The Universities In Africa are simply “Qualification Factories” 

According to Patrcio Langa, an assistant professor of university education at UCT, the concept of higher education institutions in Africa as areas for the advancement of knowledge has indeed been disparaged by influential voices endorsing the view that they ought to be operating as tools to repair the continent’s ailments. 

The rapid expansion will continue to transform universities into diploma factories rather than cultivating the quest for newfound knowledge of the distinction in the system to encourage multiple functions and kinds of universities is not clearly defined. 

According to Langa, the very first thing that needs to be clarified is the purpose of the university to address this despondency. 

He explains, “At the moment, there are two primary alternative visions of what the university should be like in Africa.” “One is that universities should be engaged in the pursuit of knowledge through the formulation of theoretical and methodological issues which contribute to the worldwide theories of knowledge. 

“Second, there is this pervasive and dominant notion that universities must search to find technological solutions for apparent socioeconomic issues and should have an improvisatory role in enhancing leadership on the continent. This idea has been around for a while, but it has gained a lot of traction in recent years. 

Universities That Endorse Academic Development

According to Langa, the origin of the issue can be traced back to the 1980s with the founding of what he refers to as “so-called developmental universities.” This occurred during a time when it became increasingly important for universities to be able to gain access to financial support from outside sources. The industry was under intense pressure to open its doors to the market rivalry of the free market. 

“At that time, the state was no longer capable of exercising complete authority over the requirements for admission to higher education… “and new forces, such as local stakeholders in the private industry, were capable of pursuing new agendas,” he says. 

After that, the concept of the university as a set of tools for tackling all of the woes that plagued Africa became the prevailing one. 

“In my perspective, this is the primary obstacle that is blocking the institution of an ambition of the African university that is appropriate to conceptualizing the problems faced by the continent in terms of Africa for those problems to be solved,” the author of the aforementioned article said. 

Putting the issue into the context of the global geopolitical and financial situation, he says, “Until Africans establish the form of the university based on their terms, then the definition of who ought to engage in the university also is being molded by external forces.” 

The University System is Still Important

Nevertheless, Langa asserts the following: “One issue that appears to be definite is that universities are pertinent, otherwise communities would’ve gotten rid of them.” In the meantime, in the setting of attempting to negotiate the essence of an African university in an internationally interconnected world, there has been a broad inability to develop more distinguishable provisions of higher education arranged to fulfill the wide-ranging requirements of African societies. 

“I believe it is crucial to distinguish between universities and other different types of higher education organizations based on the requirements of the particular society,” he reports. 

Therefore, only those who are interested in learning should enroll in academic institutions. Other students who attend college with different goals in mind, such as applying what they have learned or finding solutions to problems, need to look outside the higher education network to find their niche. 

“The main idea here is that, in a distinguishable system, it is not ideal for everyone to be applying to universities,” Langa suggests that proper policies should be developed to screen candidates, determining who should go where, and guaranteeing that disparities are not replicated in the process, for example, by limiting access to higher education to economically privileged students only. 

The problem of status, as well as the status hierarchical organization that exists regarding higher education in Africa, which values a university education more than a technical education, is among the critical problems that should be addressed in the process of establishing a differentiated system, according to Langa. 

“This preoccupation with status became obvious when technikons were rebranded “universities of technology,” not because their role had changed but rather in the interest of prestige.” 

Mass Production Compared to Differentiation

In addition to this, he emphasizes the problem that arises from political support for homogenization over differentiation as a means of economic growth. 

“Many African nations have failed to create a structure for differentiating the requirement of higher education and, rather, continued to pursue the notion of universal availability as a political priority,” he says. “This is a major problem for the continent.” 

“This is irrespective of the fact that proof and expertise show that the pursuit of massification in a system that is not differentiated eliminates the room for knowledge and leads to the production of graduate students who have significant difficulties merging into and helping their societies, as well as shifting into livelihoods, work opportunities, or entrepreneurialism.” 

In this regard, Langa compares the situation in Africa with attempts that have been made elsewhere to endorse differentiation and the substantial benefits that these attempts have generated with Africa’s current predicament. 

“For instance, in Europe, there appears to be some clarification about the specific purpose of the different institutions in the college and university system. The various bodies within the structure are labeled according to their role, which influences enabling articulation within the system, within which students may shift from one establishment to another as suitable,” he says. 

Langa has some reservations about the attempts that are being made in Africa to decolonize the university from the point of view of southern epistemologies and indigenous knowledge. 

He makes note of the importance of such efforts as well as the political impact they have in addressing and overcoming “a framework that has precluded the recognition of the significant contribution of Africans and other groups to knowledge and science as a worldwide public benefit.” 

Rather than perceiving the transition to online learning and teaching throughout this timespan as proclaiming a new chapter of expansive education opportunities, Langa reports how the constraints on in-person availability demonstrate the limited nature of African universities while robbing them of it. 

According to Patrcio Langa, an assistant professor of university education at UCT, the concept of higher education institutions in Africa as areas for the advancement of knowledge has indeed been disparaged by influential voices endorsing the view that they ought to be operating as tools to repair the continent’s ailments.  The rapid expansion will continue…