P 04

Universities as Nodes in Global Networks of Knowledge Production and Power: New Perspectives on Universities in African Countries

Panel abstract
After decades of limited attention and severe budget cuts under structural adjustment programs, universities are now viewed as pivotal to the social and economic development of African countries. This panel’s convenors place universities at the centre of African countries’ ability to participate in globalization. At the same time, universities are mirrors of the wider society and the challenges and opportunities that African countries face today, such as mediating historical exclusions.
More and more students are graduating from secondary schools, hoping to attend universities and to receive academic degrees. Simultaneously, universities try to contribute to national economic development through knowledge and technology transfer and research commercialization and compete in international scientific markets (i.e., international publications and research collaboration, improving research capacities, academic mobility).
Ultimately, African universities are embedded in politico-economic networks that are marked by Euro-American economic and intellectual hegemony and capitalistic modes of reasoning and extraction. Searching for more diverse sources as alternatives, universities have fostered cooperations with the private sector and across countries of the Global South. Recent examples include bilateral, regional, and Pan-African higher education policies, branch campuses, university-related institutes such as Confucius, Yunus Emre, and the Korea Foundation, scholarship, and exchange programmes. Looking at universities can reveal striking insights and help to understand past and present chances and pitfalls of globalization in the southern hemisphere.
We invite papers to discuss empirical and theoretical approaches that explain the increasingly important positions and the local and global entanglements and connections of universities in African societies with other universities, university-related institutes, and social and economic players.

Time: Friday, 29/06/2018, 2 - 4 pm
New venue: Hörsaalgebäude, HS 8

Convenors
Akiiki Babyesiza (CHE Consult GmbH – Centre for Higher Education, Berlin)
Susanne Ress (Humboldt University of Berlin)
Stefan Skupien (WZB Social Science Center Berlin)

Panellists
Claudia Baumann (Leipzig University)
Rüdiger Lauberbach (Leipzig University)
Susanne Ress (Humboldt University of Berlin)

Discussant
Akiiki Babyesiza (CHE Consult GmbH – Centre for Higher Education, Berlin)
 

Paper abstracts

Claudia Baumann
The Role of Language and Culture Institutes in Shaping Global Connections: Confucius, Yunus Emre, and the Russkiy Mir Foundation

Over the last ten years, Confucius Institutes in Africa have been on the rise. They received considerable attention and featured prominently in discussions about soft power and South-South cooperation. On the one hand, the existence of these university-related institutes is seen critical as they overwrite the production of local knowledge and come as a harbinger of bigger political interests. On the other hand, they are often described as an alternative to conventional funding and capacity building mechanisms and as creating options for financing studies and entering the job market. As much as these binary, (inter)national considerations warrant further research, they often lack emphasis on the university. It is, however, here where much of the terms under which the Confucius Institutes can operate is negotiated. It is important to look at the university-specific contexts to understand the ongoing border-transcending processes in higher education. The focus on Confucius Institutes within the realm of cultural and language institutes is understandable given their quantitative dimension. Yet, they are not the only ones to change the landscape of higher education in this regard. Largely unnoticed are for example similar approaches taken by the Turkish and the Russian governments with the foundation of the Yunus Emre Institute and the Russkiy Mir Foundation. Established in 2007, both aim to disseminate language and culture and emphasize their willingness to engage in curriculum development and research-related activities at universities. The scenery of linguistic and cultural relations at African universities is becoming more diverse, contributing to the reshuffling of the global knowledge order.

Rüdiger Lauberbach
The Internationalization of Higher Education in Ethiopia

The paper examines internationalization strategies in the higher education sector in Ethiopia. With its young and growing population, the country has attracted a multitude of international actors with an interest in engaging in its higher education sector. Ethiopia’s particular historical background – free of a colonial legacy – makes it a distinct context to study higher education specifically and knowledge production more generally. The Ethiopian government currently realizes a plan of massive expansion regarding the number of public universities as well as teaching and research capacities. Internationalization of curriculum, staff, student body and funding, and cooperation with partners from the Global North (e.g. GIZ) and South (e.g. Confucius Institute, Korea Foundation) are a major pillar of this strategy. Which motives and expectations are steering local, governmental, and international actors towards forming such connections? How do different stakeholders evaluate the effects of internationalization? Approaching these questions, first, political guidelines are under scrutiny. Simultaneously, I discuss the implementation of these strategies and their effects on the level of universities, individual departments, and academic and administrative staff. Additionally, decision makers and practitioners from international cooperation partners in Ethiopia's higher education sector are heard. The analysis will be based on the study of document sources and qualitative interviews with the aforementioned stakeholders. Field research conducted from January until April 2018 will lay the groundwork for the paper. The results should enable insights into a tension-filled field, affected not only by efforts to partake in a globalized economy increasingly based on the production and dissemination of knowledge, but also by power relations somewhere between local agency, old dependencies, and new forms of cooperation.

Susanne Ress
Encountering Africa: Examining Brazil’s International Development Cooperation in Higher Education

Scholars have shown that development efforts since their inception after World War II have brought political and economic benefits to donor countries, while often (re)producing (neo)colonial dependencies and underdevelopment in African countries. Brazil—especially under the presidency of Luis Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010)—claimed to practice development differently, rejecting imperialism and officially emphasizing commonalities between Brazil and recipient countries. To examine these claims, research was conducted at a newly created international university. This university aims to foster the integration of people and institutions from member states of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries to support their development. The Brazilian government under Lula legitimizes Africa-Brazil relations with reference to the supposedly shared history of transatlantic slavery. This way of legitimizing Africa-Brazil relations also pervades the curriculum. The university designed a set of courses mandatory for all students across disciplines. Two of them teach about the history and culture of Lusophone spaces. The official descriptions of both courses emphasize the role of colonialism and slavery in shaping cultures across spaces and times. However, its implementation in terms of course materials and classroom discussions often focus on Brazil’s history of slavery and abolition. In this paper, I argue that while in North-South relations the development of African countries and regions is mostly conceptualized as an ahistorical but technical problem, the Brazilian narrative imagines ‘Africa’ as the place where Brazil’s own history began. This discourse decentres ‘Europe’ as the sole origin of Brazilian modernity and rehabilitates the role of Africans, enslaved under Portuguese colonialism, in the making of Brazil as a nation. As such, Brazil uses ‘Africa’ to anticipate its own future as a pluricultural society while simultaneously confining ‘Africa’ to the past.