WENR, January/February 2015: Africa


Public Spending Increases for Universities

Kenya plans to increase funding of public universities by 10 percent in the coming fiscal year, which begins in July – the biggest funding rise in three years, but still far shy of what many think is needed to properly meet demand at expanding institutions.

The government allocation to state-funded universities is to increase from the current year’s US$627.2 million to US$692.7 million in 2015, according to a budget paper prepared by the Treasury Department in January. Only 10 percent will be put toward capital projects with the balance being spent on recurrent costs. This means that the government is unlikely to end the ongoing problem of infrastructure deficit that continues to constrain the growth of Kenya’s higher education sector and has become a major challenge. Student numbers have more than doubled in the past four years to a current 320,000, with the biggest strain being put on Kenya’s 31 state-funded universities.

Making matters harder is that accelerated demand is expected in the coming years, with Kenya’s first free primary education cohort transitioning to tertiary education in 2015. This initiative launched in 2003 by former president Mwai Kibaki has contributed to massive increases in school enrollments.


As More Nigerian Students Head Overseas, Recruiting Fairs Take Hold

In recent years the cities of Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Ibadan have hosted large education fairs designed to connect recruiters from foreign universities with students who are looking to study abroad. However, as the student recruitment market has grown, its lucrative and unregulated nature has sparked concern in Nigeria, reports University World News.

The fairs have grown in popularity largely because domestic universities cannot meet the demand from a growing population of secondary school graduates looking for tertiary opportunities. Last year, 1.3 million school-leavers applied for one of 400,000 places at Nigeria’s 150 universities. In addition, the Nigerian government has refused to grant licenses to branch campuses of foreign universities, forcing students to look overseas.

In this context the Nigerian government has permitted international education fairs to take place unhindered, and recruiting agents have recently come under public scrutiny. In response, one of the biggest recruiters in Nigeria, the British Council has set up a six-to-eight-week online certification program for its agents. This has led to the establishment of the Nigerian Association of UK Certified Education Agents. However, there are reportedly still many unlicensed agents that are attending fairs, some of who are accused of being fraudsters, which has prompted calls for regulation.


Graduate Unemployment at Critical Levels

It is currently taking an average of six years for a Tunisian university graduate to find a stable job, according to a World Bank study. By the age of 35, half of all university graduates in Tunisia are still unemployed and looking for a job. Overall, the unemployment rate among university graduates stands at 30 percent.

According to the January reportLabor Policy to Promote Good Jobs in Tunisia, graduates who find jobs do so under precarious working conditions. Besides low employment rates, three years after completion most graduates who do find jobs tend to be under-employed. The report partly blames universities for low quality and poor relevance of education, significant factors that seem to have contributed to the unemployment crisis. David Robalino, a lead economist at the World Bank and a co-author of the report, believes that mismatches in Tunisian higher education explain the under-employment of graduates.

“About 63 percent of all students enrolled in tertiary education institutions in the 2010-11 academic year were enrolled in humanities, health and social sciences and only 37 percent were studying for physical sciences, mathematics, and technology and engineering degrees,” said Robalino.

He argued that most universities produced graduates who were not in demand in sectors where employment is booming, such as financial services and telecommunications.

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