Higher education and economic development

At the macro (national) level, this project explores the relationship between economic policy and development, on the one hand, and higher education system development, on the other. At the meso/micro (institutional/project) levels, the project seeks to understand the ways in which selected universities in Africa are responding to calls for a stronger engagement with the socio-economic development of their country and surrounding regions.

Project activities included the following

  • A review of the international literature on the relationship between higher education and economic development;
  • Case studies of three successful systems – Finland, South Korea and North Carolina in the United States; and,
  • Site visits to eight African countries, including one university in each country (University of Ghana, University of Mauritius, University of Botswana, Makerere University in Uganda, University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa, the Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique, and the University of Nairobi in Kenya).

Key findings

    While each sub-project presents valuable insights into the relationship between higher education and economic development, the projects draws the following three main conclusions from the study of the eight African cases:

    1. There is a lack of clarity and agreement (pact) about a development model and the role of higher education in economic development, at both national and university levels, in all eight cases. There was, however, an increasing awareness, particularly at government level, of the importance of universities in the global context of the knowledge economy.
    2. Research production at the eight African universities is not strong enough to enable them to build on their traditional undergraduate teaching roles and make a sustained contribution to development via new knowledge production. A number of the universities have manageable student–staff ratios and adequately qualified staff, but inadequate funds for staff to engage in research. In addition, the incentive regimes do not support knowledge production.
    3. In none of the countries in the sample is there a coordinated effort between government, external stakeholders and the university to systematically strengthen the contribution that the university can make to development. While at each of the universities there are exemplary development projects that connect strongly to external stakeholders and strengthen the academic core, the challenge remains how to increase the number of these projects.


    Universities and economic development in Africa
    By Nico Cloete, Tracy Bailey, Pundy Pillay, Ian Bunting & Peter Maassen


    Universities and economic development in Africa synthesis the findings from the eight case studies and presents the key findings of each of the case studies. The analysis and discussion presented in the book draw three main conclusions about the relationship between higher education and development in Africa.


    To view the individual case study reports, click here.

    Universities and economic development in Africa
    Pact, academic core and coordination: SYNTHESIS REPORT
    By Nico Cloete, Tracy Bailey and Peter Maassen


    This seminal CHET publication draws together evidence and synthesises the findings from eight African case studies that formed part of the HERANA project.

    Linking higher education and economic development:
    Implications for Africa from three successful systems
    By Pundy Pillay


    Finland, South Korea and the state of North Carolina in the US are three systems that have successfully harnessed higher education in their economic development initiatives. This publication draws together evidence on the three systems, synthesises the key findings, and distils the implications for African countries.

    Higher Education and Economic Development
    A Review of the Literature
    By Pundy Pillay


    The widespread recognition that tertiary education is a major driver of economic competitiveness in an increasingly knowledge-driven global economy has made high-quality tertiary education more important than ever before in both industrialised and developing countries. This review of the literature examines the relationship between higher education and economic development.

    Scientific Capital and Engagement in African Universities:
    The Case of the Social Sciences at Makerere University
    By Patrício V Langa


    In this paper, Langa argues that Bourdieu’s concept of scientific capital offers a useful perspective with which to discriminate universities, discipline fields and academics through their intellectual productivity. This notion offers more practical and heuristic possibilities than the concept of engagement. An additional subject of covered is the nature of the networks with which academics, both academic and non-academic.

    Cross-national higher education performance indicators:
    ISI publication output figures for 16 selected African universities
    by Nelius Boshoff


    Most African universities do not have any incentive to capture the details of publications produced by their university staff. Even in cases where records are captured, the lists normally include a mixture of publications in both scholarly and popular sources, making it difficult to separate peer reviewed publications from non-peer reviewed publications. The purpose of this paper is to set out the publication output figures for 17 African universities that are the foci in a CHET project on cross-national higher education performance indicators.

    Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University:
    An engine of economic growth for South Africa and the Eastern Cape region?
    by Rómulo Pinheiro, University of Oslo


    This paper considers the extent to which Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University meets the expected objectives for newly-created comprehensive universities in South Africa: (i) improved access to, and articulation between, different types of programmes; (ii) efficiency gains; (iii) research synergies; and (iv) enhanced responsiveness to regional (social and economic) needs.


    << back