Accepted paper:

Research universities in Africa: Aspiration versus reality

Authors:

Francois Van Schalkwyk (Stellenbosch University)
Nico Cloete (Centre for Higher Education Trust)

Paper short abstract:

Using 15 years of empirical data from 8 African universities, this presentation will assess the performance of universities aspiring to be research-led. It will conclude by providing some explanations to account for the gap between the aspirations of African universities and their performance.

Paper long abstract:

The has been a shift in the discourse regarding the role of the university in development on the African continent. It is now widely accepted that for a country to thrive, it must develop high-level skills and competencies (human capital), as well as its scientific research, innovation and technological development capacity. Flagship universities in Africa have responded by aspiring to be research-led universities. This aspiration is reinforced by institutional pressures which, in turn, are attributable to the rise in the standing of global rankings to university management and the value of research in the metrics used to produce the rankings. There is therefore an intersection of global pressures and local aspirations for Africa to have research universities. But what is the reality on the ground? Using 15 years of empirical data collected from 8 African universities (including data on student enrolments and graduates, academic staff, and research outputs), this presentation will assess the performance of universities in Africa aspiring to be research-led. By applying a new categorisation for research universities, it will show that only one university can be categorised as research-led, three as emerging research universities, two as research-orientated and two as research aspirational. The presentation will conclude by providing some explanations to account for the gap between the aspirations of African universities and their performance, including the challenges of managing historically contradictory functions and the failure of global donor agencies and national governments to support or implement differentiated higher education systems.

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Stream:
Economy and Development
A new political economy in African higher education