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The Promise of Partnership and Continuities of Dependence: External Support to Higher Education in Africa

  • Joel Samoff and Bidemi Carrol

Abstract:

After a period of conscious neglect and dramatic deterioration, higher education in Africa is again attracting external attention, with an emphasis now on “partnerships” rather than “aid.” This report is based on an extensive survey of links between African institutions of higher education and foreign governments, foundations, and universities, with particular emphasis on links with the United States. In it, we explore the evolution, characteristics, promise, and problems of external support. Earlier, most African universities were linked to European institutions. With independence, they asserted their sovereignty and autonomy. By the 1980s, however, resources were inadequate nearly everywhere. Today, renewed attention may bring new funds, yet it also may bring new problems. Academic partnerships are often one-sided, and external support commonly carries conditions. By framing, organizing, and orienting the academic enterprise and thus ways of knowing and validating knowledge, partnerships threaten to reintroduce, in both explicit and subtle ways, the external direction of the earlier era. A consideration of these and other issues is followed by several appendixes, which contain a thorough cataloging of this material and may be used as a resource for future research.

Résumé :

Après avoir traversé une période de négligence consciente et de détérioration dramatique, l'enseignement supérieur en Afrique commence de nouveau à attirer l'attention des autres continents, quoique avec un accent actuellement mis sur les “partenariats” plutôt que les “aides.” Ce rapport se base sur une étude approfondie des liens qui existent entre les institutions africaines d'enseignement supérieur et les gouvernements, fondations et universités étrangers, et se concentre tout particulièrement sur les liens établis avec les Etats Unis. Dans ce rapport, nous examinons l'évolution, les caractéristiques, les promesses et les problèmes des soutiens étrangers. Dans le passé, c'est avec les institutions européennes que la plupart des universités africaines entretenaient des liens. Avec l'indépendance, ces dernières ont affirmé leur souveraineté et leur autonomie. Toutefois, arrivées les années 1980, les ressources étaient inadéquates presque partout. Aujourd'hui, le regain d'attention apportera certainement de nouvelles sources de financement, mais il apportera aussi de nouveaux problèmes. Les partenariats universitaires vont souvent dans un seul sens, et les soutiens étrangers sont fréquemment soumis à des conditions. En cadrant, en organisant et en orientant l'initiative universitaire et donc les manières d'apprendre et de valider la connaissance, ils menacent de réintroduire, à la fois de manière explicite et plus subtilement, les directions extérieures de l'ère précédente. Une étude de ces problèmes ainsi que d'autres est suivie de plusieurs annexes qui contiennent un inventaire extensif de ce matériel et qui pourra servir de référence lors de recherches ultérieures.

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