Chapter 2 Re-envisioning Universities in Africa as African Universities

In: Creating the New African University
Saleem Badat
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Irrespective of whether they originated in the colonial period or post-independence, universities in Africa strongly mimic European institutions in their institutional cultures, epistemological foundations, academic orientations, curricula and languages of instruction. Often, they have been associated strongly with reproducing the colonial and neo-colonial social order, rather than with contributing to equitable and democratic societies. Distinguishing between “universities in Africa” and “African universities”, the chapter engages the questions of what the African university is for and specifically its purposes, roles, goals and objects. To begin with, the chapter briefly sketches the development of and pressures on universities in Africa post-independence, the contexts of globalisation and neoliberalism within which the expansion of universities in Africa has occurred, and the various challenges that must be engaged by any project of transformation towards the creation of African universities. Thereafter, the chapter deliberates on the educational and social purposes of African universities and the idea of “place” that must necessarily root the African university. It proposes five roles that African universities must play, arguing that those roles must be alive to the fundamental purposes of universities and give concrete expression to those purposes and necessarily be also shaped by the structural and conjunctural conditions within which African universities exist. This includes the economic and social challenges of their local, national, regional, continental and global contexts. In discussing the roles of African universities, the chapter also engages questions of the decolonisation of universities and the decentring of hegemonic Eurocentric epistemologies and theoretical traditions. Finally, the chapter identifies key enabling conditions that are essential for African universities if they are to fulfil their vital purposes and roles in intellectual, economic and social development in Africa.

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