June 2011  Volume 24, Issue 5
  International Education Intelligence   
Regional News Printer version of this article    Email your comment to the editor


UNESCO: Raise Tuition Fees, Expand Private Sector in Sub-Saharan Africa

New enrollments at sub-Saharan institutions of higher education in Africa grew by 82 percent in the eight years to 2008, to more than 4.5 million students. But with demand soaring at all levels of education, resources scarce and tertiary costs high, many countries need to consider raising tuition fees and expanding the private sector in higher education, according to a recent report from UNESCO.

Financing Education in Sub-Saharan Africa: Meeting the challenges of expansion, equity and quality was published in May by the Montreal-based UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). While the report focuses on primary education, the costs and financing of secondary and tertiary education are also examined. Writing in the foreword, UIS Director Hendrik van der Pol says the report presents new data highlighting the "tremendous financial commitment of African governments and the international community" to Education for All.

"Over the past 10 years, real expenditure on education has risen by 6% annually across Sub-Saharan Africa. It is often assumed that the resources were used to widen enrollment. Yet, recent data show that many countries also made significant investments to improve their educational services," says van der Pol.

From 1970 to 2008, the number of children in primary school increased 5.5 times from 23 million to 129 million, and secondary school enrollment grew 8.5 times from four million to 36 million. Although it remains relatively small, the report says, tertiary enrollment "had the fastest growth rate among all levels of education over the four decades." It increased 22.3 times, from 200,000 students in 1970 to 4.5 million in 2008.

Enrollment expansion has been accompanied by increased spending on education in most countries, and also increased commitments of national and international stakeholders, the report says. Real spending on education has grown on average by 6.1 percent annually since 2000 among 26 Sub-Saharan African countries with available data. Overseas development assistance for education across the region grew from US$1.1 billion in 2002 to US$2.6 billion in 2008.

"Nonetheless, Sub-Saharan African countries continue to face the dilemma of how best to balance scarce available resources with growing demands for improving the region's education systems," says the report.

- Unesco Institute for Statistics
May 2011

Harmonization Plans for East African Higher Education Hit Roadblocks

The five East African Community (EAC) countries - Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda - plan to harmonize their systems of higher education as they integrate into one trading bloc, but there appears to be significant disagreement over issues of degree length.

The five countries have widely varying degree systems that must be standardized. For example, it takes five years for a student to finish an engineering degree in Kenya, versus three years in Uganda. To pursue a medical degree at a Kenyan university takes five years, a year less than in Tanzania and Uganda. And none of the countries seem willing to adjust the duration of degree study it emerged at a regional higher education forum in Kenya in May organized by the German Academic Exchange Service.

The Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), the organization spearheading the harmonization process, had asked Kenya to consider extending the duration of a medical degree to six years to match countries in the region. Kenya declined, saying the other countries should rather adopt a five-year medical degree.

University World News reports that higher education ministers are also yet to agree on the duration of other programs such as engineering, architecture and the arts. Governments are also still to resolve a stalemate over whether to adopt a single university accreditation system in the bloc, rather than each country having its own system.

- University World News
May 29, 2011


A Plan to Ease the Kenyan Admission Crisis

The Joint Admissions Board (JAB) announced in June that public institutions of higher education in Kenya would be admitting one in three rather than one in four qualified school-leavers, with the needed additional funding coming from the government.

In a bid to ease the Kenyan higher education admission crisis, JAB, which admits students on behalf of the government, said it would implement a double intake of new students and planned to clear an admissions backlog of 40,000 students by 2015.

This year universities will admit 32,611 students who sat the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education in 2009 or 2010, out of 96,000 who qualified. Last year, JAB admitted only 24,000 students. Universities are making arrangements to accommodate the extra students. The 22 newly established constituent colleges set up by Kenya's seven public universities will enroll most of the additional students.

The government also allocated Sh50 million ($595,238) to establish the National Open University of Kenya, enabling more students to undertake their studies online, beginning at the end of the year. In addition, the government is encouraging private universities to increase their enrollment numbers.

- The Standard
June 7, 0211


Nigerians Abroad

The number of Nigerian students traveling abroad for higher studies increases every year. Many do so for reasons of prestige, however most are simply trying to avoid a domestic system known for corruption and with a limited number of high-quality institutions.

Currently, Nigerians are the number one global source of internationally mobile African students, followed by Ghana. Particularly popular among Nigerian students are technical courses relevant to the country’s growth industries. At Northampton University in the United Kingdom, for example, over 100 students are said to be enrolled in programs covering business, engineering, law, oil and gas, as well as environmental management. Another popular choice among students at other U.K. institutions is public health. Expertise in all of these areas is in high demand in Nigeria.

Because English is the main language of instruction in Nigeria, students from the West African country tend to assimilate well in international study environments, and they also have a reputation as enthusiastic and able students, making them a good demographic for overseas recruiters willing to take the time to understand the country and its system-of-education intricacies.

- Daily Trust
May 19, 2011


Canadian University Partners with Rwandan and Kenyan Universities

The University of Western Ontario has expanded existing ties to higher education in Africa by partnering with two universities to assist in strengthening their strategic plans to better deal with external stakeholders, such as government bodies.

The partnership with the National University of Rwanda and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture & Technology was forged through the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and the Association of African Universities, through a $2 million agreement with the Canadian International Development Agency. In total, 15 partnerships were created across Canadian and African post secondary institutions.

- Western News
June 9, 2011

South Sudan

Universities in a New Nation

Currently, there are nine public and 16 private universities in South Sudan, which will separate from northern Sudan in July to become an independent state. Of the nine public universities, only five are functioning while the remaining four are newly instituted and have neither the infrastructure nor the capacity to admit students in the near future.

The five universities that are functioning enroll more than 25,000 students between them, about 18,000 of whom study at the University of Juba in the new nation's capital. Among the total student population, approximately 12,000 are from northern Sudan. In the majority of colleges and schools in southern universities, the number of northern academics average 65 percent. In specialist institutions such as veterinary and medical colleges, the percentage of northern academics is higher and may exceed 90 percent. On the flip side of the equation, there are 33,000 south Sudanese students studying in northern universities.

In the South, approximately 30,000 students will sit university entrance exams this year and an estimated 30,000 others are taking the exams in the north. Add to this approximately 8,000 students sitting equivalent university entrance exams in East Africa and the figure soars to around 70,000 students who will be looking for university places in the fall of this year.

Considering the recent return from the north of southern universities, which had relocated at the height of the decades-long civil war, and the reluctance of the great majority of northern academics and students to relocate, these universities are going to face immense challenges after independence. According to University World News, without political will, clear vision and commitment of resources, higher education in South Sudan may collapse in the first five years of transition to independence.

- University World News
June 12, 2011


Largest University Closed

Togo's government ordered the indefinite closure of the country's largest university in May, following student protests. Students have been demanding better food and reconsideration of a new curriculum for which they say they are not prepared. The University of Lome has approximately 12,000 students.

- Associated Press
May 27, 2011

Printer friendly version of this article      Email your comments to the editor