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France and South Africa top African mobility

Demand for quality education continues to grow across Africa as lack of funding, inadequate infrastructure and demotivated faculty drive Africans to study abroad, according to a study by Campus France, the French government’s higher education promotion arm.

Morocco, Nigeria and Algeria are said to be the top student source countries in Africa

In 2010, 380,376 Africans studied abroad accounting for 6% of all higher education students in the region and a tenth of total global mobility numbers.

Historical ties and growing inter-regional mobility reflect trends in destination choices, with France topping the list with 29.2% of all students, followed by South Africa with 15.1% and the UK and the US with 9.7% each. However, as economic trade with Asia grows, the study also highlights the increasing educational influence of China.

Students from sub-Saharan Africa or the Maghreb represented 43% of France’s 126,286 foreign students in 2011-2012

According to the French Ministry of Education, students from sub-Saharan Africa or the Maghreb represented 43% of France’s 126,286 foreign students in 2011-2012. Sciences, economics, humanities, law and medicine were the most common fields of study.

France’s dominance however has slipped by 1% each year since 2006, as students increasingly choose to study within their own region – a trend that “amplifies every year” according to the report. With language a key pull factor, South Africa is the biggest study destination for English speakers, Morocco for French speakers and Angola for Portuguese.

Of the three, Campus France says South Africa has the clearest plan to attract foreign students. It also boasts less complex visa processes than Europe or the US, higher standards of living than neighbouring countries and viable career opportunities.

The study also shows China as a major player, not influencing outward mobility but, as the continent’s largest trading partner, establishing strong educational links. Since 2000, the Chinese government has doubled scholarship offerings and established 31 Confucius Institutes on university campuses in Botswana, Cameroon, Egypt and Liberia among others.

Since 2000 the Chinese government has doubled scholarship offerings and established 31 Confucius Institutes on African university campuses

It says Africans are motivated to study abroad by a “desire to broaden their cultural and intellectual horizons, or research knowledge and skills that will give them a competitive advantage in the job market”, and because “universities in their country of origin have insufficient resources or don’t offer the training they seek”.

Morocco (with 10.5%), Nigeria (9%) and Algeria (5.9%) are said to be the top student source countries in Africa followed by Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Tunisia.

Despite its shortcomings, Africa’s higher education system has important assets claims the report, which may be incentivising interregional mobility. These include a high level of cooperation between universities within and across borders (with many relationships with France, Germany, Britain and the US) and strong community involvement to create and operate private institutions.

In a bid to increase African institutions’ capacity to provide the training needed for regional development, the World Bank will launch a US$430 million Africa “Centres of Excellence” initiative next month. Under the coordination of the Association of African Universities, the project will target seven to 10 higher education institutions in West and Central Africa, where 10 to 15 centres of excellence will be selected to focus on training and applied research in areas of relevance to Africa’s development.

“A regional approach to higher education in Africa offers the best way to build and sustain excellence in tertiary education in African economies,” Kavita Watsa, the bank’s senior communications officer for Africa, told University World News.

 

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