Study: 20 Higher Education challenges in Southern Africa

Fifteen countries of the South African Development Community were included in a study. From the study were identified 20 leadership challenges facing the region, governments and institutions. The challenges ranged from improved data collection, access, student success, staffing and funding to policy and planning, capacity, infrastructure, private provision and quality. The challenges identified show the considerable amount of work needed to build a strong and sustainable higher education system across the region. The Southern African Regional Universities Association (SARUA), the organisation representing vice-chancellors of public universities in SADC, commissioned several studies in 2008 designed to provide baseline information on higher education in Southern Africa. The studies were reported earlier this year. Now SARUA has published the first in a Leadership Dialogue Series, titled Leadership Challenges for Higher Education in Southern Africa. The series is edited by SARUA Chief Executive Piyushi Kotecha and the first report is written by her, Pam Watson and Enver Motala. It highlights 20 leadership challenges identified from the 2008 research.

The objectives of the study is to provide evidence to inform higher education policy and practice in Southern Africa, and to broadly disseminate information and ideas. SADC comprises 15 countries with various histories and cultures, and uneven economic and social development. The SARUA research found that SADC has 66 public universities, 119 publicly-funded polytechnics or colleges and 178 private universities or colleges. South Africa has 23 of the public universities and 70% of overall enrollments in the region. Five of the 15 countries – Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland – have a single public university. In other countries, numbers range from two in Malawi and Mauritius to nine in Zimbabwe. Zambia has three public universities, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique have four, Madagascar has six and Tanzania has eight. The 15th SADC country is Seychelles. Private higher education institutions outnumber public institutions in all SADC countries but most enrollments are in public institutions and 72% are in contact study. The report points out that the notion of regional cooperation in higher education in Africa is not new. The earliest agreement was the 1981 Arusha Convention on the recognition of qualifications. The 1997 SADC Protocol on Education has sections devoted to cooperation in higher education and on research and development. The same goals are set by 2007 African Union Harmonisation Policy for Higher Education.

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