- The Association of African Universities (AAU), the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), The Commonwealth of Learning (CoL), working in partnership with the Scottish Executive, the UK government, and the University of Abertay Dundee, convened the Abertay Conversation of leaders of African higher education institutions (HEIs) and organisations to conduct a conversation.
- The Abertay Conversation recognised and was encouraged by the following positive context:
- The consolidation of democracy currently underway in Africa;
- Increasing realisation by Africa's leaders of the central role of higher education in promoting economic growth and social development; and
- Significant international support for Africa's development.
- This context provides a historic opportunity for Africa-led creative and strategic interventions to transform the shape, size, and character of higher education in Africa.
- The Abertay Conversation welcomed the endorsement by the Commission for Africa of the AAU-ACU 10-year partnership programme, Renewing the African University. The programme sets out a series of intergrated priorities, focusing on context, institutional capacity and development approaches (see appendix).
- The Abertay Conversation believes that the renewal of Africa's HEIs cannot be viewed as a stand-alone project in either implementation or impact. It is dependent on (1) broader state revival and the contribution of other economic sectors to that revival, (2) supranational collaboration in particular with other southern hemisphere partners, and (3) national strategies for the development of scientific and technological capacity.
- A necessary condition of such a programme will be the elimination of key capacity constraints and the strengthening of the leadership of African HEIs.
- To harness the talents, energies and enthusiasm of all generations of Africans, the Abertay Conversation called for:
- Immediate financial support to enhance the institutional capacities of the pan-African, sub-regional and national HEIs, to enable them to coordinate the process of renewal;
- a step-change in the application of ICT, which itself requires the immediate enhancement of the telecommunications infrastructure as well as expanded access to, and effective utilisation of, bandwidth; and
- the role and position of women as academics, researchers, and leaders to be given priority and prominence in HEIs.
- The Abertay Conversation therefore invites the governments of Africa, the leaders of the G8 meeting at Gleneagles and all development partners to:
- implement fully the recommendations of the Commission for Africa, in particular those relating to the renewal of Africa's HEIs;
- commit the necessary investment and support for new strategies for science, technology, and innovation;
- recognise that funding on the scale indicated in the Africa Commission's report is a prerequisite for higher education's full contribution to sustainable development, economic growth, and the good governance of the continent;
- act immediately to address the issues of institutional capacity constraints;
- provide the means to enable the transformative capacities of ICT to be released across Africa;
- facilitate an Africa-led process for defining the criteria, models and priorities for establishing new centres of excellence; and
- promote close cooperation between public and private HEIs, and other partners in the public and private sectors, to maximise the impact of investment in renewal.
- The Conversation recognised that the full development and delivery of renewal is a long-term process. All those involved in the Conversation are personally committed to encouraging the broadest possible engagement of the HE community across Africa in making renewal a reality.
Professor Akilagpa Sawyerr, Secretary General, Association of African Universities
Professor Njabulo Ndebele, President, Association of African Universities, and Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town
Dr John Rowett, Secretary General, Association of Commonwealth Universities
Dr Lewis Perinbam, Chairman, Board of Governors, Commonwealth of Learning
on behalf of the Abertay Conversation
ACU-AAU Renewing the African University: The nine themes
- To promote both improved sector and system-wide governance and the development of a constructive engagement between the state and the HEIs
- To improve and to develop the leadership and institutional management of African universities
- To increase significantly the participation of African universities in the global knowledge economy and to promote North/South and South/South collaboration, not least through the development and inclusion of internationalism in all aspects of the curriculum
- To share experiences on a North/South and South/South basis on the key issues facing higher education, in particular on those concerning access, equity and social inclusion which are common to every university system
- To support the creation of the next generation of scholars and teachers and to address the 'greying of the professoriate'
- To rebuild the infrastructure of higher education institutions specifically through a major programme of investment in the library base and in the development and implementation of ICT strategies
- To encourage the development of partnerships between universities and the corporate sector to promote the development of both urgently needed specific skills and entrepreneurship
- To facilitate the creation of South-South partnerships and regional collaboration within the Continent
- To address the HIV/AIDS pandemic through collaboration in research, curriculum change, and institutional leadership.