African Universities, International Donors, and the Public Good

Published on Boston College University Libraries.

For African universities, more than is the case elsewhere, depend for their survival on the scope and focus of external support. Current documents on university reform, and there are many, inevitably urge greater support from international donors. The heavy reliance on donor funds has been true since independence. As donors shifted from one model of university support to another, universities adapted accordingly. In the immediate post-independence period, the high-prestige national elite university was the accepted model. The university was to do nation-building by looking and feeling like the universities of the colonial powers. This period was followed by the development university phase with its emphasis on economic growth. When disillusionment with that model set in, it gave way to what can best be described as damage control, especially as rate-of-return considerations dislodged the university from its privileged place in donor priorities.

In nations facing too many demands with too few resources, where the public sector is weak and market mechanisms are immature, international donors have sought to save higher education by working to correct its internal inefficiencies, immunize against brain drain, compensate for the research weaknesses by creating research networks, help institutions catch up with the technological revolution, and shield teaching and research from the excesses of political interference. At present most of these efforts fall under the broad perspective that African universities needed reforming.

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