[Issue 33] Media Monitoring: Extract of Press News on Higher Education in Africa

  1. The standard Media

There is a real difference between earning and getting a PhD (General)

The PhD continues to be a scarce qualification even as the Commission for University Education (CUE) insists that all academics teaching in universities must hold one. The PhD is the highest university qualification that can be conferred by a university. At its core, the PhD process assumes that a candidate has thought through and produced original research that expands the contours of knowledge. In many jurisdictions, individuals who have read and earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree use the title ‘doctor’ in social and professional settings. Now, I must emphasise that there is a difference between getting a PhD and earning one. Kenya’s season of graduations is pretty much the ideal space in exposing this distinction. As its name suggests, ‘doctor of philosophy or ‘love of wisdom’, to earn a doctorate means to be fascinated by, and to love knowledge. An earned doctorate is a product of hours spent on persistent questioning. The only good reason to do a PhD is a driving urge to find the answer to a complex problem and to find out how far you can push yourself in the search for knowledge. The PhD is hard. If it wasn’t there would not be a scarcity of the qualifications around. It requires a level of determination and self-discipline that few people possess. As such, for many who get to earn a PhD, there is almost always that season of hibernation, a time where everything is momentarily set aside — other diversions, family and other interests — the PhD imposes a peculiar, persistent and noticeable demand on one’s intellectual capacities. As such, an earned PhD is preceded by long seasons of absences. In contrast, there appears a trend where individuals are merely getting a PhD — and not earning one — without the traditional sacrifices that would ordinarily accompany the effort. ‘Getting’ a PhD is working one’s way to the pinnacle of academia by sheer grit, guile and absolute absence of intellectual sacrifice and investment of time and thought. As opposed to earning a PhD, ‘getting’ a PhD is a publicity spectacle where the occasion is designed more to make a statement than to speak to the research community.

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University World News

How universities can play a leading role in their cities (South Africa)

South African higher education policy is generally failing to tackle the issue of how the country’s universities can play a leading role in the evolution of the cities in which most of them are based. Even students who have taken to the streets in protest at the miserable, overcrowded conditions in the campus neighbourhoods in which they are forced to live have failed to challenge the elitist concept of universities as detached ivory towers which continues to dominate much higher education policy-making. Despite the arrival of the urban age – with more people globally now living in towns rather than the countryside – the cities hosting South African universities are often regarded as little more than the local sites where these institutions happen to be located, as if there were, or should be, no civic engagement between municipality and university. Urban universities are too often seen as being merely in the city, rather than of and working for the city, experts recently told an audience of international and South African policy-makers, practitioners and academics at a workshop convened in Cape Town by the Urban Studies Institute at Georgia State University in the United States and the South African national research body, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). Such oppositional town-vs-gown rhetoric in South Africa has failed to acknowledge the actual political economy of urban development, in which vested interests continue to produce spatially defined socio-economic inequalities. The approach has further ignored crucial challenges that have arisen from the national government’s efforts to massify higher education after the introduction of democracy in 1994 brought an end to apartheid. A key concern underpinning the nationwide #FeesMustFall student protest movement which erupted in 2015 has been the failure to provide poor, black and coloured students at urban universities with the material, social and cultural conditions that enable them to reap the full benefits of more democratic access to higher education and urban life.  Taking seriously the task of urbanising the South African university offers the potential to realise a more holistic approach, the audience at the Cape Town workshop was told.

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  1. University World News

‘Merit-based’ approach to leadership disadvantages women (Ethiopia)

The role of Ethiopian higher education leaders has become increasingly complex in areas such as internal university expansion and the relationship with government. Issues related to student catering, accommodation and health are also becoming more and more challenging for higher education leaders and managers. Coping with such challenges and addressing the demands of stakeholders requires self-motivated, experienced and knowledgeable higher education leaders. They need to have a good range of knowledge, perspectives and skills and to be a visionary who can bring other people along with them. In Ethiopia, the Higher Education Proclamation (Proclamation No. 650/2009) states that public higher education institutions have the autonomy to nominate top-level leaders (president, vice presidents and members of the board) and select and appoint mid- and lower-level leaders (directors, deans and heads of departments).  However, until recently the university community had no hands-on role in the nomination and appointment of top-level leaders. Most of them do not even know whether there are set criteria and a process to follow for nominating, selecting and appointing top-level leaders. Although some universities have developed guidelines for the selection and appointment of leaders, including vice presidents, implementation has not been consistent, transparent or inclusive. The appointment of higher education leaders in Ethiopia has been problematic because university presidents have been selected for mainly ethnic and location-based reasons. These criteria were not stated or written in any government directives or institutional guidelines but showed that the government’s focus was more on leaders with an interest in the government’s mission rather than the mission of their universities. This kind of leadership appointment strategy overlooked different academic leadership qualities and also undermined the autonomy of higher education institutions.

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Attached is the Complete Issue 33 Media Monitoring.Extract for Higher Education news in Africa. 33

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