Academic journal article CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal

An Appraisal of the Internationalisation of Higher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa

Academic journal article CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal

An Appraisal of the Internationalisation of Higher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa

Article excerpt


Africa is one of the vast continents of the world, and its higher edu- cation has been connected to the Western system through the colonial bond established since the 18th century. Higher education institutions in Africa were therefore internationalised from an earlier period.

In Europe, with the exception of Neave (1997), Scott (1998) and few oth- ers, who consider the supposed medieval origins of the internationalisation of the university as ''inaccurate" and "internationalist rhetoric", scholars regard the internationalisation of higher education as being rooted to the middle ages. There is a medieval model of the internationalisation of higher educa- tion whereby students travelled in search of courses and teachers to fit to their interests, while teachers made pilgrimages to city universities, where they could obtain better leisure, friends, information and study (de Ridder-Symoens, 1992; Huang, 2007). The rationales behind the international dimension of higher education in the medieval period were the search for knowledge and exchanges of academic and social cultures.

The international aspects of higher education during the 18th and 19th centuries include "export of higher education systems, dissemination of re- search, and individual mobility of students and scholars" (de Wit, 2002). Par- ticularly from the beginning of the 19th century, the export of higher education systems from Europe to the rest of the world (the Americas, Asia and Africa) was carried out through colonial ties.

The internationalisation of higher education in the modern period passed through two phases (de Wit, 2002; Huang, 2013). In the first phase, some countries, such as Japan, developed a kind of Euro-American blend model of the teaching and research university, while colonies hosted branch campuses of the principal colonial metropolitan universities. Most universities in Africa are instrumental examples of this model of internationalisation. Hans de Wit (2002) has called this phase a primitive "academic colonialism" and "academic imperialism". The second phase includes research and dissemination through seminars, conferences and publications. In the interwar period, internationali- sation underwent a shift towards more international cooperation and exchange in higher education. It is particularly since the 1990s, however, that it has be- come an increasing concern of researchers (Teichler, 1999).

The internationalisation of higher education can be understood from six major approaches: the activity approach (involving discreet activities), the com- petency approach (the development of skills, knowledge, attitudes and values), the ethos approach (fostering a campus-based culture of internationalisation), the process approach (the integration of an international dimension into teach- ing, research and services) (Knight, 1999), the business approach (an emphasis on student fees for income), and the market approach (stress on competition, market domination and deregulation) (Meek, 2007). Based on these approach- es, the internationalisation of higher education is defined as "the process of in- tegrating an international, intercultural or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of post-secondary education" (Knight, 2003). However, due to the dynamism of its actors and rationales (economic, social, political and cultural) and the impacts of local/national traditions, the internationalisation of higher education means different things to different people; it has changed with the changing context of its driving forces, rationales, challenges/prospects, benefits, purposes, meanings and strategies (Bulfin, 2009; IAU, 2012; Zeleza, 2012).

The internationalisation of higher education benefits from the posi- tive initiatives of collaborative projects, of cross-border educational exchange. These initiatives have contributed to the development of individuals, institu- tions, nations and the world at large. …

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