just 0.1% of the world’s patents, meaning that, even when money is spent on science, innovation and research, the findings rarely translate into solutions for the continent’s most immediate challenges. These trends are not universal; some African governments are investing heavily in science-led innovation. In South Africa, for example, authorities have pledged to double R&D spending by 2020 to 1.5% of GDP. This follows a 2016 commitment by African heads of state to increase science and technology budgets to at least 1% of GDP by 2025. A handful of countries — including Kenya, Rwanda, and Senegal — are working hard to reach this funding threshold. Africa also benefits from generous research-related aid and international support. One of the top donors, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has invested more than $450-million in African science initiatives over the past decade. Projects include a $306-million programme to boost crop yields and a $62.5-million grant to improve health outcomes.

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  1. University World News

Wider access to higher education needs a mind-set shift (Malawi)

At Malawi’s first international conference on higher education last month, Professor Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, vice-chancellor of the Nairobi-based United States International University – Africa, suggested there was need for caution in the Malawian government’s decision to “unbundle” the University of Malawi and turn its four constituent colleges into stand-alone universities. Zeleza said the move went against global trends: universities the world over are consolidating their institutions, growing their enrolment numbers, and expanding their reach. The decision to “dismantle” the University of Malawi, as he saw it, went in the opposite direction. Zeleza said Malawi had the “dubious distinction of having the lowest university enrolment rate in the world,” with less than 1% of college-age Malawians attending university. The African average was 12%, while the global average was 33%. He added, in a personal conversation later, that in developed countries university enrolment rates were above 60%. It is instructive to examine the factors that have given Malawi this unenviable distinction. It is a legacy of missionary education from the 1870s, of colonialism from the 1890s, and of one-party dictatorship from 1964 to 1994. When Malawi won its independence from British rule in 1964, there was no university in the country, save for a few missionary teacher training and technical colleges. Secondary school education did not start in Malawi until 1941 when the colonial government opened Blantyre Secondary School. By the time of independence in 1964, there were only four full secondary schools in the country.  The pace of development in post-independence Malawi was rapid, but looking back from a 21st century perspective, it was not rapid enough. The University of Malawi was established in October 1964, three months after independence. It remained the only university in the country for the next quarter of a century, when the African Bible College opened in 1988. The second public university, Mzuzu, would not have its first intake until 1999. Currently Malawi has four public universities, whose total student population is about 20,000.

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  1. University World News’

Bad politics and the paradox of university rankings (Zimbabwe)

Zimbabwe’s higher education sector finds itself caught in a paradox: the country has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa at 92%, but its universities perform dismally in both continental and international rankings. Pressure is mounting on the post-Robert Mugabe government to intervene. In an editorial published on 21 May titled “Bring back the glory in Zim’s universities”, regional newspaper the Southern Times, said it was high time the authorities worked to ensure the country’s institutions of higher learning regained their lost glory. “Something is certainly not right and the sooner the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education moves in to address this, the better,” the editorial said. The newspaper said it was a “shame” that the University of Zimbabwe could be ranked lower than universities in countries such as Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and even Sudan – more so given the fact that the country is still said to have the highest literacy rates on the continent. The University of Zimbabwe, the country’s flagship university founded in the 1960s, has long lost its spot among the elite league of African universities. According to the 2018 list compiled by Australia-based university ranking organisation uniRank, the university is ranked number 59 out of 200 universities in Africa, with Zimbabwe’s Midlands State University following at 148. Eight South African universities dominate the top 10 with the University of Pretoria occupying the top spot, followed by the University of Cape Town. The University of Nairobi in Kenya and the American University in Cairo, Egypt take ninth and 10th positions respectively. No Zimbabwean university is in the top 50. Last year, University of Zimbabwe Vice-chancellor Professor Levi Nyagura announced that the institution had set its sights on becoming one of the top 10 universities on the African continent by the year 2020, stressing that student enrolment at the learning institution had grown by more than 700%, from 2,280 in 1980 to 17,000 in 2017.

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Download Issue 21  Media Monitoring.Extract for Higher Education news in Africa. 21

FAOWe are delighted to inform you that RUFORUM has established a partnership agreement with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) with the objetives to implement concrete collaboration initiatives to leverage comparative advantages, capitalize on existing resources and institutional expertise, and multiply the outreach and impact of both organizations’ capacity development efforts.

Within the context of the partnership, FAO offers RUFORUM members and affiliated institutions a number of multilingual elearning courses free of charge, as a global public good accessible from the RUFORUM-FAO elearning hub available on the RUFORM home page, through the section “RUFORUM-FAO elearning hub for African Universities

These elearning courses are offered through the FAO e-learning Centre: www.fao.org/elearning, which is the result of a collaborative effort involving a number of partners throughout the world. The FAO elearning courses cover a number of thematic areas such as: Sustainable Food Systems, Food and Nutrition Security, Responsible Governance to secure tenure rights and equitable access to land, fisheries and forests, Climate SMART Agriculture, food losses and waste, food safety, social protection and resilience, child labor, gender equity and women empowerment, Responsible Agriculture Investments among others.

As a RUFORUM member, you are invited to visit the RUFORUM-FAO elearning hub, assess the offer and match the various courses to your existing university learning programmes, being regularly offered through your academic institution or university. The design of new joint curricula, on priority areas of common interest,  based on RUFORUM and FAO resources can also be envisaged.

The integration of these valuable resources can be implemented according the following modalities:

1) for universities which are not delivering any programme online and therefore don’t dispose of an online learning platform (Learning Content Management System – LCMS): once the RUFORUM university member professors have selected the most relevant and appropriate FAO courses to be integrated in their learning programme, they will provide the direct link of the FAO courses to the students.

2)  for universities which are more advanced in the online delivery of their learning programmes and use an online learning platform: through this partnership, FAO grants the RUFORUM university members the right to physically integrate the FAO courses in their LCMS, by sharing the original SCORM files of the selected elearning courses. The SCORM format (Shareable Content Object Reference Model) allows interoperability between LCMS and facilitate this integration.

To receive the SCORM files of the FAO elearning courses please contact directly Cristina Petracchi, FAO eLearning Team Leader: cristina.petracchi@fao.org.


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