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  • Research Universities in Africa ed. by Nico Cloete, Ian Bunting and François van Schalkwyk
  • Akiiki Babyesiza
Nico Cloete, Ian Bunting and François van Schalkwyk (eds), Research Universities in Africa. Cape Town: African Minds (R300 – 978 1 928331 87 2). 2018, 314 pp.

Universities in Africa are confronted with demands by governments and donors to become more relevant and to contribute to society and economy. They adapt to these changing trends and demands by revising their visions and missions and stating ambitious goals with respect to research, excellence and innovation. Against this backdrop, Nico Cloete, Ian Bunting and François van Schalkwyk investigate the relationship between higher education and development. They offer a conceptualization, operationalization and typology of the research university in Africa based on data from eight universities: University of Botswana, University of Cape Town, University of Dar es Salaam, Eduardo Mondlane University, University of Ghana, Makerere University, University of Mauritius and University of Nairobi.

The book is the last in a series of publications from the Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa (HERANA) project led by the South African Centre for Higher Education Transformation (CHET) (other titles are Universities and Economic Development in Africa (2011), Knowledge Production and Contradictory Functions in African Higher Education (2015) and Castells in Africa: universities and development (2017)). HERANA was ‘a network of scholars in higher education studies across countries in Africa, Europe and the United States’ (p. 12). The authors make the case that scientific [End Page 987] knowledge production should be at the core of the university’s role in development and that African universities should be ‘engines of development’ instead of ‘instruments of development’, in accordance with the sociologist Manuel Castells. While the ‘university as an instrument for national development agendas’ is just a tool for the government to solve societal and economic problems through consultancy and capacity building, the ‘university as an engine for development’ is a central actor in society that drives the development of knowledge societies and innovation through the production of new scientific knowledge (pp. 17–18). The competing concepts, goals for and expectations of universities form the common theme of the book.

The first chapter introduces the historical context of higher education development in Africa and the conceptual and historical trajectory of the HERANA project. Data was generated through international, national and institutional documents, institutional academic input and output data and interviews. In Chapter 2, which focuses on the research performance of the eight universities, the choice and collection of data and the development of target indicators are explained. Here, the researchers offer an indicator-based operationalization of research productivity and subsequently a typology of the universities, from research-aspirational to research-led. In the following chapters, the authors explain the different hurdles for the universities on their way to becoming research-led. In particular, there is a divergence of expectations among inter-national donors and national policymakers, as well as university leadership and academic staff, which becomes apparent in the inconsistencies between donor programmes, national frameworks and strategic plans (Chapter 3). Moreover, there is a tension between teaching, research and community service to the detriment of the research function, due to the heavy focus on undergraduate teaching and consultancy (Chapter 4). This is connected to the current incentive structure at the institutional level, which favours teaching, while sufficient public funding for research is lacking. This gives international research incentives that are based on external interests an outsized role (Chapter 5). Chapter 6 focuses on the capacity-building part of the project. The goal in this phase of the project was to collaboratively define target indicators, institutionalize data collection and develop a common data framework. This chapter therefore shows the role that data accessibility, capacity and infrastructure in administrative offices play in implementing strategies to becoming a research-led university.

In Chapter 7, the authors discuss the strategies and opportunities for higher education systems, institutions and individual scholars to enter global research networks and increase their visibility. They suggest that national policymakers and institutional leaders should facilitate doctoral and postdoctoral research trips to prestigious universities abroad in order to foster long-term international collaboration in research and publishing. International donors...


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pp. 987-989
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