Emerging Contours of African Private Higher Education.

Author:Tamrat, Wondwosen

Since the 1970s, developing regions have exhibited massive growth in tertiary higher education in general and private higher education (PHE) in particular. Yet, HE still remains small especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where GER hovers at 8 percent. This is mainly because African higher education has remained essentially a public enterprise--a symbol of post-independence self-reliance which has left little room for PHEIs until the 1990s.

PHE has become one of the fastest growing segments of the higher education sector with a number of these institutions continuously on the rise. Favorable privatization policies, massive demands and other global developments account for the continued surge in private provision. Ethiopia alone currently boasts more than 120 private institutions. Ghana, South Africa and Uganda have significant number of PHEIs--in virtually all cases more in numbers than public ones. In 2009, there was an estimated 468 private and 200 public universities in Africa, though this may have been a huge underestimation.

Africa has reached a level where access to higher education in its various guises would not be possible without the active involvement of private institutions. This is mainly due to the increasingly significant roles these institutions are playing in the continental provision of higher education. This article examines the developmental features of African PHE by drawing from experiences in the continent.

Veiled Advances

Notwithstanding the differences in specific goals and objectives between private and public HEIs, PHEIs in Africa have created opportunities for access and become alternatives to the public sector. It is inconceivable to imagine higher education in many countries in Africa today without the involvement of PHEIs that currently claim 20 percent of the enrollment.

PHEIs are vital to the continent's economies and the effort of nation building by providing critical educational and training opportunities. They provide employment-oriented courses and entrepreneurial skills relevant to the job market. They also help conserve Africa's scarce foreign exchange by creating alternative opportunities to study at home.

PHEIs infuse competitiveness due to their dynamic and entrepreneurial features. In 1990, South Africa had only five MBA programs offered by public providers serving around 1,000 students, but due to competition from private institutions, the number of providers grew to 40 and MBA enrollment to 15,000...

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