Globalization today is offering Africa the opportunity to transition from being an outsider in world affairs to a major player. Africa’s educational sector has not been left out of the “globalization craze.” Developments in Information Technology (IT) especially in internet and Global Satellite Modulation (GSM) telephony have enabled higher education (HE) to jump loops that was not possible before. The ability to hold conferences by video conference and to send huge documents including e-books, e-files and software by internet means well established universities in the West can collaborate with local universities particularly in Africa to run courses both at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
These same technological improvements that globalization brings are enabling local universities to keep up with state of the art teaching materials and teaching content such as online journals, e-books, e-textbooks, power point presentation and computer software to deliver courses in Higher Education (HE) in Africa and other developing countries. However it is also true that until very recently in African countries like Ghana and Nigeria, HE was considered a public good delivered only by government. The state financed and supported colleges, graduate schools and graduate students in the limited number of universities available.
Liberalization of the educational system concurrent with globalization and triggered by IMF conditionalties that demanded such liberalization has resulted in a proliferation of private universities in African countries like Ghana. From just about six private universities in 2004, Ghana now has well over sixty private universities although majority only award college or bachelors degrees. The number of Masters awarding private universities is fewer and those that award PhDs fewer still (about 5).
Although Ghana in particular has been fairly successful with its model of college education by asking state universities to oversee private university-colleges, the evolution of post-college or graduate (PhD and Masters) education seems more complex. In particular the state universities themselves did not offer majority of the post graduate degrees on offer now until recently so they cannot be asked to effectively monitor graduate degrees awarded by private school. Further the National Accreditation Board (NAB) which oversees the activities of the colleges seem less interested in monitoring the quality of private post graduate degrees differing instead to the foreign institutions to which the private universities are affiliated. However since there appear to be no limit on the origin or quality of a partner university the profit incentive may lead to an adverse selection problem where bad schools interested in giving away graduate degrees for money will meet wealthy people willing to pay for a degree to influence their social status.
In developing countries in particular it is possible that incentives different from those in the developed world context –research and career progression-drive supply and demand of post graduate education. Such difference may have cultural, social, religious or political underpinnings. For example religious leaders and politicians may have the necessary funds to pay for profit seeking private universities to award them doctoral degree to increase their social status. Politicians may feel that having a PhD makes them sound more credible and will pay for it. In a similar manner qualification inflation in the crowded government sector may incentivize government workers with university degrees to pay others to write Masters dissertations on their behalf for a fee in order to solidify their position and gain the job security that comes with being a senior public servant. Unfortunately private universities may have positive profit-based incentives to award such degrees to these seemingly undeserving candidate students. This can actually impact the quality of post college education in such developing countries.
There is little literature that documents incentives of regulators like accreditation boards; supply side players (private universities) and demand side players (graduate students) in the higher education markets in the African context. There is also scant literature that analyzes the effect that the incentives of the different market players has on the quality of post graduate education in Africa and suggests ways of re-aligning incentives in order to increase the quality of private post college education in such developing African countries. There is also not much discussion that has gone on by the relevant stake holders. This is a call for abstracts on topics of higher education in Africa particularly privately provided higher education. Papers describing the state of higher education especially private higher education in the different African countries or discussing issues related to the quality of higher education are all welcome.
Please send abstracts to Stephen Armah at [email protected] by March 1st, 2016.