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African Universities urged to utilize online interactions

Professor Ernest Aryeetey, Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana has challenged African Universities to explore innovative ways of engaging students through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in order to stay competitive and relevant in the light of globalization.

He explained that expansion in the flow of goods and services from one country to another brought on by globalization, had also affected higher education services.

Prof Aryeetey was speaking at a two-day Times Higher Education (THE) African Universities Summit in Accra.

He said with the emergence in the last 20 years of multi-national universities with campuses in various countries, online interactions between universities and students provides an opportunity for African Universities to work with conventional MOOCs from well-established universities like Stanford, MIT or Harvard.

He said since such universities had difficulty interacting with students in Africa, liaising with African Universities will allow students to the MOOC in registered African Universities to access what was provided elsewhere and get degrees for it.

“Right now, most of the people who are using the MOOCs are using them for self-advancement without getting a degree so it could help increase access to degree earning for African students if these things were done in partnership with the Universities,” he stated.

Prof. Aryeetey said universities would not need to change their structures to take advantage of such innovations but will have to be well-equipped with the requisite technology to provide access.

“It would not need anything different from what we have today for the distance education programmes; it’s more an issue of what kind of material you are giving to the students and how they are accessed.”

On the theme for the summit: “Globalisation and Policy Directions for African Higher Education”, Prof Aryeetey stressed the need for African Universities to, among other things, network and develop teaching and research collaborations with institutions within and outside Africa.

He said most partnerships available now were between individual African universities and universities outside Africa in Europe or North America, which do not benefit the African partners because the structure of those partnerships were poorly defined.

The challenge, he stated, was for African Universities to look at developing more efficient partnerships within Africa.

He said the University of Ghana for instance, had partnerships with Universities in Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg and others in South Africa, Makerere in Uganda, Nairobi in Kenya and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, among others.

Such partnerships, he said, makes it easy for students to move between partner universities in African countries.

Mr. Ihron Rensburg, Vice Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, said the establishment of 200 Universities of Excellence in the next 20 years will turn around Africa’s contribution to the world.

He noted that Africa’s focus on driving participation and inclusion in the university system had resulted in African Universities contributing just two per cent to the world economy. “That must change, that will change,” he stated.

Mr. Rensburg said the building of the Universities of Excellence that will be at the core of Africa’s rise over the next two generations, was a shared responsibility as evidenced by the partnership with the  University of Ghana.

He added that discussions during the two day summit will address questions  including the meaning of excellence in the African context, the relationship between publications output and impact, as well as teaching and learning and impact on communities, in order that Africa’s contribution two decades from now will fundamentally shape experience.

On State and University relations, he indicated: “That relationship must be a relationship of shared, robust partnership and engagement, one that is mutually building, mutually sustaining and mutually supporting, given that we have a shared responsibility, state and university, in enabling our people, continent and world to benefit from Africa’s renewed renaissance and leadership in a generation’s time”.

Source: GNA

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