On the move towards research-led universities – Meeting of the HERANA project discusses institutional change in African flagship universities

This guest entry is written by Jens Jungblut and summarises some of the key activities at a recent HERANA workshop in Cape Town. Jens is currently a post-doctoral researcher at INCHER, University of Kassel. 

From November 20 until November 24 the Center for Higher Education Trust (CHET) organized a workshop in the context of the HERANA research project in Cape Town. During this meeting representatives of seven flagship universities from different Sub-Saharan African countries discussed together with a group of international experts the institutional developments of the different universities on their road to becoming research-led universities.

HERANA workshop participants

The workshop started out with a presentation of the activities of CHET by its director Nico Cloete, which was followed by a short lecture from Peter Maassen, professor of higher education at the Department of Education at the University of Oslo, who presented findings from a research project that investigated the characteristics of research flagship universities in Europe highlighting commonalities but also differences between several successful institutions. Afterwards, Åse Gornitzka, professor of political science at the University of Oslo, discussed organizational change processes in higher education with an emphasis on explanations from organizational theories why change processes can be slow, unpredictable and sometimes even fail. Professor Leo Goedegebuure, director at the LH Martin Institute in Melbourne, presented to the participants recent developments in higher education in South-East Asia and offered some conclusions on institutional factors that allowed some universities in Asia to strengthen their research function and catch up with global developments. His presentation was followed by a reflection from Fred Hayward on his work during the last years for USAID supporting the reform of higher education in Afghanistan in which he also highlighted some common challenges between Africa and Afghanistan.

NOMA: Emerging scholars on African higher education

Recently, we posted lecture recordings from the NOMA summer school. The NOMA programme is a cooperation project between University Western Cape, University of Oslo, Eduardo Mondlane University and CHET.

However, as a cooperation programme, NOMA has also facilitated the emergence of a new set of young scholars in Africa, a whole continent and context that has previously been underrepresented in research on higher education world wide. In this post, we would like to introduce some of these scholars and their backgrounds:

dr. Gerald Ouma

dr. Gerald Ouma

Gerald Ouma (PhD) has published in Higher Education Studies, the most prestigious journal in higher education studies, he has been appointed Associate Professor at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), and he coordinates the new School (Institute) of Post‐School Studies at UWC (the only such faculty in Africa that will address post‐secondary education). In 2012 he served on the Funding Review Committee, and contributed to the Minster of Higher Education’s Funding Review report that will be released soon.

Dr. Patricio Langa

Dr. Patricio Langa

Patricio Langa (PhD) is publishing a book on Portuguese higher education in Africa, has established the first joint Masters degree in Education at Eduardo (with the University of Oslo and UWC), is the new Deputy‐ Director of the HE Quality Committee of Mozambique and is coordinating the new strategic plan for Eduardo Mondlane University. He is also the Director of the Sociological Association of Mozambique and of an NGO focusing on higher studies in Mozambique. He and Francois have jointly set up a publishing NGO in Mozambique.

Dr. Thierry Luescher-Mamashela

Dr. Thierry Luescher-Mamashela

Thierry Luescher‐Mamashela (PhD) is well represented on the HERANA publication list with several publication including a book, journal articles and articles in the media. Thierry has become part of the Global Research University Network on the Student Experience and has been doing student leadership development across the country.

HERANA: Contributions to regional development by University of Buea

To continue our special week, we are now featuring a post from  one of the students who was linked to the HERANA project. Samuel N. Fongwa recently completed a Masters degree in Higher education studies linked to the  the NOMA programme at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. His masters’ dissertation (for which he earned a distinction) focused on the contribution of universities to regional socio-economic development in African context and his study was an in-depth case study of University of Buea. He is currently enrolled for a PhD in Regional Development at the University of the Free State, South Africa. His research interest is on the actual and potential contribution of universities and higher education institutions to national, regional and local socio-economic development – with specific interest in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. In this post, he will share some of the insights from his master thesis.

The last couple of decades have witnessed significant transformation in the nature, culture, structure and functions of universities. This has been characterised by the emergence of new and more socio-economically relevant universities on the one hand, and an increasing shift of older universities as they become more entrepreneurial, utilitarian and actively engaged in the growth of their local communities, regions and nations. This shift in scholarship has been significantly influenced by a rethink of academic ideologies, management systems, funding structures and most importantly in the type of knowledge needed in the knowledge economy. Case studies from Western Europe, North America including Canada, and increasingly in developing economies reveal that economic growth in success regions is characterised by a conscious policy structure at national, regional and institutional levels aimed at steering universities to engage more actively with their regions (Forrant, 2006; OECD, 2007).

HERANA: What is it all about? Presentations by Nico Cloete and Peter Maassen

We had the opportunity to record these two presentations during a recent book presentation in Oslo. The newest publication in the HERANA series is titled “Universities and Economic Development in Africa” and the editors of the book are Nico Cloete, Tracy Bailey, Pundy Pillay, Ian Bunting and Peter Maassen. You can download the book as a pdf from the HERANA website.

Listen without the Flashplayer

In the presentation two of the editors of the book, professor Nico Cloete and professor Peter Maassen, give background information of the whole process, summarise some of the main findings and reflect on the importance and novelty of the project. The book presentation took place at NORAD, and was led by senior advisor Tove Kvil from NORAD.

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HERANA: More democracy through strenghtening higher education

In this post, dr Thierry Luescher-Mamashela gives his insights into the relationship between development of democracy and higher education in Africa. dr. Luescher-Mamashela works as a post-doctoral fellow at University of Western Cape and a senior researcher at CHET

Higher education strengthens political development and democratisation in Africa in various ways, as three research projects by HERANA have found. While the results of the studies are ambiguous, they reveal opportunities through sustained research to both improve the quality of higher education and support the development of democracy on the continent.

As part of the ‘third wave of democracy’, a great number of African nations embarked on transitions to economic and political liberalisation and democratisation in the 1990s, embracing competitive, multi-party electoral systems within an enabling framework of political and civil rights.

Most recently, the Arab Spring has further raised hopes for the political emancipation and democratisation of countries on the continent. Yet, the global history of democracy – and recent experiences in countries such as Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya and Zimbabwe – shows that the democratisation of state and society is not an event; it is an ongoing process marred by difficulties.

As in the ‘old democracies’ of the West, the political emancipation of the people of the ‘new democracies’ of the East and global South remains in different areas of governance and at varying degrees incomplete (and this is not to mention the even greater incompleteness of people’s economic emancipation).

Thus, complementary to studies on higher education’s contribution to economic development in Africa, a number of researchers affiliated with the universities of Cape Town, Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and the Western Cape, coordinated by the Centre for Higher Education Transformation, investigated higher education’s contribution to democracy in Africa.