Higher Education in Africa : The International Dimension
by Damtew Teferra and Jane Knight, eds.
Centre for Higher Education, Boston College and Association of African
Universities, 2008, 584 pages, ISBN 978-99-8858-940-9
Centre for Higher Education, Boston College and Association of African
Universities, 2008, 584 pages, ISBN 978-99-8858-940-9
What is the connection between economic globalization and internationalization of higher education? How does the connection influence the manner in which scholars articulate internationalization of higher education in and for developing countries? The nature and character of higher education in Africa today manifests its historical linkages to Africa’s colonial past. In the 1960s and 1970s, the language of ‘Development and Modernization’ defined the linkages as necessary. Implied here was the public role that higher education institutions in Africa were supposed to play in the development of the new nations through various forms of assistance from the former colonial powers. The international dimension of higher education in Africa is therefore not as new as the tone of some of the literature may misleadingly imply. However, globalization has heralded a new phase in these relationships. In the 1980s, a sense of despair dominated the discourse on higher education, especially its public dimensions. By the mid- 1990s, private higher education had come of age. In particular, donors lobbied for national policies to promote private higher education as the saviour to address the increasing social demand for higher education in the continent. Empirical evidence rarely informed these assertions.
The emergence of ‘internationalization of higher education’ therefore presents a continuation of debates on the relationship between higher education in Africa and its connections to higher education in the industrial north. Underneath these debates are issues related to the direction and growth of higher education in the continent. The pessimists question the difference between the historical linkages and the ones that internationalization promises to bring to higher education in Africa. Central to the pessimists’ questioning are doubts of the capacity of internationalization to engender the development of an African higher education system, representing the values and aspirations of African people. They question the possibilities of higher education in Africa having a reciprocal engagement with higher education institutions from the developed countries. The optimists point to internationalization and the possibilities it offers for ‘brain gain’ to developing countries, accruing from greater student mobility. The book under review reflects on these two positions.
The book is divided into three sections of nineteen chapters. The first section addresses conceptual and contextual issues to internationalization of higher education in Africa. The authors forward and analyze the parameters for defining internationalization as it applies to higher education in Africa. As implied in the introduction, one issue that needs unpacking is the difference in perspective between the ‘international dimension of higher education in Africa’ and the ‘internationalization of higher education in Africa’. This conceptual problematique is taken up by Knight in the first chapter, where the complexities and realities facing internationalization of higher education are addressed by unpacking the conceptual definitions of globalization and internationalization. The author conceptualizes internationalization to the extent that it is changing higher education globally while globalization defines the character of internationalization. Emerging global forces such as ICT drive internationalization, globalization-led massification, privatization, corporatization and commercialization of higher education.
To this extent, internationalization has the same economic implications as globalization. Moreover, if globalization is a new form of imperialism, then higher education internationalization is part of this process. The author attempts to distinguish globalization and internationalization in the sense that education is one of the sectors that is impacted by globalization; but since internationalization is conceptualized as a process of integrating an intercultural, international and global dimension into the purpose and functions of education, the question of Africa’s contribution to this process remains a nagging issue. What is important is the recognition that globalization and internationalization are not new or neutral processes. Nor have their generic antecedents such as modernization and civilization been in the past. In terms of higher education, internationalization has had more to do with sucking the whole architecture of higher education structures of less developed countries to the designs of higher education institutions of the developed countries for commercial and cultural interests. These designs may not be different from the cultural and social rationales that justified internationalization of higher education during the age of ‘modernization’.
Chapter 2 by Teferra presents the international dimension of higher education in Africa. But the question of the African higher education dimension in global higher education remains unanswered. How has African higher education or higher education in Africa exerted its influence on the international higher education arena? The author acknowledges this concern by tracing the internationalization of higher education in Africa from ancient times, when higher education flourished in Africa at such centres as Timbuktu, Ethiopia and Egypt. The second phase was the introduction of formal education during the colonial period that saw the Europeanization of higher education in Africa. The post-colonial phase has deepened dependency relationships through various networks, partnerships and funding. Hence, the present stage of ‘internationalization of higher education’ is not different but a continuation of this historical process. In fact, the long period of external meddling in issues of policy and funding have had the singular aim of shaping higher education institutions to fit into the internationalization paradigm. The skewed nature of the issues that the author discusses here is evidence of this trend. These issues include the nature of academic networks, the direction of student flows, and the complexities involved in brain drain and brain gain. The nature and type of knowledge flows, the illusion of quality in offshore campuses in Africa, the emergence and glorification of private higher education and its questionable quality, the role of student mobility, ICTs and GATS in fuelling internationalization all operate in a manner that pushes African higher education institutions to the periphery.
In Chapter 3, Weeks completes the conceptual discussions on internationalization by presenting a comparative overview of the national responses and approaches. The author traces the development of internationalization of higher education in Africa from the colonial period to the era of privatization, both in their national and international contexts. The national context includes a country’s socio-political and economic condition, higher education policy, financing policies, employment of foreign staff and the working of national commissions for higher education, especially in regard to accreditation and quality assurance. The presence of foreign academics in African institutions and the migration of African academics to western countries are also aspects of this context. Again, it would be interesting to show trends in this incoming and outgoing mobility of academics in terms of professional ranks, academic qualifications, areas of professional expertise, and research undertakings.
Section Two provides descriptions of experiences in the internationalization of higher education in eleven African countries: Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. With regard to Botswana, Molutsi and Kobedi contend that the national response to internationalization has been the development of national regulatory frameworks to ensure the quality of higher education. The Tertiary Education Council (TEC) and the Ministry of Education have spearheaded the development of the National Qualifications and Credit Framework (NQCF). Other manifestations have been the growth of private universities, student mobility and franchise arrangements. However, the growth and uptake of private universities is low due to the dominance of public provision and the comparatively small size of the higher education sector.
In Egypt, internationalization has manifested itself through the establishment of foreign-owned private universities, starting with the American University in Cairo, which was founded in 1919. A second aspect is the adoption of English as a medium of instruction in the private universities, thus broadening curricular reach and student mobility, limited over the years by the use of Arabic as the medium of instruction in educational institutions. More importantly, national politics and the standing of Egypt in the Middle East have played a bigger role in increasing the pace of higher education internationalization. The case of Egypt also shows how internationalization of higher education is used to entrench political, economic and cultural dominance. The United States has for example run special scholarships administered by USAID since 1949. This is a series of cultural and academic programmes using Egypt as an entry point to the Middle East. Comparatively, USAID gives more higher education scholarships to Egypt, a relatively rich country in Africa, than to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
In the case of Ethiopia, Tesfaye and Ayalew document how a typically African indigenous higher education system, an African system of knowledge production using an indigenous language of instruction and rooted in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Islamic Mosque, has blended with and evolved alongside western influence to define the character and content of internationalization. Consequently, in Ethiopia, economic and political considerations have defined the nature and character of internationalization in higher education, limiting the impact this may have on eroding the indigenous character of its socio-economic and academic orientations. Besides, the fact that the country is the headquarters of the African Union and the Economic Commission for Africa has tended to attract a number of regional and international academic and regional institutions that have given internationalization of higher education in Ethiopia a regional orientation. The Higher Education Relevance and Quality Agency (HERQA) and the Higher Education Strategy Centre (HESC) provide oversight in terms of accreditation and quality assurance. With respect to Ghana, Paul Effah and Senadza argue that the government initiates and directs the process of internationalization through the ministries of finance, education and foreign affairs.
In Kenya, government-initiated reforms have constituted the major drive for internationalization in the country, in terms of the growth of private higher education institutions, programmes and liberalization of the higher education sector to accommodate greater participation by international providers. Consequently, internationalization of higher education in Kenya can be assessed at the institutional level, through the commitments to embrace internationalization as a feature of enhancing institutional status, increased partnerships with foreign countries and institutions for research and programme financing, increased growth in the number of foreign owned or linked private universities and franchises. To this extent, the number of institutions and programmes offering teaching-only components, with curricula of vocational nature, compared to the establishment of research programmes, dominate the internationalization trend. The second dominant aspect is the increased outbound mobility of Kenyan students who seek higher education outside. Lastly, there is the emerging trend of inclusion of foreign curriculum content in local universities, thus bringing up the question of whether internationalization could have any convergence with relevance. For example, Kenyan public universities have embraced the establishment of Confucius Institutes with Chinese assistance. However, establishing programmes teaching African languages do not feature much in the institutions’ strategic plans.
In Mauritius, internationalization started as a cultural project in the 1970s, with the establishment of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute to spearhead academic and cultural exchanges in Asia. However, the challenges of globalization have forced Mauritius to adopt an economic rationale of creating higher education institutions – public, private and foreign – to foster economic and social development. Intensification of regional initiatives in higher education has marked internationalization in Mauritius. Nevertheless, there is no differentiation in private higher education institutions, with thirty-three of them offering/operating programmes for other foreign institutions under franchise agreements. In Mozambique, internationalization has led to the growth of the higher education sector. At independence in 1975, university, the University of Lourenco Marques (renamed Eduardo Mondlane University after independence). By 2005, the number of higher education institutions had grown to sixteen. Three issues have characterized the internationalization of higher education in Mozambique. First has been the information access, especially of scientific journals, through both library collections and the internet, although internet connectivity is low. The second dimension has been in the area of recruitment of foreign staff. Lastly, there has been an outflow of students and staff abroad in search of better opportunities. There is also the phenomenon, as in other African countries, of establishing satellite campuses of foreign universities, often to fortify post-colonial relations. Religious affiliated universities also operate for purposes of expanding and consolidating their host religions in Mozambique.
Nigeria, with the largest population in Africa, has the largest HE system in sub- Saharan Africa, consisting of 308 institutions of varied categories. Three agencies regulate the sector: the National Universities Commission, the National Board for Technical Education and the National Commission for Colleges of Education. However, unlike in other African countries where private universities have grown fast, the size of the private university sector is smaller, compared to the public sector. Accreditation for the establishment of private universities picked seriously from 1999 when the Federal Government vested the power to receive and approve applications for the establishment of private universities in the National University Commission (NUC). But still, Federal Government in Nigeria restricts and regulates the capacity of the institutions to generate revenues from tuition fees, with federal universities being tuition free (p342). Such regulations seem to scuttle the rate of growth of private universities. Munzali and Obaje document these trends in Chapter 11.
Nigerian authorities have resisted attempts to privatize public universities and allow them to charge market tuition fees, as has happened in other African countries. The authors argue that this situation has prevailed owing to the failure of the authorities to appreciate the fact that internationalization can help improve the Nigerian higher education sector. One obvious manifestation of internationalization is the practice of hiring expatriate teaching staff above the rank of senior lecturer under the Nigerian Expatriate Supplementation Scheme (NESS), continuation of a similar scheme operated by the British government in the 1960s and 1970s, as the British Expatriate Supplement-ation Scheme (BESS). There are also various programmes to enhance faculty and student mobility. Nigeria has also limited the degree of internationalization by the desire of the institutions to remain relevant while accepting certain aspects of internationalization that they deem to be beneficial. For example, universities have increasingly localized curricula in the search for relevance since the 1970s. The Nigerian case however raises two interesting scenarios as regards internationalization and the need to advance an African agenda in higher education. The first has to do with the scheme of attracting foreign expatriate staff while highly qualified staff from Nigeria work outside the country. A related issue has to do with the operation of NESS. The annual supplementation given to expatriate staff from USA and Europe is more than twice that given to expatriate staff from African countries. Technically, this implies that expatriate staff from outside Africa is valued higher than staff from other African countries.
Mbaye, writing on Senegal, argues that the historical position of the country as the focal point of French colonialism in West Africa has influenced the character of internationalization. Coupled with this is Dakar’s long history of academic and scholarly enterprise associated with scholars like Cheikh Anta Diop and Léopold Sédar Senghor. In the context of French West and Central Africa, the political instability in these countries made Dakar the favourite destination for those in search of higher education opportunities. The students from French-speaking West and Central African countries account for almost all the students categorized as foreign, and hence counted as international students in Dakar. This scenario, which also applies to other sub-Saharan African countries, of regional students being categorized as foreign at a time when regional blocs are pursuing policies that give such students national status in higher education, is intriguing. Besides, the need to conform to ‘international’ higher education standards has forced Senegal to reform its higher education system to be in harmony with Anglo-Saxon practices. However, this has meant that some initiatives in higher education that have stood the test of internal validity have been scrapped.
The chapter on South Africa, by Jansen, McClellan and Greene, documents how the continued effects of apartheid define the character of higher education internationalization. The majority of institutions based in the rural areas remain underresourced. What is critically important to higher education in post-apartheid South Africa is the fact that higher education reform went hand in hand with the setting up of institutions to respond to the issues thrown up by the reform process. This is different from the emergency-like responses that have dominated other cases in the book. Reform began with the publication of white papers and the First National Plan for Higher Education. These policies were followed by the formation and strengthening of institutions to oversee reforms in the sector. Notable in this respect have been the Council for Higher Education (CHE) and the introduction of a National Qualification Framework (NQF) to standardize university qualifications. What has been uniquely important in higher education reform in South Africa is the embedding of internationalization into the reform process and the quest to develop an African response and contribution to the internationalization process. South African higher education institutions remain the only ones more attractive to foreign students on a large scale than any other country in Africa. However, as the authors acknowledge, student mobility meets resistance from the country’s black majority, who are still not having adequate access to institutions and marketable academic programmes, aside from the issue of underfunding.
Johnson Ishengoma, in presenting the Tanzanian case, argues that the country has embraced internationalization for purposes of addressing gaps in science and technology. Policy documents articulating and guiding this process include: the 1995 Education and Training Policy; Tanzania’s Development Vision 2025 and the National Higher Education Policy of 1999, which emphasizes the need for curricular reorientation towards science and technology and increased student exchange and mobility. Besides student mobility and faculty exchanges, internationalization of higher education in Tanzania finds greater expression in the area of partnerships, especially in medical research and other science and technology areas.
The last section consists of five chapters on broad issues emerging from the case studies. In chapter 15, Juma Shabani focuses on the role of regional actors in accelerating higher education internationalization in Africa. The thrust of Shabani’s arguments centres on the likely marginalization of higher education in Africa by the internationalization processes. This is due to the various infrastructural challenges that the sector is facing. The author identifies five areas in which African countries have to build their strengths in order to benefit from internationalization. These are: building core institutional capacity, improving access to ICT facilities and open resources, strengthening research capacity, improving quality assurance and accreditation mechanisms, and promoting academic mobility. The problem with these prescriptions is that, aside from South Africa and maybe Egypt, the countries of Africa are not able to develop a homegrown response.
Chapter 16 delves into examining trends, conceptualizations and challenges associated with student mobility in and out of Africa. Besides documenting the number of outbound African students, the authors address challenges related to capturing data for inbound students and defining international students, given the establishment of foreign-owned and operated campuses in Africa. More troublesome is how to classify mobile students within African countries as foreign, given the policy shifts towards giving national status to students within regional economic blocs. In Chapter17, Sehoole offers a comparative analysis of internationalization trends and challenges in Africa. What is important here is the recognition that internationalization as presented is a continuation of an old relationship in higher education between Africa and the West. The other important assertion is that the degree of a country’s integration into the global system determines how that country’s higher education system benefits from internationalization. Hence, given the peripheral status that African countries occupy in the global system, one can conclude that their higher education systems are unlikely to benefit from internationalization. Internationalization therefore presents itself as a double-edged sword for higher education institutions in Africa. On the one hand, internationalization is an inevitable process and African higher education institutions are advised to embrace the process. On the other hand, there is the danger that the process erodes the capacity of weaker higher education institutions to remain nationally relevant, forcing them to cede their public social roles to foreign providers. This will be a return to the scenario of the 1960s and 1970s. Then, African countries relied on universities in the former colonial countries for higher education and workforce training. The difference now will be that most of these universities are based in Africa.
Chapters 18 and 19 are concluding remarks, often reinforcing observations already discussed. In chapter 18, Knight discusses how African countries and higher education institutions are responding to internationalization, compared to other parts of the world. Based on an empirical study, the chapter reports on African institutions’ prioritization of various aspects of internationalization compared to other regions. The last chapter by Damtew recaps the various challenges that marginalize African higher education in the face of internationalization.
This book is timely, both in terms of production and in terms of content. Its value lies not in its description of the process of internationalization of higher education, but in its capacity to draw attention of those engaged in higher education in Africa to the likely implications of internationalization. In so doing, the authors consistently point out the potentials and perils that confront African higher education in the era of internationalization. The other important aspect of the work lies in the issues mentioned but left undeveloped in terms of their implications to African higher education. I will briefly point out these issues. First is the whole issue of conceptualization and intersection of the twin processes of internationalization and globalization. The connection between the two is dealt with in the work but not the implications. It is now widely acknowledged that liberalization-led globalization has been largely destructive to the economies of developing countries. The ‘Davos’ demonstrations that have been witnessed every other year attest to the resistance that globalization is facing from marginalized populations and countries. Are we likely to witness the ‘Davos’ scenarios as resistance to intern-ationalization of higher education? There are indications in the book that such a scenario is likely, although its scale is not predictable. This include cases of African students facing violent threats in Europe, and the resistance from some African countries, such as in South Africa and Egypt, to students from neighbouring African countries accessing their higher education institutions.
Mobility and direction of knowledge and the inequalities that accompany the process is another issue. However, accompanying physical student mobility is the movement of knowledge with varied economic premiums. Movement of knowledge takes place in the type and level of knowledge that students from different nationalities can access in other countries, the types of academic programmes on offer through franchise arrangements, and even the size and quality of institutions relocated to developing countries. In most of sub- Saharan Africa, most of the offshore programmes are in the area of business education and other related vocational courses. There has also been a trend towards setting language laboratories in African universities, especially by China and Japan. This continues to give prominence and economic premium to foreign languages in African universities, while marginalizing African languages. There is a sense, therefore, in which internationalization of higher education continues to perpetuate past inequalities in terms of knowledge mobility and utility and create new horizons of exclusion in terms of access to certain academic programmes that have high economic premium in the era of the knowledge economy.
The other issue relates to quality assurance and accreditation mechanisms. All the case studies in the book have illustrated how countries are trying to come up with new quality assurance frameworks to safeguard national interests. Two issues come to the fore. The first is the degree to which new quality assurance frameworks germane to the internationalization regimes cohere with the relevance of higher education as a national project. The second is the divergence in developing institutional level quality assurance processes to reflect the spirit of internationalization and the oneducation areas and quality frameworks in Africa. It seems to me that the former process will inevitably collide with the latter, since one looks to an amorphous international higher education while the other tries to develop homegrown responses to internationalization. Coupled with this is the threat that resurgent regional higher education blocs in Africa face from established ones like those in the European Union. These are all issues of concern if internationalization has to be a beneficial and not a destructive process to African higher education.
Africa Review of Books / Revue Africaine des Livres
Volume 06 N° 01, Mars 2010