41. The 2009 World Conference on Higher Education gave special focus to the challenges and opportunities for the revitalization of higher education in Africa – an important tool for the development of the continent. The issues raised for African higher education are integrated throughout this communiqué.
42. Participants welcomed the recommendations of the Dakar Regional Preparatory Conference of November 2008 and noted the progress recorded since the 1998 World Conference on Higher Education – especially increased enrolments in higher education. Participants underscored the critical need to confront emerging challenges relating to gender and racial inequality, academic freedom, brain drain and the lack of graduates’ preparedness for the labour market. They underlined the urgency for the adoption of new dynamics in African higher education that work towards a comprehensive transformation to sharply enhance its relevance and responsiveness to the political, social and economic realities of African countries. This new momentum can provide a trajectory in the fight against under-development and poverty in Africa. This will demand greater attention to higher education and research in Africa than has been given for the last eleven years. Higher education in Africa should foster good governance based on robust accountability and sound financial principles.
43. The evolution of a quality African higher education and research area will be stimulated through institutional, national, regional and international collaboration. There is, therefore, the need for a strategic orientation towards the establishment/strengthening of such collaboration. African countries with well-developed higher education systems should share with those that have less-developed systems. We must commit to making African higher education an instrument for regional integration.
44. The development of the higher education area in Africa will also be catalysed by the establishment of a quality assurance mechanism at the regional level. In this connection, we urge the fast-tracking of the initiative of the African Association of Universities (AAU), with support from UNESCO, to stimulate the setting up of national, sub-regional and regional quality assurance systems. Equally, staff and student mobility within an African higher education area will be fostered through the active implementation of the Arusha Convention on the mutual recognition of diplomas, certificates and degrees. The indispensability of the Pan African University in fostering African integration should be stressed.
45. Access: To meet the rapidly increasing demand for higher education and research in Africa, there is an urgent need for differentiated institution – ranging from research universities to polytechnics and technical colleges, with diversified programmes within each institution – to cater to different types of learners as well as the needs of the country. The increasing demand for higher education will hardly be met by traditional face-to-face delivery alone. Other approaches, such as ODL and online learning, will have to be utilized, especially for areas such as continuing adult education and teacher training.
46. Curriculum relevance: A number of areas of expertise are crucial for the diversification of African economies, yet are not receiving the required attention. These include agriculture, natural resource extraction, the environment, indigenous knowledge systems and energy. A focus on these areas in higher education can contribute to ensuring the competitiveness of African economies.
47. Funding: Education remains a public good, but private financing should be encouraged. While every effort must be made to increase public funding of higher education, it must be recognised that public funds are limited and may not be sufficient for such a rapidly developing sector. Other formulae and sources of funding, especially those drawing on the public-private partnership model, should be found.
48. Students should be given a voice in governance of higher education at all levels.
49. Participants expressed deep appreciation for the ongoing support to the development of African higher education by several countries and organizations. They also welcomed the new pledges made by several new partners, notably China, India and the Republic of Korea. They also applauded the concrete proposals from the African Development Bank, the African Union and associations of universities – notably the African Association of Universities (AAU), the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) and the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) – on the issues of governance and higher education delivery models.
50. The participants appreciated the priority that UNESCO accorded to Africa at this conference.