A Resource and Planning Toolkit for Universities in Africa: There Is a Significant Gap in the Level of Development of Higher Education Processes and Structures between the Institutions of the Developing World and the Well-Established Universities of Places like North America and Europe

By Fountain, Douglas; Fountain, JoEllyn Murillo | Planning for Higher Education, July-September 2013 | Go to article overview

A Resource and Planning Toolkit for Universities in Africa: There Is a Significant Gap in the Level of Development of Higher Education Processes and Structures between the Institutions of the Developing World and the Well-Established Universities of Places like North America and Europe


Fountain, Douglas, Fountain, JoEllyn Murillo, Planning for Higher Education


1. INTRODUCTION

GLOBALIZATION OF HIGHER EDUCATION is a very hot topic these days. The Chronicle of Higher Education publishes a "WorldWise" blog containing "commentary from globetrotting higher-education thinkers" who see great value in building up campuses overseas and engaging globally in higher education. Several top North American universities have, as a result, established branch campuses in developing countries with varying degrees of success. Other universities have established relationships with local institutions to offer their programs, sometimes stipulating their own curricula and sending their own staff to do the teaching. The oft-stated, and laudable, goal of these approaches is to further development in the world's developing countries by creating a more educated populace (McPherson 2013).

A skeptic might look at such "foreign" higher education projects as a form of academic neo-imperialism. However, these projects may not be sustainable or even necessarily highly effective. If the goal is to increase development through higher education, then everybody--policy makers, funders, stakeholders, and partners--must ask hard questions about the capacity of local higher education to meet local demand. That capacity is measured in the quantity, quality, ideas, and outcomes of the local institutions.

This article focuses attention on improving the capacity of existing, indigenous institutions to offer high-quality education appropriate for their particular context. Planning is essential for universities to grow and successfully produce graduates who will make a difference in their society.

Here's a test for our readers: Think of a university you know very well. Think about the buildings and the campus environment. Think about the information technology resources. Think about the faculty and the administrative staff, where they work, and how they do their work. Think about the library, learning space, common areas, and books. Think about fund-raising campaigns and alumni engagement. Think about how students work with each other and engage with faculty.

Did those buildings have students sitting outside windows to hear a lecture because there is not enough room inside? Are the roads on the campus dirt (or mud when it rains)? Do electricity and water only reach some of the buildings on campus? Is the library stocked with only a few thousand books, most of which are over 20 years old? Can students only access the Internet in a room that has fewer than a hundred computers that are more than five years old? Are the concepts of "endowment" and "alumni association" unknown to the administration?

Does the university know how it will sustain itself when a considerable number of exceptionally bright students arrive on campus without enough money even to pay for shoes?

Such is the reality of higher education in many developing countries. This is not always the case; certainly there are fine examples of well-developed colleges and universities.

Consider also the projection that the number of students in higher education throughout the world will double in the next 15 years, and much of this growth will be in private universities and in developing countries (Maslen 2012). Demand and expectations are high. Supply is, and will continue to be, a problem.

The number of universities will no doubt swell with demand. In Uganda, for example, the number of universities that were licensed by the National Council for Higher Education grew from around 12 to 41 between 2004 and 2012 according to Dr. Eric Kigozi, vice chairman of the council. However, it takes time and resources to build a quality university, and efforts to quickly meet the rising demand for higher education without proper planning have led to the demise of many fledgling institutions. Some of the leading causes of these failures in developing countries have been noted and discussed (Salmi 2011). …

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A Resource and Planning Toolkit for Universities in Africa: There Is a Significant Gap in the Level of Development of Higher Education Processes and Structures between the Institutions of the Developing World and the Well-Established Universities of Places like North America and Europe
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