The Role of Research and Post Graduate Studies in African Higher Education

Despite a long history of higher learning in Africa dating back to 859 the deleterious approach that favored basic education to higher education (HE) as a better investment for Africa, has resulted in the current poor state of HE systems and outputs on the continent.

The post-2015 development agenda takes shape in a context of an ever increasing demand for HE in Africa amidst declining public spending, low levels of economic growth and widespread poverty.

An instrumentalist approach to HE is unlikely to meet the core goal of building and valuing new knowledge. A ‘knowledge economy’ approach which “locates economic growth in novel ideas leading to scientific, technical, organisational, environmental or health innovations” (ASSAf, 2010:36) and which is not dependent on natural resources is more likely to build longer term sustainable development in Africa.

This policy brief is underpinned by the assumption that an instrumentalist approach to HE is unlikely to meet a core goal of HE: the building and valuing of new knowledge. It is also underpinned by the belief that the “strength of Africa’s universities and research institutions is a key condition for its development, and their weakness is an index of, as well as a contributor to, its poverty” (Sawyerr, 2004:215). There is little doubt that natural resources is no longer the key factor in economic growth.

This policy brief therefore seeks to provide a framework for building HE research capacity, through theoretically sound research, and Masters and PhD graduation. Knowledge is produced through individual activity which involves original research, theory building and synthesis and where indigenous knowledge does not simply refer to the knowledge systems historically available to Africa but also to the generation of new knowledge emanating from local conditions, cultures, beliefs, research and theory.