Four of the highest recipients of Olympics medals are also permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The US, UK, Russia and China rank on top not necessarily because they’re superpowers, but because they field competitors in nearly every sport. By winning five medals in taekwondo, African countries demonstrated they too can diversify into new sports and excel.
Though an imperfect analogy, one could apply this lesson to the performance of African universities in international rankings. In one ranking, only ten of the world’s 1,000 leading universities are from Africa.
Another survey has South Africa as the home of eight of sub-Saharan Africa’s top 10 universities. Many top African universities were created to train functionaries of the civil service. This influenced their curricula and teaching methods. The civil service that African countries have inherited from the colonial era emphasized conformity, not creativity and innovation. Most African countries apply standardized criteria that force universities to conform to the mission of training graduates for the public sector. This is their main sport. But Africa’s demand for higher education has changed in two important ways.
First, population growth has increased the demand for higher education. Second, much of the demand for graduates has shifted from government to the private sector.
The latter requires entrepreneurial people train to drive change and promote economic dynamism. Africa’s higher education is hobbled by its historical legacy of functional separation between teaching, research and commercialization of new products. Colonial administrations created research institutes to address local challenges.
The supply of graduates was done by their home universities in the UK or France. It was only at the time of decolonization that training African civil servants became urgent. The legacy of function separation and focus on public service has two debilitating attributes.
Universities are defined in law as predominantly teaching institutions with little opportunity for research. Without doing research, lecturers can easily become recyclers of outmoded ideas.
This means that every successive graduating class is equipped with less relevant knowledge than the previous one. Agencies The decline in academic standards among faculty and their students is therefore built into the system. The crisis is more acute in the rapidly-changing fields of science, technology and medicine. These trends create loss of confidence in African universities and often drive students to seek educational opportunities overseas. Agencies