Anchor internationalisation in country contexts (Africa)

Experts at the recent 19th International Conference on Private Higher Education in Africa, hosted virtually on September 2 at St Mary’s University in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, under the theme “African Higher Education and its Contributions to Self-reliance” said African institutions should build on their historical, cultural, social and geographic strengths and define their needs on those foundations.

The conference deliberated on three timely sub-themes, namely, “Technology and its Implications on Access, Equity and Quality”; “Internationalisation of Higher Education and its Benefits and Implications”; and “Private Higher Education in Africa – The response to development challenges”.

“Create a right balance between attuning programmes to the experiences of traditionally oppressed and marginalised groups, and safeguarding the values of the Western university model of search for truth based on scientific evidence and academic freedom,” – said Hans de Wit, professor of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College in the USA.

De Wit, who presented on “Internationalisation in Higher Education: The challenging road from a Western programme to a global inclusive concept” said internationalisation is a Western paradigm and the pandemic will increase internationalisation, on the one hand, through further inequality, but might also create opportunities for low- and middle-income countries to develop their own models and approaches to internationalisation.

In the next decade, post COVID-19, he said, we are likely to see a return to a more cooperative and less market-oriented approach to internationalisation that will include higher learning institutions taking advantage of lessons learned in the pandemic, realising global learning for all, making use of online expertise, not by replacing onsite by online learning, but integrating it.

On the benefits of internationalisation and the challenges of global rankings, Ellen Hazelkorn, professor emeritus, Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland, said that, because higher education plays a vital role in human and capital development, how universities perform and how they are governed are matters of interest and importance.

Being part of international higher education and global science is vital. But achieving these objectives requires a balanced approach. Without endless resources, it is almost impossible to improve in the rankings. “Consider any improvement in rankings as an outcome of your institutional strategy, not an input or driver of that strategy,” said Hazelkorn.

She advised that higher learning institutions should emphasise world-class systems, not world-class universities. They should not use global rankings as an indicator of quality or to inform policy or resource allocation decisions but to change their national policies or institutional mission or priorities to conform with rankings.

Internationalisation strategies should be firmly embedded in the context and policies of the country and institutions should use rankings only as part of overall quality assurance, assessment or benchmarking systems and never as a standalone evaluation tool.