The Changing Role of Higher Education in Africa: A Historical Reflection

Emnet Tadesse Woldegiorgis, Martin Doevenspeck


This article addresses the changing role of higher education in Africa from the pre-colonial time up to the 1990s. The basic argument is, though higher education institutions are a product of socio-economic and political dynamics of the society in the course of history, these interactions have always been imperfect in Africa since universities did not originally evolve out of social interactions. The introduction of European education during colonial period also did not serve the interests of African societies; instead education was used as a means of extending colonial ideology. After independence, African countries inherited fragile institutions which did not have social legitimacy from the public. The donor-client dependency relationship had inhibited the development of African institutions and the capacity of Africans to develop educational policies which are socially relevant and financially feasible. Thus, higher education institutions in Africa have been carrying out various roles of economic development, Africanization, nation-building, and engines of knowledge economy; at the same time executing foreign roles which have not been owned by African societies.

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Higher Education Studies  ISSN 1925-4741 (Print)   ISSN 1925-475X (Online)


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