1. University World News

Using intellectual property to actualise universities’ potential (Africa)

Four African universities are among five institutions that have been picked to participate in a continental intellectual property (IP) pilot project, aimed at helping public teaching and research organisations build capacity for developing and implementing institutional IP policy and strategy. The project is being implemented by global IP organisation the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in collaboration with two continental bodies, one Anglophone, the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), and the other Francophone, the Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle (OAPI). The universities include Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Zimbabwe’s Africa University, the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Windhoek, and Ghana’s Koforidua Technical University (KTU). Also taking part in the initiative is Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), the only non-higher education institution in the group.  The project is financed by WIPO, with support from the Japan Patent Office under the Japan Funds-in-Trust for Africa and Least Developed Countries. The institutions were picked in a competitive process that commenced in 2017, according to ARIPO Director General Fernando Dos Santos. “In 2017 ARIPO and WIPO agreed to work together on a joint project aimed at helping universities and research and development institutions to adopt accurate IP policies,” said Dos Santos. The project will be carried out in different phases that will involve assisting the five institutions in formulating or fine-tuning their existing individual IP policies using guidelines developed by the collaborators, he told University World News – Africa.

The call for expression of interest document seen by University World News states that the goal of the initiative is to promote development of IP policies in R&D institutions, in order to stimulate local innovation and technology transfer in Africa for socio-economic growth. “The underlying idea is that universities and R&D institutions play a key role in innovation through their contribution to the production and diffusion of knowledge. However, the question as to whether universities are using the IP to benefit from products of their research and innovation or to contribute to economic development arises,” Dos Santos said. Many universities, he said, lacked clear IP policies that would help define issues such as who owns what in a research project as well as knowledge on what can or cannot be commercialised.

There was a need, therefore, to help them adopt IP policies that will enable them to use the IP system efficiently, and reap benefits from their research and innovation.

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  1. University World News

Curriculum change – A solution to graduate unemployment (Nigeria)

Announcing a review of university curricula aimed at addressing graduate employability in Nigeria, Professor Abubakar Rasheed, executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), said last month the government was concerned about complaints by industry employers that the country’s graduates were “unemployable”. How did the country reach this point? According to Dr Toyin Enikuomehin, a lecturer in artificial intelligence in the computer science department of Lagos State University, the problem has its roots in outdated curricula and a system slow to transform.  “The current university syllabus has its origin in the 18th century industrial revolution propelled by the emergence of general sciences and electricity from coal. Globally, these tendencies were faithfully adhered to in the 20th century. The recent advent of alternative sources of energy, especially from the sun and the wind, coupled with electronically-propelled communication technology, has compelled universities to gradually see the need to adapt their curricula to the needs of industries”. Enikuomehin said while universities in advanced industrialised countries quickly adjusted their curricula and continued to get grants and financial support from industry for their research, tertiary institutions in underdeveloped countries, including Nigeria, still cling to the old curricula.  “It is now that the NUC is realising the imperative to innovate and adapt university programmes to satisfy the demands of industries and other stakeholders,” he said. “With the current outdated curricula, our universities would continue to churn out unemployable graduates.” An in-depth feature on graduate unemployment in Nigeria was published in the Daily Trust newspaper last year following a study conducted by a group of journalists involving several months of field investigations on the subject. Illustrating the scale of the problem, the study said: “Ongoing recruitment by the Federal Road Service Commission shows up the scale of unemployment in Nigeria. The commission has 4,000 job slots to fill. Some 324,000 shortlisted applicants showed up for recruitment, 105,000 of them graduates, scampering for positions as inspectors and road marshal assistants.” According to one of the study’s journalists, Maureen Onochie, the graduate applicants were of diverse academic orientations. “Most of them did not study transport as an academic discipline … I found that the majority of candidates were desperately in search of jobs with a view to taking care of themselves and members of their extended families,” she said.  Another study by Dr Longe Olukayode from the department of sociology at Ekiti State University, which was published in the American International Journal of Contemporary Research in 2017, noted that “the nation cannot reasonably achieve her developmental aspirations if she cannot effectively put to productive use a large number of her graduates”.

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  1. Daily Monitor

Revenue authority to collect tuition for state universities (Uganda)

The Ministry of Finance has directed Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) to start collecting tuition for all government universities across the country in a bid to curb fraud. Mr Jim Mugunga, the ministry’s spokesperson, yesterday confirmed that the new system is intended to establish how many students each university has and how much money they collect each academic year. He said the ministry realised that some tuition revenue in some public universities is abused and decided on collecting the fees using a single account by URA to minimise misuse. “We realised that there was abuse of funds in our institutions of learning because some of the tuition is being collected but not used. Some tuition is stolen while some money just disappears. So, let URA collect this money, let this money come as government revenue and let it be budgeted for and appropriated,” Mr Mugunga told Daily Monitor by telephone yesterday.  It is not clear how the initiative will be implemented since institutions have varying fees structure and functional fees.  He also said the new move will check the problem of ghost students, bureaucracy and costs in public universities. “The current system is bureaucratic and keeps government unaware of tuition as a revenue that flows into the institutions. It also complicates the accountability process and duplicates bank costs of running related accounts.  “Once we get to know how much each institution is collecting, we shall facilitate timely release of money back to the universities to take care of students, staff and institutional support,” he said. Mr Mugunga said the strategy will also streamline accountability, remove duplicity and minimise costs that have impeded revenue mobilisation. “Tuition is actually government revenue and not money that belongs to universities. Historically, when revenue collection was not streamlined, the ministry had allowed institutions to collect on its behalf as we built internal capacities and get most institutions networked and strengthened. URA is, therefore, ready and the most suitable agency to handle this task,” he said. The move comes a few days after Makerere University management officials appeared before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament and were probed on why they failed to collect tuition fees from more than 80 students many of whom had already graduated and rent from several tenants in the university premises. The officials led by the university secretary, Mr Charles Barugahare, were giving responses to queries raised in the 2017/18 Auditor General’s report. Key among the queries was that the university management did not collect Shs148.9m from 81 students who sat exams in 2017. Mr John Muwanga, the Auditor General, also added in his report that 32 of the students appeared on the graduation list of January 2018 yet they had not cleared their tuition arrears of Shs65.2m.  The Makerere Vice Chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, said if URA takes over the tuition fees collection, it will be a big relief to the university. He, however, questioned how URA will manage the fees defaulters.

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Complete copy of Issue 42 Media Monitoring.Extract for Higher Education news in Africa 42


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