AAU@50:Achievements, Challenges & Prospects for Sustainable Development

This topic contains 50 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Paul Omaji 1 year, 10 months ago.

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    Profile photo of Paul Omaji Paul Omaji 

    Founded in Rabat, Morocco, 50 years ago (1967), the Association of African Universities (AAU) is the apex organization and forum for research, reflection, consultation, debates, co-operation and collaboration on issues pertaining to higher education and its place in the development of Africa. Over this period, AAU has operated in a context full of perils and promises.

    In the first 40 years of her life (1967-2007), national leadership (governments) in Africa and international donors ‘assigned higher education a relatively low priority’, with received, though misleading, wisdom that public investment in universities and colleges brought meagre returns on investment. Consequently, higher education suffered woeful underfunding. Yet, a ‘development’ discourse had emerged, soon after several African countries gained independence in the 1960s, where universities were expected to produce the human capital for the development of the new states. Later, with the transition into the knowledge-based economy from the early 1990s, universities came to be seen as the centres for the production of the requisite scientific knowledge.

    Significantly, recovery from underfunding has been slow; and African governments have yet to optimise the ‘development’ role of their universities. It is remarkable, therefore, that in such a perilous and ‘hoping against hope’ context, AAU adopted the philosophy of representing the voice of higher education in Africa and the task of promoting ‘development universities’ in Africa. Hence, her vision: “to be the advocate for higher education in Africa, with the capacity to assist its member organizations in meeting national and continental needs”; and her mission: “to enhance the quality and relevance of higher education in Africa and strengthen its contribution to African development”.

    Consistent with both the vision and the mission, AAU has focused her strategic goals on matters that, among other things: promote and facilitate networking, collaboration and experience sharing in teaching, learning and research; improve leadership, institutional management and the policy environment of African higher education; empower her members to address developmental challenges and become an effective voice in national, continental and global bodies; and provide effective representation of the African higher education community in regional and international affairs. AAU has pursued these matters, not just in precepts. She has taken practical steps towards centrally placing higher education “in the strategic development plan of African nations for a meaningful and sustainable economic development to take effect” (Concept Note, 2017).

    Take a few of examples. Recall that as far back as 1972, AAU had started to workshop the role of the universities in development. In 2004, she issued the Accra Declaration – as the Voice – to draw attention to the potentially negative implications of WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), namely “the reduction of higher education, under the GATS regime, to a tradable commodity subject primarily to international trade rules and negotiations, and the loss of authority of national governments to regulate higher education according to national needs and priorities”. In more recent times, AAU has undertaken capacity building activities such as: Harmonisation and Staff Exchange to promote continental integration; Flagship Training Programs for leadership and management development; University Advancement, Facilitation of African Centres of Excellence, and Webinars to project pertinent issues; Graduate Internship and Theses & Dissertation Grants to build faculty and to generate creative and original approaches that address African development issues; etc.

    Every voice is a vehicle with a designated destination. Over these 50 years, AAU has been the main non-governmental, pan-continental voice of higher education in Africa, pointing Africa towards a ‘development-destination’. During this period, African higher education has recorded unparalleled expansion, with attendant challenges for stakeholders such as AAU and potentials for “situating Africa as a significant, even critical player, in the global knowledge society if expansion is concurrently augmented with quality” (Concept Note, 2017).

    Is Africa heading towards the right destination? What is Africa’s state of development telling us about the health of her higher education project and the impact of AAU? Let us hear your voice (comments, views, arguments) about the achievements, challenges and prospects of AAU@50 as a formidable voice of higher education, directing Africa towards sustainable development. Share your voice, with particular regard to the following questions:
    • What are the success stories of AAU@50. Cite concrete examples of African countries, universities, projects, etc where these stories have manifested.
    • What led to the success stories? National/institutional leadership, policies, strategies, implementation structures, etc? Partnerships – local, regional, international? Availability of requisite funding (what sources)? Which AAU interventions/programmes contributed? Specify.
    • What more needs to be done to optimize the value of AAU for sustainable development in Africa? Recommend innovation, improvement, direction-change, etc., with regard to the existing (re)solutions.

    Paul Omojo Omaji
    Professor of Criminology
    Vice Chancellor Emeritus
    CEO, Omaji Leadership Solutions

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