Магазин АфрикаIn the expansion of higher education, the establishment of private, for-profit universities has become “almost a defining principle”. So says Adebayo Olukoshi, director of the United Nations’ African Institute for Economic Development and Planning, who warned that the growth of the private sector was eroding universities’ role in the advancement of the continent. The essence of the university, Olukoshi argued, “rests more in the promotion of public purpose and not of private gain”, and rediscovering this mission will enable higher education to reclaim its rightful role in “the mobilisation of the citizenship which we require for the renaissance of the continent”.
One thing that is certain is that there has been huge expansion of private provision of higher education in sub-Saharan Africa during the past 25 years. the rate of growth in the private sector in recent decades has been much faster. According to the 2009 World Bank report Accelerating Catch-up: Tertiary Education for Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa, the number of private universities and colleges, including for-profit and not-for-profit institutions, mushroomed from 24 to an estimated 468 over the same period.
More than half (53 per cent), it estimates, are found in francophone countries, with the largest numbers of institutions found in Senegal (41) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (39). About a third (34 per cent) are in anglophone countries, with 79 in South Africa alone.
The proportion of African undergraduates being educated in private universities has also increased. But since the majority of these institutions have fewer than 1,000 students, public universities are still in the lead on this measure. Private institutions, particularly for-profit ones, tend to offer courses that require limited infrastructure investment and are cheaper to deliver. The World Bank notes that this is a trend “that is unlikely to provide the knowledge and core skills needed if African nations are to boost competitiveness and growth”.
Nigeria is one of the latest countries to take action against private universities that operate illegally. In August, the country’s National Universities Commission published a list of 57 institutions that had been shut down in recent years. The list of illegal universities was published regularly “in order to stigmatise them and make sure nobody uses them again”.