Redefining and refining global and continental partnerships and collaborations in Higher Education during and post COVID-19

By Taigu Muchiri

The second series of the Alliance for African Partnership (AAP) public dialogue was held on May 13, and was moderated by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Paul Tiyambe Zeleza. The dialogue brought together University leaders from across the continent to discuss how their institutions will handle partnerships and collaboration during and post-pandemic world. The public dialogue is organized by AAP in partnership with the University World News and the African Studies Centre at Michigan University. The discussion was led by Dr. Steven Hanson, Associate Provost and Dean of International Studies and Programs at Michigan State University (MSU), and was joined by Prof. Charles Igwe, Vice Chancellor, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Prof. George Kanyama-Phiri, Vice Chancellor, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), Prof. Idrissa Traore, Vice Chancellor, University of Arts and Human Sciences of Bamako (ULSHB).

Speaking during the event, Prof. Zeleza noted that it is important for African universities to critically think about partnerships and global collaborations to respond to some of these questions: What kind of partnerships are emerging in African universities as a result of the pandemic for example research collaborations, student teaching and learning, mobility of people, programs and curriculum; what new collaborations are emerging out of COVID-19 that will transform traditional North-South collaboration; how will COVID-19 affect the perennial struggle for African universities to balance the demands of internationalization and indigenization.

Partnerships and collaborations between universities across the world have seen experts come together to address current problems and future challenges. These partnerships strengthen relationships but have led to transformational change especially in developing countries and help to shape policy.

Dr. Steven Hanson mentioned that MSU’s global partnership journey started over sixty years ago and the objective was to use knowledge and technology to find solutions to existing problems. “This process has helped form and inform partnerships and it uses a three-pronged approach by incorporating thematic experience and expertise, regional experience and expertise and global partnerships and collaborations. These in turn create global solutions and innovations with lasting effect and this approach led to the birth of the AAP which works with African leaders to recognize the capacity and strengths of African based institutions and creates African led solutions to solve Africa’s most pressing challenges,” he explained. He added that global partnerships are not likely to change amid the pandemic because the world’s pressing issues are still the same and others have been amplified by the pandemic such as rural to urban migration, food security, water quality, climate change, income inequality and youth employment. However, post COVID-19 will see accelerated partnerships and collaborations that will be determined by travel and safety, technology that will accelerate the fourth industrial revolution and development of innovative education pathways.

Universities across the world are being tested in terms of how they respond to the global pandemic by addressing the issues that affect them directly. Particularly, this time will shape how partnerships and collaborations are forged after the pandemic. African universities must now evaluate the worth of these partnerships and change how they will be done in the future. For example, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka aims to continue its current partnership and pursue new partnerships that specifically seek to resolve the challenges brought about by the pandemic and its effects in Nigeria. Prof. George Kanyama-Phiri, Vice Chancellor, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) mentioned that the University is keen foster partnerships and collaborations in order to expand the capacity of ICT resources and train students and faculty to enable them effectively deliver online learning. In addition, the University by collaborating with University of Pretoria to review its curricula; setting up an innovation and incubation hub in partnership with MSU; collaboration with the public and private sector to build capacities in Universities to enable them respond to COVID-19.

On June 10, the dialogue will highlight potential challenges of student recruitment in the age of COVID-19; on June 24, the panelists will explore the psychosocial impact of COVID-19 on university faculty and students; and the final dialogue will be held on July 8, that will show the impact of COVID-19 in Africa by exploring the opportunities for partnership and engagement.

Social Media