Pri­vate higher ed­u­ca­tion

ChinAfrica - - Africa Report -

Pri­vate higher ed­u­ca­tion could also pro­vide grad­u­ates with op­por­tu­ni­ties to take ad­van­tage of the con­ti­nent’s eco­nomic po­ten­tial. The low num­ber of grad­u­ates in agri­cul­ture is strik­ing, for in­stance. Ac­cord­ing to a 2011 study by the World Bank, only 2 per­cent of African stu­dents spe­cial­ized in agri­cul­ture in 2010, though the sec­tor con­trib­uted 13 per­cent to Africa’s GDP.

Finding high-level man­age­rial can­di­dates for agribusi­ness is al­most im­pos­si­ble in Africa, a se­nior man­ager at a large re­cruit­ment firm who re­quired to be anony­mous told Africa in Fact. The lack of grad­u­ates in ex­trac­tive in­dus­tries was also strik­ing, given the im­por­tant role they play in many African coun­tries. Pri­vate ed­u­ca­tion could fill this void, leav­ing the gov­ern­ment with the du­ties of qual­ity con­trol and over­sight.

David Hornsby, Pro­fes­sor of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions at the Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand, South Africa, told Africa in Fact African gov­ern­ments are fac­ing pres­sure to in­crease their investment in higher ed­u­ca­tion, but they are cash-strapped. Pri­vate fund­ing will be re­quired if ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion around the con­ti­nent is to be ex­tended.

Crit­ics say that pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions, par­tic­u­larly for­profit ones, of­fer cour­ses that re­quire lim­ited in­fras­truc­tural investment and are cheaper to de­liver. They of­ten rely on part-time aca­demics from pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions. And their profit-mak­ing mo­ti­va­tion may af­fect the qual­ity of the cour­ses of­fered, as well as the de­grees awarded. In 2013, for in­stance, some 66 doc­tor­ates awarded by the Kam­pala In­ter­na­tional Univer­sity in the pre­vi­ous two years had not met re­quired aca­demic stan­dards and were de­clared in­valid by the Uganda Na­tional Coun­cil for Higher Ed­u­ca­tion, ac­cord­ing to a re­port pub­lished last year on the web­site.

To be ef­fec­tive, pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties will need to be sub­jected to pub­lic reg­u­la­tion and mon­i­tor­ing. If gov­ern­ments across the con­ti­nent per­mit pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties to be es­tab­lished, they will need to com­mit to es­tab­lish­ing a ro­bust mon­i­tor­ing and eval­u­a­tion frame­work to pro­tect the in­tegrity of the system.

Pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties can play an im­por­tant role in rais­ing the con­ti­nent’s ed­u­ca­tional pro­file if they are seen as com­ple­men­tary to pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions, rather than as in com­pe­ti­tion with them.

(This is an edited ver­sion of the ar­ti­cle that first ap­peared in Africa in Fact, the jour­nal of Good Gov­er­nance Africa, a South Africa-based re­search and ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion) (The au­thor is head of coun­try risk at Rand Mer­chant Bank in Johannesburg, South Africa)

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