The Shortage of African Universities
African Universities are facing two crises. On the one hand there is the quantitative crisis. There simply aren’t enough universities in Africa to handle the continent’s growing population. According to Quartz Africa, looking at the ten most populous countries in Africa revealed a ratio of 740 universities to 660 million African students, whereas in the States there are “some 5,300 universities and colleges serving a population of over 323 million people.”
The Struggle for Quality in African Universities
Alongside this crisis of quantity is a crisis of quality. A degree from an African University won’t necessarily translate to employability for the graduates. There is a seeming paradox at work here. While Africa faces a shortage of skilled workers in many fields such as science, mathematics, technology engineering, and health, graduates of African universities still find themselves underemployed.
According to Quartz, “the current pattern of skills production in Africa does not match labor market demand or development needs. The recent trend in African higher education is the low percentage of graduates in areas of engineering, agriculture, health and science.”
There is also the pressing issue of academic standards. For instance, while the University of Cape Town has been ranked as the best university in Africa, it only landed 148th place in the global Times Ranking of colleges and universities. This problem is one that sends many of Africa’s brightest students seeking education elsewhere when possible, which further exacerbates the issue by draining Africa of bright, industrious students who might otherwise have contributed greatly to the universities there.
The Importance of Higher Education
There is a cyclical quality to the education crisis in Africa. While both the crisis of quantity and quality are results of an economic downturn in Africa, they can also be seen as causes. A healthy, vibrant university system would help improve the economy, a proposition which is leading many to call for further investment in Africa’s educational prospects.
The power of strong universities to improve a nation is akin to the power of a strong university education to improve an individual life. A strong education can lead to better employability, higher wages, and higher quality of life all around. It can broaden one’s mind and teach one to become a leader in their community. In short, the importance of quality education cannot be overstated.
Only 6% of children in Sub-Saharan Africa will enroll for some form of tertiary education
Despite this, a whopping 17 million school-aged children in Africa out of the total 128 million will never attend a single day of school. Those who do attend schools often attend schools that are severely lacking in quality and not preparing them for success in life. The result of this, according to Quartz, is that “just 6% of children in Sub-Saharan Africa will enroll for some form of tertiary education, compared to a child in an OECD country who has an 80% chance.”
The Global Partnership for Education has outlined a number of ways to alleviate these issues and help rejuvenate university quality in Africa. They have called for investors to support the Association of African Universities and its partners as they attempt to implement a number of interventions such as improving institutional leadership, outreach in African diaspora communities, increasing professional development for teachers and research departments, making African thesis works and other scholarly research works widely available to individuals within and outside of Africa, creating graduate fellowships and grants, and fostering links between universities and important sectors of the African economy.
These efforts could begin to show the real change in the higher education landscape in Africa, but many students don’t have the luxury to wait. They need a quality education now and have found innovative ways to get one.
Online Universities for African Students
While many African students choose to study abroad, a growing number have looked to online American universities to get a high-quality education. This offers the benefit of American standards of education as well as the ease of being able to study from one’s home and to organize academic efforts around one’s own personal schedule.
At University of the People, a number of programs are offered with clear significance for the African job market. These tuition-free programs include degrees in Computer Science and Health Sciences. Our degree program in Business Administration is also highly relevant for African students who want to learn to better serve their communities and make positive change.
By creating an educational structure that provides students with a strong, relevant degree without demanding an international move or the struggle of attaining student visas, online university has become yet another way to help improve the landscape of African higher education and to provide a high-quality education to African students today.