Lynch School Scholars Launch African Journal

BC-based publication will be first to focus on African higher-ed issues

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

A Boston College-based publication set to debut later this year will be the first professional journal dedicated to exploring higher education issues in Africa.

The Journal of Higher Education in Africa is the brainchild of two Lynch School of Education scholars, Monan Professor of Higher Education Philip Altbach, director of BC's Center for International Higher Education, and Research Associate Damtew Teferra, who will be editor-in-chief of the new journal.

Altbach said the quarterly publication comes at a critical time for African higher education, as countries throughout the continent strive for technological and economic development while confronting sociopolitical issues such as the widespread presence of AIDS/HIV.

"Many African nations allowed their higher education systems to deteriorate during the mid-1990s and now there is the realization that they must have a higher education system that works if they are going to survive in this age of globalization," he said.

"This journal is the first of its kind," said Teferra, a native of Ethiopia who studied in his homeland and in the United Kingdom before earning his doctorate in higher education at Boston College last year. "The whole idea for the project stems from the fact that there is no general forum on higher education in Africa currently available. Whatever information you can get either has limited distribution or is out of date, and it's unable to make a significant impact on specific policy issues."

Among the topics to be addressed in the journal's first issues, Teferra said, are funding and financing higher education in Africa, gender and equity issues, higher education and national development and the AIDS/HIV problem as it relates to higher education.

The Journal of Higher Education in Africa is a collaborative effort between the two BC scholars and the Council for the Development of Social Science Research based in Dakar, Senegal. For the first three years the journal will be planned and edited in Boston, with editorial responsibilities shifting to Dakar in 2006.

Copies of the journal will be distributed free to educators and policymakers throughout Africa. It will be sold on a subscription basis in the United States and Europe.

The journal is funded by a three-year $550,000 grant from a consortium of educational foundations that includes the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, MacArthur Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York.

"When we approached the foundations with Damtew's idea, they felt they wanted to establish a research base," said Altbach. "This is a way of building a research community.

"Communicating the work of scholars builds an 'Invisible College,'" Altbach said.

In a related project, Teferra and Altbach are finishing work on a major reference book that will survey various aspects and dimensions of higher education in Africa, ranging from the state of private higher education in Africa to financial issues to university/state relations in each of the continent's 54 nations. The 1000-page publication, African Higher Education - An International Reference Handbook, will be published this spring by the Indiana University Press.

"This has been a very, very complex initiative," Teferra said. "It has taken us over two years to research, collect manuscripts and, in some cases, translate the text. Most of the information was written by Africans living in Africa as well as Africans currently based outside of their homes."

The reference work was funded by a $100,000 Ford Foundation grant, which will be used in part to distribute the book to policymakers, development agencies and university teachers and administrators throughout Africa, Altbach said.

 

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