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Africa’s HE sector & int’l student recruitment hindered by fear of losing autonomy

Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Ninara/Flickr

Several initiatives are underway to guide internationalisation and harmonisation of HE on the continent

Delegates at the network’s ninth conference taking place in Nairobi, Kenya were also told that some institutions are afraid of losing academic freedom and autonomy if they open up to a liberalised curriculum.

“The lack of a comprehensive framework for internationalisation continues to let [Africa] down”

Additionally, such a conservative approach means that institutions are retaining a domestic-orientated curriculum that is incapable of attracting international students and engaging in meaningful exchange activities. 

“This, combined with a lack of a comprehensive framework for internationalisation in many African countries has left the continent lagging behind the rest of the world in attracting foreign students and [encouraging] mobility among students and faculty,” chair of the ANIE board Goski Alabi explained.

The fear of loss of authority is also slowing efforts to harmonisation – an important objective that would accelerate intra-Africa internationalisation, added Alabi.

She pointed out that harmonisation does not reduce institutional autonomy, nor does it exempt holders of foreign academic qualifications from complying with the legal requirements and conditions for practising their professions in the country.

Europe, Alabi observed, has managed to overcome such obstacles through the Bologna Process and the Lisbon Strategy.

“While Africa has adopted several initiatives to spur internalisation of her education… the lack of a comprehensive framework for internationalisation continues to let us down,” Alabi noted.

According to the chairperson, internationalisation at all levels of HE is increasingly important and has led to a global “shift” from cooperation to competition among countries and institutions in a bid to attract more students.

Several initiatives are underway to guide internationalisation and harmonisation of HE on the continent, however, including the Harmonisation of African Higher Education Quality Assurance and Accreditation initiative, which is funded by the European Union in partnership with the African Union.

The publication of the African Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance – awaiting the endorsement of the African Union later this year – could also contribute significantly to “helping end the tension”, Albi added.

As a starting point, she advised institutions to have international education explicitly stated as one of the top priorities in their strategic plans, and in their mission statements.

“Does your institution have a campus-wide committee or task force in place [focused] on advancing internationalisation efforts?

“Reforms building a strong intra-regional and inter-regional identity… is what Africa needs”

“Has [it] formally assessed the impact of its international education efforts in the last five years, and has [it] developed global learning outcomes and a plan for assessing for them?” she asked.

According to William Ogara, director of the Centre for International Programmes and Links at the University of Nairobi, problems in the harmonisation of HE require continental level reforms through initiatives such as the HAQAA to overcome obstacles brought about by cultural and language differences in Africa.

“Reforms building a strong intra-regional and inter-regional identity among the people of Africa to promote mobility and recognition of qualifications across states is what Africa needs,” Ogara added.

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