Developing and Retaining the Next Generation of African Academics
Across a range of settings, African scholars have been voicing their concern about the Next Generation of Academics:
- The ADEA Working Group on Higher Education commissioned a study on staff retention and the links to the Diaspora (Mihyo 2007).
- The Association of African Universities (AAU) biennial meeting of university leaders, COREVIP, highlighted the extent of brain drain and the need to address the faculty situation (October 2007).
- The University Science, Humanities and Engineering Partnership in Africa (USHEPiA) conference brought to light staff development shortfalls (December 2007).
- The South African Department of Education, the Council on Higher Education in South Africa (the voice of 23 public universities), and HERS-SA hosted a two day meeting on "Institutional Cultures and Higher Education Leadership: Where are the Women?" (March 2008).
Increasingly, this issue is receiving attention in research and in the press (see Resources page for links to research, op-ed pieces and news articles).
In October 2007, higher education leaders from PHEA partner institutions expressed a unanimous desire to have the Next Generation of Academics as the theme for the next University Leaders' Forum (ULF). This biennial gathering aims to strengthen the connections among universities in Africa and to position them to take advantage of emerging opportunities and support institutional transformation.
The 2008 ULF Steering Committee identified the following objectives for the Forum:
- Create greater awareness of the issue of the Next Generation of Academics (scale, features, and constraints)
- Identify points of leverage: what needs to be done and which stakeholders need to be engaged
- Catalyze action; empower individual institutions to implement strategic interventions
- Inform the work of funders and leverage additional resources
- Identify as many actionable items as possible
The ULF Steering Committee and the PHEA aim to catalyze action. The success of the Forum will be measured in part by progress on these outcomes:
- Increased numbers of training interventions that utilize and strengthen existing postgraduate capacity and create communities of scholars (networks, partnerships among universities);
- Multiple institutional efforts that address the "push" factors that inhibit recruitment, development and retention of the next generation (developing an enabling environment with attention to policies, practices, services, infrastructure, and the scholarly environment);
- National higher education financing and sector management policies that support the Next Generation of Academics.
Progress on these outcomes will take different forms across each national and institutional context but all efforts will require thinking differently about approaches and using existing resources better. To support action, the ULF program provides an opportunity for a range of stakeholders to develop common understandings of the nature and urgency of the problem and to hear about efforts underway in different settings. The emphasis is on what is being tried and what is being learned. On the final day, several sessions are designed to move the dialogue beyond information sharing to planning a way forward at the institutional, national, and sub-regional levels.