IIE Networker - Spring 2013 - (Page 21)

FEATURE: THE ROLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT Higher Education and Different Notions of Development By Nico Cloete, Peter Maassen, and Teboho Moja AN UNDERLYING ASSUMPTION in many development aid programs is that when it comes to realizing sustainable development, Africa must learn from other, more advanced parts of the world—traditionally fi rst and foremost the West, and now also the East. Th is assumption is an expression of what can be called the African exceptionalism that dominates large parts of academic literature, including the literature on higher education. However, based on a long-term research project of the Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa (HERANA1) we argue that reflecting and studying higher education and its many complex relationships with development in Africa shows that there are actually many factors that affect sustainable development. Th is short overview focuses on the notions of the role of higher education in development, and the interactions between higher education and international development aid. Following independence, universities in Africa were expected to be key producers of the human resource needs for their home countries. The now-famous Accra declaration underscored the importance of the university in newly independent African countries by decreeing that all universities must be development universities. 2 While many nationalist African academics enthusiastically supported the role of the “development university,” the idea sat uncomfortably with expatriates and some worldly African academics. This latter group was more comfortable with the traditional model of the university as a selfgoverning institution that predominated in the West at the time. Despite the rhetoric about the development university, African governments did little to promote the development role of universities. In part, this was because many of these governments had not developed a coherent development model. In addition, many had become increasingly embroiled in internal power struggles, along with the external politics of the Cold War. Many also followed guidelines set by funding agencies such as the World Bank. Based on the “rate of return to investments in education” study (Psacharopoulos et al. 1986), the World Bank concluded that development efforts in Africa should be refocused to concentrate on primary education, which contributed to dramatic decreases in per capita spending on higher education (World Bank 2009: xxvii). Neglect of higher education led to the disestablishment of research centers, medical schools, agricultural centers, telecommunication and technological development, business training centers, and other areas which are critical to the development of African societies and their economies. This led to a notion that higher education was a “luxury institution”—nice to have, but not necessary—in part because it was difficult to see what contribution universities were making to development, but also in part because of prolonged economic crises and the high costs associated with higher education. During the 1990s, the increased global emphasis on human rights, driven through multilateral agencies such as the UN and UNESCO, started emphasizing poverty reduction and improved basic health care. This movement culminated in 2000 when all UN member states and many major international organizations adopted the eight Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015. The demand for universities to become implementing agencies for the MDGs is well captured in the following statement: “Universities should use existing resources and capacities—however abundant or meager—to orientate their activities more directly towards supporting UN Millennium Development Goals… Strategies should be more directly linked to government targets and international higher education MDG collaboration should be forged at the national and regional levels.”3 Underpinning this approach is a very direct, instrumentalist view on the relationship between the university and its immediate surrounding community. During the early 2000s, some influential voices started calling, in more analytical terms, for the revitalization of the African university (Sawyerr 2004). The World Bank itself, influenced by Castells’ (1991) path-breaking paper The University System: Engine of development in the new world economy, started embracing the role of higher education in the knowledge economy, and its role in realizing sustainable development (World Bank 2002). This has subsequently been strengthened by World Bank-sponsored studies such as Bloom et al. (2006) which demonstrated a relationship between investment in higher education and gross domestic product in Africa. Additional evidence has been generated through studies by the African Development Bank (Kamara & Nyende 2007) and the World Bank (2009). Following independence, universities in Africa were expected to be key producers of the human resource needs for their home countries. The HERANA project has introduced an analytical framework of four models to conceptualize the role of universities in economic development: 1. The University as Ancillary: Embedded in this model is a focus on political/ economic starting-points for development. It is assumed that there is only a minimal need for a strong (scientific) knowledge basis for development strategies and policies. It is also assumed that it is not necessary for the university to play a direct role in development since the emphasis is on investments in basic healthcare, agricultural production and primary education. 2. The University as Self-Governing Institution: This model portrays the 21 http://www.iie.org/iienetworker

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IIE Networker - Spring 2013

A Message from Allan E. Goodman
News
2013 IIE Andrew Heiskell Awards for Innovation in International Education
IIENetworker Minister of Education Interview Series
Higher Education and Diff erent Notions of Development
Advancing Development Through International Partnerships
Developing a Gender Studies Program in Georgia
Higher Education and Community Development
The University of Cologne’s Capacity-Building Project in Myanmar
Promoting International Development by Collaborating with Industry
International Development and Higher Education
Harnessing the Power of Women with Disabilities
Community College Global Partnerships Bring Local Benefi ts
Building vs. Being
Higher Education and Development through Cultural Relations
The Institute of International Education’s Work in Iraq and Myanmar
Re-Envisioning Internationalization
Advertisers Index

IIE Networker - Spring 2013

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