African Universities or Universities in Africa
Dr. Akiiki Babyesiza, Higher Education Research & Consulting, Berlin
In this panel we ask whether universities in Africa are actually challenging western notions of higher education or whether western interventions challenge the notion of African universities. We invite papers that discuss consequences and challenges of these external influences on higher education in Africa.
Since the inception of universities in Europe, scholars have perceived universities as global institutions, dedicated to universal knowledge, with one language of scholars and the mobility of faculty and students. But it was only during colonialism and the massive expansion of the higher education system in the postcolonial era, that the Euro-American university turned into the global model for organizing knowledge production and advanced training. The university in a globalised world is an institution embedded in its immediate and global environment. It has to respond to local and global expectations at the same time. In African countries the global expectations of external actors are not only connected to normative, but also financial power. This poses problems when the expectations and demands of local society and global actors diverge. So the question arises whether universities in African countries are challenging western notions of higher education or whether external western actors, their interventions and influences challenge or hinder the development of African universities that speak to the needs and demands of the societies they are supposed to serve. Furthermore: “What is the purpose of universities? What role should they play in national and international development strategies, and whom should they serve?” Competing higher education policy imperatives, or “management fads in higher education”, trouble notions of nationally-constituted, nationally-funded, and nationally-regulated universities, and call for an exploration of de-nationalized higher education models. What kinds of politics should a public university pursue, and what kinds of knowledge should count? Universities have long been and continue to be key sites of social change in Sub-Saharan African countries. The panel invites papers that discuss the above mentioned questions against the backdrop of a possible African higher education model.
01 Patricio V. Langa, Leonie Schoelen: The Challenge of the is-ought to gap in African higher education research
The contribution begins with examining the political economy of knowledge production in African higher education. The thrust of the paper highlights, on the one hand, the way in which African higher studies as a scholarly field builds its object of inquiry, and raises, on the other hand, some epistemological and methodological concerns. The unswerving reason for the paper is the moral or normative manner in which research problems on African higher education are presented - often emerging from the policy sphere, such as equity or access - rather than from a scientific perspective. Therefore, a critical epistemological challenge facing research in African higher education can be described as the “is-ought to gap”. The latter refers to the reasoning fallacy, coined by the 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume. According to Hume, one cannot derive an “ought to” from an “is” without a supporting “ought to” premise. We content that what defines science is the construction of objects of study from concepts. Accordingly, we understand research as the construction of an object by the establishment of conceptual relations formed - or not - by theories. We then offer a very brief contextualisation of the issue in the African context, drawing on studies to explore the particular nuances and issues raised by its specific theoretical and methodological formulations of research objects in higher education. In so doing, we point to some of the contested questions evolving from the transmutation of factual, non-moral observations about African higher education as a social reality, to moral statements, which often express what a certain community ought or ought not to do. In the following, we return to the need for theorization and conceptualization, noting some of the limitations current African, but also so-called Western, higher education research is confronted with, in reducing African higher education into a reality which represents a social and, in essence, moral problem for which solutions need to be found, rather than understood. In conclusion, we call for a new epistemological vigilance where unexplained relations between moral judgments and solely factual premises are characteristic of the broader distinction between facts and values.
Patrício V. Langa is associate professor at the Institute for Post School Studies, University of the Western Cape, South Africa and Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique.
Leonie Schoelen is a doctoral student at the Centre for Quality Assurance and Development, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany, and Paris University, France
02 Bakheit Nur: Knowledge Politics in Postcolonial Africa: Islam-oriented Universities in Sudan
In postcolonial Sudan, successive national governments implicitly posited Islam as the state religion while apparently regarding Islamic education as if it were at once a national plant that had struck deep roots into the Sudanese terrain, and an instrument to offset the confusion that colonialism had wrought there (Nur, 2017). This perception gained political ground during the Islamists’ reign from 1989 – 2019. The Islamists took significant steps to reconfigure educational policy in accordance with their fight against “western values” and in order to (re)appropriate science and technology and inject it with their new Islamic ideology and epistemic orientation. The Islamists established new ideologically-oriented learning institutions that promote Islamo-politically oriented education and offer ideological training to those working in governmental institutions. The most prominent among the ideologically Islamic learning institutions are the University of the Holy Qur’an and Islamic Sciences (UHQIS), Omdurman Islamic University (OIU), and the International University of Africa (IUA). This massive expansion of religiously oriented higher education is accompanied by changes in educational policy in line with new laws that organize the curricula, pedagogy and enrollment of students in the Islam-oriented universities. This paper critically examines the inner workings of the Islamist education policy and epistemic orientation in Sudan, as well as their socio-religious and political impacts therefore contextualizing the three ideologically Islam-oriented universities. It investigates how these Islam-oriented universities function and uncovers the learning practices followed there. The paper undertakes a thorough examination of their internal bureaucratic functionalities, the pedagogical practices and the regulations that govern the curriculum and the enrollment of students to understand how educational policy is negotiated in practice.
Bakheit Mohammed Nur is a postdoctoral fellow of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation affiliated with the Department of Anthropology, University of Bayreuth, Germany.
03 Oluwaseun Kugbayi: Conflict between academic staff and non-teaching staff in universities in Southwestern Nigeria: Causes and consequences
Universities are recognised as institutions where knowledge is disseminated and acquired by those who require it. Academic staff in the universities are saddled with the responsibilities of offering services for the actualisation and achievement of this goal through teaching, research, and community services and Non-teaching personnel perform supportive functions. In carrying out their functions, these groups do experience conflicts. The consequences of these conflicts frequently affect the smooth running of universities, most especially those universities where there is a high number of faculties with high number of academic and non-teaching staff. It is against this backdrop that this study examine the causes of conflict between academic and non-teaching staff in selected universities and the effects of conflict on the universities in Southwestern Nigeria
Primary and secondary data were utilised for the study. Primary data were collected through the administration of questionnaire and interview. With a study population of (5487), which comprises academic and non-nonteaching staff members of two (2) selected universities, multistage sampling technique was adopted for the study. At the first stage, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye were purposively selected from the strata of federal and state universities in Southwest Nigeria. The institutions were selected because of the prominence of conflict between the academic and non-academic staff. In the second stage, Taro Yamane formula was used to obtain 372 respondents representing 6.8% of the study population. At the third stage, proportional to size technique was utilised to administer questionnaire to the respondents. The distribution is represented as: 92 members of academic staff and 182 members of non-teaching staff of Obafemi Awolowo University; 38 members of academic staff and 60 members of non-teaching staff of Olabisi Onabanjo University. In addition, interviews were conducted with eight purposively selected respondents, which comprised two executive members of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and two executive members of Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) from each of the two universities. Secondary data were obtained from decision extracts of the unions’ congresses/meetings on matters relating to the subject matter, conciliation meetings and internet sources. Data collected were analysed using appropriate descriptive and inferential statistics.
The study revealed that differences in perception of duties, personality differences, unequal attention to staff welfare, and inadequate representation in decision making are the causes of conflict between academic staff and non-teaching staff in the selected universities. The study also showed that conflict between the two groups has significant effect on the totality of the university environment.
Oluwaseun Kugbayi is a Master of Science student at the Department of Public Administration, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria.
04 Andrea Noll: Challenges for African early career researchers in international academic cooperation
Universities in the so-called Global North as well as many other research institutions regularly declare their intention to intensify their scholars’ international cooperation. Regarding German African academic cooperation, there is a wide range of programmes that support collaborative research projects and promote exchange with African scientists. Such programmes range from well-established formats of long-term individual scholarships to the active recruitment of African fellows for Institutes of Advanced Studies in Germany and the establishment of such institutions in African countries to support for international networks of young academics. Even though many programmes now emphasise the importance of equal partnerships, asymmetries between partners from “the North” and “the South” in terms of e.g. ownership, funding and publication outcome of cooperation continue to exist. Global standards for academic excellence are still set in the North. While the literature on international academic cooperation discusses these asymmetries, the viewpoints of young African scholars has so far received little attention.
So, how do these international programmes fit to the local contexts of African universities and the needs and demands of the societies these universities are supposed to serve? What challenges do young African scholars encounter in international academic cooperation and how do they cope with these challenges? How do they navigate their response to local and global expectations at the same time? The proposed paper attempts to answer these questions and discusses the young scientists’ visions for the future of academic cooperation. It is based on case studies in four African countries and considers the experiences of young African scholars in international academic cooperation in STEM-subjects as well as in the social sciences and the humanities.
Andrea Noll is a Postdoc at the Department of Anthropology and African Studies, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany.