Today I received an email from an African Christian College alumnus in Kenya. He’s trying to get his degree certified to continue his education, but is having trouble because the process and standards in his country differ from those we are accountable to follow.
His problem is not unique.
The mobility of African students – where one can go to one country to study and return with recognised credentials to further their studies – is a primary concern of higher education reform. This challenge brings to the surface the issue of harmonisation of quality assurance standards, recognition of degrees, transfer of credits, and participation in globalisation. It also highlights technical issues like border control and student visas.
In “Current Trends, Challenges, and Prospects of Student Mobility in the African Higher Education Landscape” (International Journal of Higher Education, 2015), Woldegiorgis and Doevenspeck point out the importance of student mobility to Africa as a participant in global knowledge flow. But they also highlight the current failure at which Africa is keeping up with a warning about brain drain:
“Unless African higher education institutions develop their capacity to attract and retain both African and international students, international student mobility might lead to overwhelming impact of brain drain in the continent. As Dr Lalla Ben Barka Deputy Executive Secretary ECA stated, ‘African governments have a great responsibility to ensure that brains remain in the continent; otherwise in 25 years’ time, Africa will be empty of brains.’”
Still today, many African students leave the continent to study in the former colonial power. (France being the most popular country for Africans to study.) There’s a history of power connected with this. But today it can also be attributed to the lack of study opportunities on the continent.
In the previous edition of the International Journal of Higher Education, Woldegiorgis with Jonck and Goujon compared Europe’s process with Africa’s: “Regional Higher Education Reform Initiatives in Africa: A Comparative Analysis with the Bologna Process.”
Africa is trying to follow step by step on higher education reform, but with less commitment from the players. To sum up, they wrote:
“Slow implementation in Africa is attributed to factors like poor top-down communication of the policy, excessive dependency on external funding, poor political commitment, fragmentation and duplication of processes, and the less participatory nature of the policy in terms of bringing all stakeholders on board.”
What can African educational leaders do?
Public education leaders must continue to push for commitment, cooperation, and communication among the stakeholders for harmonisation. Private education leaders must also join in the call for progress to be made for student mobility.
At ACC, our response must continue to be seeking pan-African or global accreditation and partnering with institutions outside of Africa that will be recognised within Africa. These efforts provide ways for our students to better side-step the lack of harmonisation.
These issues also highlight the need to develop graduate and post-graduate study opportunities in Africa. We must provide high quality opportunities for them to be educated here.