IHERLD launch 2
Participants take photo during the launch of the Institute of Higher Education, Research and Leadership Development. PHOTO: COURTESY

By Taigu Muchiri

USIU-Africa launched the Institute of Higher Education, Research and Leadership Development (IHERLD) on January 30, 2019. The institute is envisioned to address the challenges in higher education and explore solutions that can improve the management of institutions of higher learning in Kenya and the World. Challenges in Higher Education have been on the rise in the last couple of years, both locally and globally. Funding for higher education continues to be a great threat worldwide and governments across the globe have reduced their funding to state funded universities over the years. Student enrollment numbers have reduced significantly and tertiary education enrollment ratio stands at 11%, which is below the continental average and far below the world average of about 38%. The enrollment numbers have been decreasing due to the decreased number of students who are qualified to join university. Africa continues to have the lowest research productivity worldwide. According to UNESCO data, in 2013 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on research and development as a percentage of GDP in Africa was 0.5%, compared to a world average of 1.7%, and 2.7% for North America, 1.8% for Europe and 1.6% for Asia. Africa accounted for 1.3% of global research and development. Global spending on research and development has now reached US$1.7 trillion, 80% of which is accounted for by only 10 countries, none of them is African.
Speaking during the launch, the Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Zeleza mentioned that these challenges can be overcome by multi-sectoral dialogue initiatives in government, private sector to reach a desired growth. “Higher education stakeholders and leaders must take the lead to bring change and transformation in universities.” Central to this transformation is governance and leadership at university. He mentioned that choosing leaders to lead the vision of improving quality of education lies within these challenges that must be turned into opportunities.  The Permanent Secretary, Tertiary and Vocational Training, Dr. Kevit Desai reiterated the importance of entrenching good governance in running universities. “Good governance principals of accountability, transparency, and effectiveness are a major factor in improving the quality of education must be employed in the running of universities in order to improve our global rankings, increase research outputs and produce quality graduate that can compete on a global scale.”

Higher education in Africa has grown significantly from 170 universities in the 1960s to over 1, 600 universities training over 14.7 million students around Africa. This number will increase over the next couple of years. However, the quality of education has not matched this growth to enable these institutions contribute to impactful research, develop and enhance employability skills of graduates and attract funding. In addition, this growth lacks higher education professionals that can effectively deliver on their mandate. Currently, there is a mismatch between the administration and the academic arms in universities. In most cases, the administration arm of the university is not well equipped to handle challenges in higher education. Professionals in human resources, marketing, accounting, fundraising and other critical sectors that are instrumental in the everyday running of higher education institutions must be prepared and trained to achieve this transformation.

The institute will develop a governance program for senior leadership organs of Higher Education institutes and develop functional programs for middle level managers. It will promote best practices in governance in universities and will target Vice Chancellors, Board of Trustees, Management Boards, and University Councils to ensure the management of universities is prioritized as a driver to achieving transformation. The institute will develop a program for building capacity of policy makers and teachers involved in developing and implementing competency based curriculum. Delivery of the curriculum at all levels of education must be factored as a critical success factor. This competency dictates the quality of education that students receive. This, in turn impacts on the ability of students to deliver on their areas of study and enhance their employability skills. The institute will initiate and drive policy dialogues to address these challenges and find lasting solutions. It will create economic and social impact directly on the more than 1,600 universities and the 55 countries in Africa that need to shape up and institutionalize policy in Higher Education.