1. University World News

Digital skills demand – A big opportunity for universities (Africa)

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has urged universities and higher technical education institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa to improve their digital skills training programmes to cater for its prediction that over 230 million jobs in the region will need digital skills by 2030.  The study, Digital Skills in Sub-Saharan Africa: Spotlight on Ghana, was produced in cooperation with global strategy firm LEK Consulting. According to Sergio Pimenta, IFC vice president for the Middle East and Africa, the already unmet demand presents public tertiary institutions and private higher education operators with a US$130 billion opportunity to train the future workforce in digital skills in Sub-Saharan Africa. The report states that a global digital revolution is underway and is not likely to bypass Africa. In Ghana, for example, over 9 million jobs will require digital skills by 2030, effectively translating to about 20 million training openings that will need over US$4 billion in training revenue potential. “The digital skills sector is ripe for rapid expansion and investment,” said Pimenta. According to the IFC, universities need to urgently make digital education curriculum shifts with an understanding that 50% of subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree will be outdated by the time a student graduates. “What students need is an adaptive set of skills that will ensure digital readiness,” said Dionisis Kolokotsas, the head of inclusive and sustainable development at Google.  The study calls for short courses, typically three to 12 months, with a mix of instructional methods geared toward practical learning rather than theoretical understanding. The focus of digital skills should be on graduate employability and market demand. The study finds that although digital skills are perceived to be among the top seven skills needed by the future global workforce – which are critical thinking, communication, problem-solving, leadership, collaboration, computer literacy and application of technology – these skills are undersupplied globally and most particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.Highlighting Ghana’s digital skills labour market, the study says between now and 2030, the country will have business-to-consumer opportunities for about 700,000 people. The study extrapolates that during the same timeframe Ghana could have business-to-business and business-to-government opportunities that could reach about 18 million people who would require digital skills, and nearly US$3.5 billion in revenue. That makes the situation more urgent, taking into account the fact that employers anticipate more than 40% of skills required for the workforce will change before 2022. “At least 50% of employees in the sector will need to learn different or more advanced digital skills,” the report notes.


  1. University World News

University boards – Visibility, efficiency and accountability (Ethiopia)

University boards serve as key agents of higher education governance in many countries, including Ethiopia, and are frequently conceived of as a buffer between the state and higher education institutions. The largest role in external governance of the higher education sector in Ethiopia is taken by the Ministry of Education, now the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. The various strategic roles and functions of the ministry outlined in the Higher Education Proclamation (HEP 2009) ensure the implementation of national policy and strategy on higher education, the determination and issuance of standards, approval and implementation of the strategic plans of public institutions, and the facilitation of coordination among universities and other external entities.The internal governance of universities, on the other hand, is entrusted to governing and advisory bodies, academic units, administrative and technical support units, and other relevant offices (HEP 2009). In Ethiopia university boards have served as a key component of higher education governance for decades and appear to be situated somewhere between the ministry and the internal governance structures of the university. The university board is currently designated “the supreme governing body of the institution” with a plethora of responsibilities extending from monitoring to supervising the overall operations of the university (HEP 2009). Despite their importance in the achievement of effective and transparent university governance, boards seem to be the least reformed, researched and accountable of all university structures. Strikingly, boards set up during the last six decades under three different governments bear close resemblance to each other, both in terms of numbers of members and composition. When the University College of Addis Ababa (UCAA), the first institution of higher learning in the country, was established in 1950 the board of governors consisted of six members appointed by the emperor and the UCAA president.

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  1. University World News

Plotting policy pathways across landscapes of the past (South Africa)

With some scientists claiming that we have only 12 years to save the planet, the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) may have chosen an opportune time-frame for its evaluation of scholarly publishing, the keystone system used by scientists to communicate and verify truth claims.  Reflecting on the past dozen years, the academy’s recently published ‘landmark’ report*, Twelve Years Later: Second ASSAf report on research publishing in and from South Africa, sets out to provide substance for informed debate on the state of scholarly publishing in South Africa and, hopefully, for policy consistent with the emergent evidence. Whether the report delivers on this undertaking is the motivation behind this short article. The report comprises eight chapters. Chapters 1 and 2 provide summaries of previous ASSAf reports published in 2006 and 2009 respectively.  Chapter 5, a bibliometric analysis of scholarly publishing in South Africa, provides the most recent account (2005 to 2014). All the reports’ 16 tables and 32 figures appear in this chapter with its two-paragraph conclusion. Here the report showcases how the vast store of bibliometric data can be put to use to provide empirical evidence on the actual contours of the scholarly publishing landscape in South Africa. Sandwiched in-between are Chapters 3 and 4: one chapter reviews the academy’s Scholarly Publishing Programme and its activities over the past 12 years, and the other presents the problems of access for South African researchers seeking to publish in international journals. Chapter 6 draws attention to emerging sources of misconduct and questionable behaviour in scholarly publishing, while Chapter 7 discusses new publishing models and issues related to the quality of scholarly publishing. The final chapter concludes with eight recommendations to improve and protect scholarly research publishing in and from South Africa.

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Download the complete copy of Issue 44 Media Monitoring.Extract for Higher Education news in Africa 44

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