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The Quality of Governance in Sub-Saharan Africa – Comparing Intra-regional Inequalities in Higher Education

Africa
Governance
Comparative Perspective
Higher Education
Jens Jungblut
Universitetet i Oslo
Jens Jungblut
Universitetet i Oslo
Peter Maassen
Universitetet i Oslo

Abstract

Higher education is a central institution of modern societies. While it traditionally fulfilled a number of societal functions within its specific institutional domain, recent years saw an increase in higher education’s political salience and relevance in relation to other policy areas. This trend is not confined to the OECD but also encompasses Africa where a growing focus on higher education and research is used to foster development and overcome existing inequalities. This can be illustrated by the ‘Agenda 2063’, a joint political set of actions which was signed by all African heads of state in January 2015 and which, amongst others, prioritizes the goal of strengthening higher education and scientific research as the foundation for building an African knowledge economy. While the commitment to this increased relevance of higher education is a common phenomenon across the continent, one can at the same time observe significant cross-country inequalities concerning the level of development and growth rates. This paper starts from the assumption that a well-functioning bureaucracy and political-administrative order are a pre-condition for societal progress, economic growth, and knowledge production. Combined with the enhanced political commitment to the importance of higher education for national development, this poses the question in how far there is a relation between the quality of governance and the effectiveness of the higher education sector of a given country. This paper aims at contributing to a better understanding of the ‘Quality of Governance’ (QoG) in Africa by discussing in how far current development trends in African countries can be related to changes in national public sector governance structures and practices. We will not use aggregated measures for discussing comprehensively, that is, at all governance levels and for all services and policy areas, the QoG of the selected countries as a whole. Instead, the paper will be focused on the national and organizational governance level and on one specific service, that is, the provision of higher education. For this purpose, the paper will introduce an analytical scheme for studying: 1) the dynamics of Sub-Saharan African higher education systems and institutions; 2) cross-national variations in the structural characteristics of state bureaucracies involved in the public governance of higher education; and 3) the relationship between 1) and 2). To study this relation the paper analyzes survey data from key administrators in several flagship universities in Sub-Saharan Africa and combines this with quantitative results on higher education outputs from a multi-year research project. This paper assumes that the inter-country variations in Sub-Saharan Africa concerning the dynamics of the national higher education systems and institutions can be explained, at least partly, by variations in specific features of the state bureaucracies.