Developing and Retaining the Next Generation of African Academics
Background on the Next Generation of Academics Theme
Solving the Next Generation problem will require highly trained academics working within functional universities and collaborating through networks and other kinds of academic communities. A collective effort in support of the Next Generation of Academics is an imperative for all with a stake in the future of African higher education.
The need is clear and the scale and nature of the constraints are known or are knowable in every context. There is a need to expand the professoriate because of pending retirements of large proportions of the academic staff, low qualification of existing staff, expanded enrolment, particularly at the undergraduate level, inadequate faculty growth, and continuing equity concerns regarding the make-up of the professoriate.
Several "pull" factors are preventing entry to academic careers and reducing retention:
- Low status of academia in labor market and in society
- Low government financing
- Better remuneration nationally in private & civil sectors (individuals from marginalized groups are in particular demand by private sector)
- Overseas opportunities for work and training, which increases threat of brain drain
- Opportunities in wealthier African countries
Internal to institutions, numerous "push" factors are operating:
- Lack of infrastructure: equipment, teaching materials, libraries
- Slow promotion process; lack of opportunities for promotion
- Gender discrimination in academia
- Lack of professional development and mentoring
- Work overload, especially undergraduate teaching
- Poor setting of priorities
- Low remuneration
- Lack of housing
In addition to lacking environments conducive to attracting and retaining new academics, many universities have limited capacity to provide postgraduate training. In some settings, universities lack the specialized libraries, laboratories, and comprehensive coverage of the field needed for doctoral training. In still more settings, too few faculty are qualified to supervise doctoral training. Certain fields lack a critical mass of faculty in single institutions, particularly in S&T. Undergraduate training predominates, and it is common to see duplication of undergraduate programs, over-ambitious course offerings instead of specialization, and a failure to evolve into centers of excellence.