1. University World News

Understanding the impact of grants at universities (Africa)

Since Africa’s earliest modern public universities were established on the continent in the 1940s, these institutions have struggled to generate adequate and sustainable funding. For the most part, universities on the continent depend on money from national governments; grants; donations from international donor communities and industries to fund their learning, teaching and research activities. But most lack proper institutional evaluation to record and track the outcomes of various grants after projects or programmes are completed. Usually, evaluations entail nothing more than a financial audit report and main outcome of the project. This approach does little to show how a particular tranche of funding has contributed to a university achieving its mission, vision and short- to long-term plans. But universities favour it because they pride themselves on being autonomous and self-regulating. For instance, in recent times some African universities have received grants to train PhD candidates in various fields. When the grants end, there’s only one key indicator: how many beneficiaries have graduated. This doesn’t take into account whether the project followed proper systems of accountability. It also doesn’t identify the various lessons learned from implementing the project. That means there’s no learning platform for future projects. I set out to study how universities in Africa evaluate funding once programmes or projects are completed. I also offered some ideas about improving this evaluation, and why it is so important. I argue that evaluation is a critical tool for decisions on improving performance. It also ensures that African universities are getting value for money from grants, donations and the like. For starters, it’s useful to identify where university funding is coming from in Africa. Grants are popular. So is financial support from national governments, Northern and Western universities. The international donor community is involved, too, and so are philanthropic organisations. Some examples from across the continent show just how varied and valuable grants are. In the 2015-16 academic year, the Office of Research, Innovation and Development at the University of Ghana received US$32 million from nine international donor agencies. In 2010, a grant profiling on the University of Ibadan in Nigeria’s website revealed that the university had 106 grants worth more than US$17 million – and that 101 of those providing the grants were international. The University of Nairobi in Kenya is not clear on the amount it receives from donors. But, of the 16 donors it mentions on its website, only one is Kenyan. So how are these grants and donations assessed? In the last 15 years many of the continent’s universities have established grant offices. Their role is to strategise and attract funds from external sources. But in most cases these offices don’t have clear ‘grant policies’ to guide their operations and the use of grants received. This lack of clear policy also means that programmes implemented under external grants can’t be properly evaluated by the universities when those grants expire. This isn’t always a problem. International donors almost always have systems in place to evaluate the use and impact of their grants. But industry donors and governments tend not to. So there really isn’t any way for universities to know if these grants are worthwhile, effective and add value.

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University World News

  1. When TVET fails to provide the answers (Ethiopia)

The Ethiopian technical and vocational education and training (TVET) system has well-organised components: an outcome-based system, cooperative training that involves industries and training institutions, and an assessment scheme that operates on the basis of nationally defined occupational standards. In addition to the development of a revised national TVET Strategy (2008) that accommodates most of the changes, a National TVET Council was set up to shoulder the responsibility of overseeing and coordinating the overall function and effectiveness of TVET at a national level. TVET as a sector is led by a state minister accountable to the minister of science and higher education. While a Federal TVET Agency has been set up to oversee the implementation of the TVET strategy, a Federal TVET Institute has also been established to assist in the upgrading of the skill levels of trainers.  Despite carrying a long history behind it, the system appears to have made fundamental reforms in the areas mentioned only in the last two decades. As a result, the number of TVET institutions built across the country has substantially increased. Access has similarly improved, especially for women who now represent more than 50% of enrolment in the sector, though still in areas which are considered to be the traditional domains for females. However, the question remains as to how much these numerical and structural changes have been translated into significant quality outcomes expected of the sector. TVET is assumed to fulfil a variety of national goals. It is conceived as a primary tool not only to facilitate technology transfer but also to produce the middle-level skilled manpower the country needs to spur its industry-led growth strategy aimed at transforming Ethiopia into a middle-income country. As set out in the 2008 national strategy, TVET aims at creating a competent and adaptable workforce that would serve as the backbone of economic and social development. This objective is echoed in other country-wide strategies and development plans set by the government. In terms of operational plans the policy directions further indicate that 80% of those who complete secondary education are expected to be absorbed into the TVET stream. While this target has not been met for many years now, a more worrying trend that is surfacing is related to the output of TVET institutions. Counter to the aims for which it was created and the many expectations it raised, TVET appears to be failing in terms of delivering on its promises. One of the most common observations is related to the poor output of TVET institutions as regards addressing the demands of the economy and the low quality of graduates. The failure has been exhibited particularly in the mismatch between the skills needed in the job market and the training given at TVET institutions. This has led to a situation in which many TVET graduates are unemployed, even in areas where there is a particularly high demand for skilled manpower.

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Read more Issue 47 Media Monitoring.Extract for Higher Education news in Africa 47








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