University World News

  1. Region is not reaping rewards of Higher Education investment – Study (Africa)

Universities in Sub-Saharan Africa have failed to equip the region’s fast-growing youth population with market-driven skills needed for prosperous and equitable societies, and the region’s countries are not reaping the rewards of their investment in tertiary education, according to a new study by the World Bank. The report, The Skills Balancing Act in Sub-Saharan Africa: Investing in skills for productivity, inclusivity, and adaptability, argues that despite massive university education expansion in the last decade, most countries in the region are losing ground when it comes to providing access to higher education. According to Omar Arias, lead researcher of the study and manager for global knowledge and innovation at the World Bank, and his associate Indhira Santos, a senior labour economist, the average gross enrolment ratio in tertiary education stands at about 10% in Sub-Saharan Africa, but in some countries it is much lower. “In more than a third of countries in the region, university enrolment is below 5%,” noted the two researchers. Although university enrolment in Sub-Saharan Africa has historically lagged behind other global regions, what is worrying observers and stakeholders is that enrolment has taken an elitist path, effectively being rationed to a subset of youth from richer backgrounds. According to the study, the selection process has been persistently skewed in favour of the richest 20% of the population. For instance, in Malawi, the study shows that only 1% of students enrolled in universities come from households in the bottom 20% of the income distribution, while another 3% come from the second poorest quintile. “In contrast, 80% of university students in Malawi come from the richest 20% of the population,” said Arias. Overall in the region, gross enrolment ratios in tertiary education stand at 16% among the richest quintile of the population, but at only 2% among the poorest. In urban Kenya, having both parents with secondary education makes a person 3.5 times more likely to attend university. In this regard the report is urging African countries to break with the past and start making smart investments in university education geared towards developing skills aligned with goals of productivity growth and social inclusion, in order to accelerate development. What is emerging is that the region is not getting value from its investment in tertiary education. On average, Sub-Saharan Africa is spending US$2,445 per student per year, which is three times more than what other low- and lower-middle-income countries spend. But despite such heavy investment in higher education in the last 30 years, building of skills by the universities has almost collapsed. “Systems for building skills have fallen short, and these shortcomings have impeded economic prospects,” stated the report. The report is pushing African countries to look afresh at the expansion of university education that had been going on in Sub-Saharan Africa in the last two decades. According to the report, while expanding access to higher education is commendable, there is urgent need to start managing university education more carefully.

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University World News

  1. To fill capacity gaps, universities need to work in synergy (Africa)

A recent study by the Africa Capacity Building Foundation has revealed that the continent has only about 55,000 engineers against an estimated 4.3 million required, Secretary General of the Association of African Universities (AAU) Professor Etienne Ehouan Ehilé has said. Speaking at the opening of the 20th AAU Conference of Rectors, Vice-Chancellors and Presidents of African Universities (COREVIP) in Cairo on 8 July, he said there was therefore the need to produce over 300,000 every year until 2023. Ehilé said similar capacity gaps had been found in other areas, 10 years after the implementation of the Africa Union’s Agenda 2063. “We have about 21,000 geologists against an estimated 174,000 needed and about 82,000 agricultural scientists out of an estimated 152,000 required,” he said. Agenda 2063, which comprises five 10-year plans launched in 2015, is a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over 50 years. It builds on, and seeks to accelerate, the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development. In light of the capacity gaps, he said there was a need for African institutions of higher learning to become innovative and work in synergy to establish stronger networks among themselves in the spirit of South-South collaboration. Ehilé commended Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, which he said is a high-ranking institution that has opened its doors to Africa and the world, enrolling more than 40,000 international students, describing it as “a remarkable achievement in this era of internationalisation”. Ehilé said the AAU is committed to ensuring that higher education institutions on the continent deliver “education that is capable of producing the high quality human capital and research needed for accelerated socio-economic development of our society”. “This commitment is what guided us in organising this COREVIP, whose key rationale is to promote intellectual engagement by interrogating the contributions of African higher education to the achievement of the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 16-25),” Ehilé said. Ehilé said CESA 16-25 remains one of the three main pillars of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, which outlines Africa’s colossal development issues and the need to fully tap into the youthful population in order to reap the demographic dividends for sustainable development. “The obvious message from CESA 16-25 is the need for the higher education sector in Africa to understand, own and fully commit itself to the continent’s drive for sustainable development solutions.”

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University World News

  1. Female-friendly approaches can bridge digital gender divide (Africa)

Analysis of female university student participation in learning and use of software packages conducted by a Nigerian university shows that women have a higher success rate than men, and points to the need for female-friendly learning approaches to overcome participation constraints and close the gender ICT gap. The analysis was outlined in a paper entitled “Female participation in learning and use of software packages in Nigeria: Case of SAP ERP software in University of Ibadan, Nigeria.” The paper was presented at the Conference of Rectors, Vice-Chancellors and Presidents of African Universities (COREVIP) that was held in Cairo, Egypt, from 8-11 July under the theme “The Role of Higher Education Institutions in Promoting the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 16-25)”. The analysis used data obtained through a structured questionnaire and analysed using descriptive statistics for all participants (male and female) from 2015-17 at the University of Ibadan, one of 13 partner universities in Africa for the delivery of the Enterprise Systems Education For Africa (ESEFA) initiative. ESEFA aims to address the shortage of enterprise systems skills in Sub-Saharan African countries by enabling local universities to produce highly qualified information and communication technology (ICT) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) professionals through high quality enterprise system education programmes. The two-year study conducted from 2015-17 had 143 (23.1%) female participants from different course backgrounds. Over the years, the female participants achieved an 80% success rate and an overall success rate of 86% – higher than the 81.6% success rate for all participants and the 80.2% success rate for male participants. Lead author of the study Olubunmi Alawode, a lecturer in the department of agricultural economics at the University of Ibadan, said, as the study notes, the young women “did not lack confidence in their capacities in a male-dominated environment … The female participants were fewer but more successful in the use of the software”. SAP ERP (Systems Application Products Enterprise Resource Planning) is a German enterprise-wide information system software designed to coordinate all resources, information, and activities needed to complete business processes and measure performance. “In Nigeria, the expectations of female participants were very high and they were involved in the learning and use of SAP ERP software to give them a competitive advantage, diverse job responsibilities and higher positions in the workplace,” the paper noted.

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 Download Issue 49 Media Monitoring.Extract for Higher Education news in Africa 49

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