From the early 2000s, a new discourse emerged, in Africa and the international donor community, that higher education was important for development in Africa. Within this ‘zeitgeist’ of converging interests, a range of agencies agreed that a different, collaborative approach to linking higher education to development was necessary. This led to the establishment of the Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa (Herana) to concentrate on research and advocacy about the possible role and contribution of universities to development in Africa.
This book is the final publication to emerge from the Herana project. The project has also published more than 100 articles, chapters, reports, manuals and datasets, and many presentations have been delivered to share insights gained from the work done by Herana. Given its prolific dissemination, it seems reasonable to ask whether this fourth and final publication will offer the reader anything new.
This book is certainly different from previous publications in several respects. First, it is the only book to include an analysis of eight African universities based on the full 15 years of empirical data collected by the project. Second, previous books and reports were published mid-project. This book has benefited from an extended gestation period allowing the authors and contributors to reflect on the project without the distractions associated with managing and participating in a large-scale project. For the first time, some of those who have been involved in Herana since its inception have had the opportunity to at least make an attempt to see part of the wood for the trees.
Different does not necessarily mean new. An emphasis on the ‘newness’ of the data and perspectives presented in this book is important because it shows that it is more than a historical record of a donor-funded project. Rather, each chapter in this book brings, to a lesser or greater extent, something new to our understanding of universities, research and development in Africa.
“This is an important book, synthesising 15 years of carefully gathered data and analysis, digging deep into the institutional lives of some of Africa’s best-known universities, and asking challenging questions about what it means to produce knowledge for society and whether these universities are really being enabled to do so. It offers a substantive guide to university leaders and planners, and by connecting empirical evidence to an examination of incentives, funding systems and policy prescriptions, it highlights the competing and contradictory pressures that many institutions and their staff face – and which must be urgently resolved if the potential of African higher education – for the world, not just the continent – is to be realised.” – Jonathan Harle, Director of Programmes, INASP, Oxford
“The higher education landscape in Africa has changed considerably in the last two decades. Research universities are emerging as the more competitive of the universities in each country. Their effectiveness is driven by national and institutional cultures and the ability of leadership to manage change. This book documents, in a way no other book has done, the nature of the changes taking place in the region and the forces behind them. It is very analytical and it is very informative. Above all, it is comprehensive and essential reference material.” – Ernest Aryeetey, former Vice-Chancellor, University of Ghana & Secretary-General, African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA)
“Research Universities in Africa is a welcome addition to the academic literature on African universities. This well-researched book which, in addition to the contribution of the main three authors, incorporates valuable inputs from a large number of researchers from sub-Saharan Africa and beyond, carefully analyses the challenges faced by African research universities through a skillful combination of theoretical pieces and case studies of eight universities. The book presents a balanced assessment of the role and potential contribution of research universities in the African context. The authors should be congratulated for this excellent contribution that can guide African universities all over the continent in thinking more strategically and achieving better results as they seek to develop their research capacity and increase the relevance of their research output.” – Jamil Salmi, global tertiary education expert, former co-ordinator of tertiary education at the World Bank & Emeritus Professor of Higher Education Policy, Diego Portales University (Chile)