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Partnership Core Statement

Principles of the Partnership

The Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation wish to reaffirm the importance of a vibrant intellectual environment in Africa in nourishing social, political, and economic transformation. To signal their faith in African university leaders, who are rebuilding their institutions so that they can respond to changing societal needs, the four foundations initiated a Partnership in 2000. The Partners support selected African universities and other centers of intellectual inquiry in their efforts to stimulate enlightened, equitable, knowledge-based national development.

The initiative was launched in response to practical innovations now being implemented by many African universities. They are breaking with outmoded traditions and embarking on major institutional and academic change, including new financial formulas, course structures, and governance practices. African governments increasingly recognize the value of these reforms in national development and poverty alleviation. Other factors promoting change in universities are processes of democratization, decentralization, and economic reform that grant greater autonomy to public institutions and hold them accountable. Among global factors helping to transform the scope of university practice and management, the revolution in information and communications technologies is one of the most powerful.

Major challenges to African universities include technical obstacles to participation in increasingly global intellectual communities; redefining the nature of quality within international and local contexts; lowering costs through economies of scale; increasing access and gender equity; and positioning higher education as a responsible partner in building democratic society.

The foundation Partnership recognizes the wide diversity among African universities - especially in terms of organization, functions, culture, academic offerings, and clientele - and differences and complementarities among the collaborating foundations. Under the initiative, each foundation works with those institutions that fit its mission and priorities. Some grantees will serve as regional models of successful transformation and public engagement, and others will play important roles in local development. The Partnership capitalizes on the distinctive contribution that each foundation can make through shared learning, and will enhance the ability of grant-makers to support sustainable improvements in university performance.

Core Functions of the Partnership

The Partnership, which may be expanded to include other donors interested in African higher education, tests and demonstrates the best that philanthropy has to offer by pooling knowledge and strategies. It aims to provide balanced emphases on the academic and the practical, thus enabling universities to become more robust intellectual institutions that can effectively produce a new generation of scholars, analysts, scientists, technologists, teachers, public servants, and entrepreneurs.

Core functions of the Partnership include:

  1. Providing financial support that:

    1. Concentrates on universities in countries undergoing systemic public policy reform;

    2. Selects universities that are initiating positive change, have a workable strategic plan, and have demonstrated commitment to national capacity building;

    3. Reinforces creative university leadership that can promote a systematic process of internal reflection and institutional change;

    4. Facilitates innovations directed at producing and reconfiguring knowledge for problem-solving, building adaptable skills, and promoting and rewarding intellectual creativity;
    5. Strengthens the ability of individual institutions to play their distinctive role within differentiated national systems of higher education; and encourages inter-institutional collaboration.

  2. Supporting African and other analysts considering the causes and consequences of change in African universities; examining global trends affecting the evolution of university development in Africa.
  3. Assisting participating university leaders to identify common challenges across countries through regional networks and to build economies of scale and critical mass in selected fields, especially in the sciences and basic social research.
  4. Advocating the essential role of strong universities in sustaining economic growth, community coherence, and social justice; stimulating external support; and sharing information with African governments, other funders and the general public, including the individual and institutional grantees that the foundations assist.
  5. Supporting a forum of leaders of African universities to share each other's experience, concerns, and strategic thinking, and linking this group to the global higher education community.
  6. Reflecting with participating institutions on foundation grant strategy, assessing what has been achieved and, as part of a communications initiative, sharing what has been learned.

What would success ultimately look like?

The Partnership aims to catalyze the scenario described below:

Selected universities and centers of intellectual inquiry will demonstrate ability to promote the free flow of ideas and enlarge the public sphere of their societies. They will exhibit a strong academic base as judged by international and local criteria, good governance, sound management, and through creative mixtures of public and private funding, financial stability. They will evidence effective use of information technology for access to and adaptation of global knowledge and offer access to a student body of men and women with a wide diversity of backgrounds. As part of the national higher education system, they will build and transfer a repertoire of skills essential for the development of their societies and the realization of individual and national aspirations. They will exhibit a profusion of new courses, fresh approaches to learning, and appreciation for knowledge that is locally derived. They will produce well-prepared high-level professional talent. They will work within regional consortia of cost-effective institutions and eventually regional centers of specialization. They will be part of a global network of imaginative teaching, research, and outreach institutions in which creativity is fed through experimentation and shared experiences. They will exhibit characteristics of institutional development that can be replicated and taken to scale. They will reflect a quiet revolution in institution building in Africa that can unleash the talents of the continent for the well being of its people and those beyond its borders.

© 2021 Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

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