Tag: crisis

Book review: Higher Education in Africa: Crises, Reforms and Transformation

Sintayehu Kassaye Alemu (University of Ljubljana)

Sintayehu Kassaye Alemu
(University of Ljubljana)

This book review is written by Sintayehu Kassaye Alemu, a Hedda master graduate who is currently undertaking his doctoral studies at the Center for Educational Policy Studies (CEPS) at University of Ljubljana as a part of the UNIKE project. Earlier, he has studied history at Addis Abbaba University, and obtained a MA degree in general education at Umea University in Sweden. His PhD project is titled: ‘’A Comparative Analysis of Practices and Impacts of Internationalization of Higher Education on the Academic life in the Centers and Peripheries’. 

In this review, he reviews the book by N’dri T. Assié-Lumumba, titled “Higher Education in Africa: Crises, Reforms and Transformation” (2005). arton962-9f7bc

Significance and organization of the book

This book is imperative for the fact that it deals with the complexities of higher education in the region of Africa. It convenes and confers the historical background of higher learning, the complex problems, their causes, and possible solutions for the African higher education. Chapter one  discusses the origin and mission of African universities, chapter two deals with cultural colonialism and its cultural effects, chapter three explains the crisis of higher education, the consequences of crisis and the need for change, chapter four clarifies the waves of reforms and recent innovation, chapter five is about new challenges with in the global and local objective conditions, and the last chapter elucidates the need for structural changes, transformation, and localisation of higher education. Methodologically, the book is developed on the review of related literature purposely African related.

This book tries to examine the historical development of indigenous higher education in Africa. N’dri T. Assie-Lumumba  describes how this indigenous academic institution had been interrupted and replaced by the colonial higher education systems and institutions. The author critically explains the complexity, diversity, and multi-dimensionality of the African higher education/university crises and its socio-economic, political, and cultural implications, and the need for a positive and constructive reform towards the indigenization and transformation of the higher education institutions in Africa.




Thematic week follow-up: The university in emergency situations – Quisqueya University, Haiti

Therese Marie Pankratov

This special guest entry follows up on our thematic week on higher education and crisis and is also a follow-up to one of our earlier post on Haiti. Therese Marie Pankratov has interviewed  Jacky Lumarque, the rector of Quisqueya University on Haiti and writes about some of the challenges higher education faces on the aftermath of major natural crisis. 

January 2010. All eyes were turned towards Haiti, as we horrified received news of the devastating earthquake that shattered the capital Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas.
December 2012, almost three years later, and the international attention has shifted, though Haiti is still in a state of recovery from the damages of the earthquake and its consequences.

Haiti was a fragile country before the earthquake hit. 76% of the population lived on under 2USD a day. Almost 40% of Haitians have never gone to school. Only 8% of schools belonged to the public system, causing school fees to be a key hindrance in primary enrollment. Only 22% of enrolled children completed primary education. Higher education is a mere dream for the majority of the population, and for those who do obtain a degree, it has often been a ticket to emigration. The consequence for Haiti is a lack of needed skills.

Unusual to a humanitarian response has been a focus on the education sector in Haiti, and its role in “building back better” after the earthquake. Even the higher education sector has received international attention from UNESCO and the media (The New York Times, The Star), pointing to its role in mitigating fragility. The last three years have seen progress, but there is still a long way ahead.




Thematic week: summing up

Mari Elken (Hedda / University of Oslo)

Our  thematic week is almost at its end. To sum up the entries, what are some of the common topics that emerge from these varied perspectives on the concept of “crisis” and higher education? Mari Elken (Hedda/University of Oslo) examines some of the main themes and linkages between these varied conceptions of crisis.

This time our thematic week  grew to more than just a week, but the theme was broad, and we felt it was necessary to try to capture as much as we could of dynamic between higher education and various kinds of crisis. What emerges from the posts is both encouraging and alarming at the same  time, and points on the one hand towards the important role higher education institutions can play in fragile social and political contexts, and on the other towards some key aspects of higher education as an institution in modern societies.

First of all, as professor Varghese argued in this post, in a number of countries higher education has shown to be surprisingly resilient during the current economic crisis. While countries that are dependent on foreign aid suffered (as development aid was one of the posts donor countries cut first), in much of the developed world higher education was seen as the solution to the way out of  the crisis. With maintaining this somewhat protected role, perhaps the ivory tower (or closet, as some would put it) has not disappeared, it has just changed its nature: replaced by a high-tech tower, where researchers are expected to work relentlessly to develop and disseminate knowledge, to function as an antenna to spread it out. Granted, this is perhaps not the best of analogies, but it points towards a shift in understanding the role of higher education, and to what extent it can be seen as a privilege/elite endeavor. Rather, higher education is now perceived as one of the core engines of society in terms of economic growth. While this indicates that the cultural role of higher education is increasingly downplayed and being replaced by a far more instrumental role, it hints that despite the instrumental expectations, in the context of economic crisis, higher education retained a special role in the society in a number of countries, just in a different manner. As this is only one of the pathways and this is not uniform to all countries world wide, an interesting avenue for research would be to better understand the role of higher education in the context of a modern nation state in a comparative manner, identifying factors that facilitate this kind of institutional resilience and the conditions that lead to its decline.




Guest blogger: The future higher education funding settlement – cost-sharing versus public/private substitution

Dr. Vincent Carpentier (Institute of Education, University of London)

Dr. Vincent Carpentier is Reader in History of Education at the Institute of Education, University of London. He is the Programme Leader of the MA in Higher and Professional Education and Associate Editor of the London Review of Education. His comparative research on the historical relationship between educational systems, long economic cycles and social change is located at the interface of economic history, history of education and political economy. His recent publications include Global Inequalities and Higher Education, Whose Interests Are We Serving? (Palgrave MacMillan, 2010 – co-edited with Elaine Unterhalter) and articles in various academic journals. More about his publications here.

This piece draws on the article ‘Public-Private Substitution in Higher Education: Has Cost-Sharing Gone Too Far?, Higher Education Quarterly, 66(4), 363-390, 2012.

Debates on the alternative ways of funding higher education should lead to reflect on the nature and the aim(s) of higher education. This is especially the case during crisis times which invite us to question the increasing competition between the social, political, cultural and economic rationales behind changes in higher education policies and institutional practices. How can we keep a balance between learning for its own sake and professionalisation? Is higher education a public, private or mixed good? A reflection on those issues can best be informed by interdisciplinary insights.

The principles by which a society defines what higher education is (or should be) have a strong practical impact on the design and implementation of higher education funding settlement. Key questions should be considered here. How do governments manage (or struggle) to articulate policies regarding funding, equity and quality? Who pays and who benefits from higher education? What are the implications of the rise of private funding such as fees and the emergence of private provision? What are the financial and non financial barriers to access, participation and outcome? How can these barriers be removed? How should a fair and efficient higher education system be organised? How to address these questions in an increasingly global context?




Higher education in Japan – current challenges

Higher Education in JapanJapan has been frequently featuring media during the last two months, since the tragic earthquake on March 11, 2011 that has taken countless lives and created destruction beyond imaginable. While great attention has been paid to the courageous attempts to keep the nuclear plants under control and avoid even greater catastrophe, the aftermath of this crisis has also had a major impact on higher education, as on all other spheres of society.

Japan has been through quite significant changes in recent decades. Being a huge success story during the 80s through production of high-tech, consumer electronics and car industry, Japan faced an economic downturn during the 90s. From societal perspective, one of the more striking features is the significantly aging population, and a recent OECD report on tertiary education in Japan indicated that by 2050, the population will have decreased by 25%, this rapid shift is already taking place and is having major consequences for the whole society.

Japanese higher education system is characterized by a large private sector and a high participation rate, where expansion has been achieved through diversification of institutional missions (OECD 2009). From governance perspective, Japanese higher education system has been described as a hybrid system, characterised by policy borrowing/learning from both the US and Germany, as argued by Tom Christensen in a recent article in Higher Education Policy.  Christensen provides a thorough examination of the various reforms that have taken place in Japan this far, and argues that the reform trends can be characterised both by New Public Management (NPM), but also post-NPM trends. These trends are characterised by focus on efficiency and effectiveness, institutional leadership, competition and management.