[Issue 88] Media Monitoring: Extract of Press News on Higher Education in Africa

  1. University World News

Countries spend less than 1% of GDP on research (Africa)
o country in Africa is spending 1% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on research and development although, globally, spending on science and the number of scientists have been rising in the past five years, a trend that was pushed further by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to UNESCO. Launching UNESCO’s latest science report, The Race Against Time for Smarter Development, Audrey Azoulay, the director-general of UNESCO, called for more investment in science in the face of growing crises, in order to make science less unequal and more open to all communities. Today’s challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, a decline in ocean health and pandemics, are all global and that is why we must mobilise scientists and researchers from all over the world, said Azoulay on June 11. The issue is that, whereas spending on science worldwide increased by 19% between 2014 and 2018, China and the United States accounted for 63% of that hike. According to Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, UNESCO’s assistant director general for natural sciences and also the director of the publication of the report, only 32 countries in the world raised their research spending by 0.1% or more of their country GDPs during that period. Low spending on scientific research was pervasive in Africa, as all countries on the continent were among the 80% of countries worldwide that invested less than 1% of GDP in scientific research. In this regard, Africa’s share of global expenditure on research and development remained constant at 1.01% between 2014 and 2018 but, in Sub-Saharan Africa, it dropped from 0.44% to 0.42%. Even then, on average, investment in research and development as a share of GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa rose from 0.49% in 2014 to 0.51%, an insignificant increase of 0.02 percentage points. South Africa recorded the highest scientific research expenditure in Africa, after increasing its share from 0.77% in 2014 to 0.83% in 2018, while Egypt took second position by raising its share from 0.64% to 0.72% during the same period. UNESCO noted the pool of researchers per million inhabitants grew by 13.7% during the same period, an increase that was about three times faster than the global population growth of 4.6%. According to the report, this translated into 8,854 million full-time researchers, a surge that was highly dominated by China, whose researcher pool grew by 11.5% between 2014 and 2018. “On average, expenditure per researcher globally increased by 1.6%,” said Susan Schneegans, the editor-in-chief of the UNESCO science report series, during the launching of the latest report.
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  1. Times Higher Education

Universities overreacting to online cheating, experts warn (Global)
US universities overreacting to student cheating during the pandemic are demonstrating a problem that existed well before Covid and still needs to be addressed in its aftermath, experts have warned. The challenges have been put in stark relief by Dartmouth College, which accused 17 of its medical school students of cheating, allegedly deterred them from fighting back, then admitted it was mistaken all along. It was the latest in a series of cases, within the Ivy League and beyond, of institutions trying to catch cheaters during online testing by using software detection systems faulted for being unreliable and invasive of student privacy. Such problems were “widespread” and predated the near-universal online environment forced upon academia by the pandemic, said Cooper Quintin, a senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for civil liberties in digital environments. “More and more coursework is going online these days, and I don’t expect that this fact will change once Covid abates,” Mr. Quintin said. In the Dartmouth case, the university believed it found cheating because records obtained from standard course management software known as Canvas suggested the students were looking at class material at the same time as they were taking tests. While the university weighed the repercussions, some students said, it took actions that limited their ability to defend themselves, including allowing only short time periods to respond, accompanied by suggestions the students admit guilt to lessen their penalties. But after Mr Quintin’s group and others pointed out the unreliability of using Canvas for identifying cheating, Dartmouth’s medical school dean, Duane Compton, agreed to drop all charges and apologised to the students. Data from a system such as Canvas can be useful to identify possible cheating, said Camilla Roberts, director of the Honor and Integrity System at Kansas State University. But such data – with details that include when a student started and stopped a test – must be used only as part of a broader investigation that seeks other available evidence, Dr Roberts said. Some lecturers are likely to stick with online testing after the pandemic, and it’s the responsibility of universities to teach them how to properly handle any suspicions, she said. Another expert on the topic, Kevin Pitts, professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, agreed that online testing would persist and that institutions must respond better.
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