TOWARDS REVITALIZING AND EXPANDING TERTIARY EDUCATION, RESEARCH AND INNOVATION TO ADDRESS CONTINENTAL CHALLENGES & PROMOTE COMPETITIVENESS: ROLE ...

 
TOWARDS REVITALIZING AND EXPANDING TERTIARY
   EDUCATION, RESEARCH AND INNOVATION TO ADDRESS
 CONTINENTAL CHALLENGES & PROMOTE COMPETITIVENESS:
             ROLE OF ACADEMIA IN AFRICA
                     Domwin Dabire Kuupole & Kofi Kodah Mawuloe
                     ddkuupole@ucc.edu.gh       mkodah@ucc.edu.gh
                            University of Cape Coast, Ghana

Abstract
As the World becomes incessantly closed through exploding technology, the need to revitalize
the frontiers of tertiary education, research and innovation are equally paramount in the
paradoxical face of dwindling natural resources. Addressing this overriding need is a key
way to resolving the multifaceted challenges of the African continent and enhancing her
competiveness as a global partner. One main characteristic of global competiveness is the
emergence of knowledge societies as pacesetters and tertiary institutions are indispensable
catalyst in driving these knowledge societies. To that extent, what should be African
academia’s role in training critical masses of citizens to meet contemporary challenges of
excruciating poverty, unemployment, diseases, political “massification” of education, and
above all, illiteracy? This study examines the challenges and proposes critical redefinition of
roles for African academia in an attempt to promote global competitiveness through quality
and equity. The study uses a quantitative approach with a questionnaire administered to a
cross-section of respondents at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana. Considering the
universal roles of universities, findings of this study could be universally applicable to
determining the role of academia across Africa in addressing the afore-stated continental
challenges and promoting global competitiveness of graduates from African tertiary
institutions.
Keywords: academia; global competitiveness; illiteracy; “massification”; tertiary education

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Introduction

In the 21st Century, the World has witnessed a tremendous growth toward becoming a
unified-entity rather than a conglomerate of individual states and continents. This
phenomenon is linked to the fast growing Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
industry. It has revolutionized the globe to the point of creating the express need to revitalize
and expand the frontiers of Higher Education, research and innovation in an equal measure in
the paradoxical face of dwindling natural resources of states, especially those on the African
continent. Indeed, the importance of Higher Education, for that matter the relevance of
tertiary graduates in efficiently managing these dwindling resources is perhaps better
captured in the synopsis of a World Bank document:
      Human capital affects growth through multiple channels: by increasing allocative
      efficiency and the efficiency of asset management, utilization, and maintenance;
      through entrepreneurship; and through innovation, which raises productivity,
      unlocks new investment opportunities, and enhances export competitiveness. The
      spread of information and communication technology (ICT) is further
      strengthening the demand for skills – in particular, for skills of higher quality
      (The World Bank, 2008: 7).
Addressing this overriding need is the surest way to resolving the multifaceted challenges of
the African continent and enhancing her competitiveness as a global partner.
One core feature of global competitiveness is the emergence of knowledge societies which
are the movers and shakers on the global stage. Tertiary education is an indispensable catalyst
in shaping and driving these knowledge societies; it is a critical pillar of sustainable human
development. Apart from providing opportunities for the enhancement of academic careers
and the achievement of desirable professional development goals, Higher Education
engenders the discovery and proper use of knowledge, ensures healthy economic competition
among nations and promotes technological advancement (World Bank, 2011). In the face of
the foregone observations, what should be the roles of academia in Africa in the training of a
critical mass of citizens to meet contemporary challenges of excruciating poverty,
unemployment, sicknesses and diseases, and political “massification” of education, and
above all, illiteracy?
Some Challenges Facing Higher Education in Africa
There are about 1,650 estimated Higher Education institutions (HEIs) in Africa, most of
which are faced with numerous challenges and diverse pointers allude to that assertion (Mba,
2017). These challenges are evidenced in the decline in quality of teaching, research and
research outputs over the years. The challenges facing HEIs in Africa, are such that
immediate interventions are required to redeem the rapidly degrading quality of Higher
Education in many African countries. Though there is a tremendous increase in access to
Higher Education, it is currently at 5 percent for the relevant age group and remains the
lowest in terms of regional average worldwide, just one-fifth of the global average of about
25 percent. Women who constitute about 50 percent of the world’s population are under-
represented in Higher Education, especially in the fields of science and technology. More so,
there is not a single university in West and Central Africa that is found in the best 500
academic institutions of the world’s rankings conducted on the basis of teaching, research,
knowledge transfer and international outlook (the Times Higher Education [THE], 2019).

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The Higher Education sector in Africa is also characterized by high rates of migration of
talents out of the continent in pursuit of training and research opportunities abroad (Benedict
& Ukpere, 2012). It is the brain drain of academics where qualified staff of institutions
migrate to seek greener pastures in other jurisdictions in Europe, Americas and recently
China, suggesting that these destinations are well developed with relatively more
employment opportunities than their own countries of origin.

Another challenge to the Higher Education sector is the mismatch between academic
programmes offered in Higher Education systems and the employment sector of the African
countries. Universities in Africa have traditionally trained graduates for the public sector
employments and not necessarily for the private sector jobs (Friesenhahn, 2014). Huge
discrepancies therefore exist in Africa between the job seekers’ profiles and the skills
required for jobs (Oppong & Sachs, 2015). This is to the extent that currently, many African
countries face shortage of human resources and capacity within the Sciences, Technology,
Engineering, Mathematics (Okeke, Babalola, Byarugaba, Djimde, & Osoniyi, 2017) and
Agriculture, as well as the health disciplines.
Apart from mismatches, funding is also a challenge for Higher Education in Africa. While
students’ enrollment has increased tremendously in most African countries, public funding to
the sector has dwindled (Mohamedbhai, 2011). The past two decades have witnessed an
excessive increase in student enrollment in HEIs in Africa and this has not been matched by
public funding. Public expenditure per student on the continent has generally declined
considerably affecting the quality of higher education. With the increase in student numbers,
it is expected that a commensurate number of faculty should be recruited and additional
infrastructure built to support teaching and learning. Unfortunately, government expenditure
on Higher Education in Africa rather declined over the years (Mohamedbhai, 2011). This
absence of political commitment motivated the low level of fiscal and infrastructural
investments as well as effective policies to promote the sector over the years (Wilhelm,
2018).
Contribution of Research and Innovations to the Development of Higher Education
Higher Education institutions perform three main functions which include education, research
and extension activities. The education and research functions of Higher Education are
considered as two sides of the same coin; while research makes Higher Education possible,
education in turn equips the human resource to be able to conduct research (Meek & Davies,
2009). According to Gupta (2017), the sure way for HEIs to improve the relevance of Higher
Education and prepare students for the employment market in the 21st century is to adopt a
research-based education. Research-oriented teaching provides faculty with latest and
original information to spice up their teaching (Rosenshine, 2012). Research improves their
teaching and ensures that students are conversant with the intricacies of research while
research-oriented teaching provides knowledge on what it means to be a researcher, how to
conduct research and provides the faculty with research experiences (Reis, 2016). In addition,
students of HEIs stand a great chance of learning more when research is integrated into the
pedagogies of teaching. Research provides students with the opportunity to progress from
being consumers of knowledge to generators or producers of knowledge.

It is expedient therefore, to engage students in learning and applying research methodologies,
as well as student-initiated designs and original research-oriented activities. Similarly,
research-oriented education could improve professional practice, produce professionals in

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diverse areas, and empower them with the requisite capacity to generate socio-economic
development. When research-oriented students become professionals and are employed, they
serve a great deal of purpose to their organizations by integrating the practice of research in
their operations and for that matter bring to bear on their innovations. Higher Education
institutions in sub-Saharan Africa must continue in research and improve upon it to enhance
‘evidence-based’ knowledge. The problem however, is that African governments spend little
on Higher Education research (Mohamedbhai, 2014). Governments’ support for Higher
Education is virtually limited to salaries and some teaching provisions (Clifford et al., 2012).
Obviously, the limited funding from African governments translates into poor infrastructure
and human resources for research (Mohamedbhai, 2014).

Using Research and Innovation for Addressing Continental Challenges and Promoting
Global Competitiveness
Using research and innovations, HEIs can help create jobs by working to balance and
integrate practical demands of the labour market; produce new knowledge through research
and produce well-rounded and well-equipped graduates through teaching. According to
Mohamedbhai (2014), priorities of African countries and HEIs should be rehashed and
effective research be done by the HEIs to solve the myriad of development challenges facing
the continent. This paper focuses on examining the problems posed by diverse challenges and
seeks to propose possible critical orientations towards defining roles for academia in Africa
in an attempt to address continental challenges and promote global competitiveness through
quality and equity education. Fundamentally, the paper was based on a critical examination
of data collected through questionnaire administered to a cross-section of respondents on the
campus of the University of Cape Coast (UCC), Ghana. Specifically, the study comprised 40
respondents with diverse and rich backgrounds as faculty, parents and students who are all
stakeholders of Higher Education. It is however, imperative to state that this is a pilot study
that is to inform a larger study on the dynamics of university education across Africa in the
21st Century. The responses were coded and analysed using SPSS version 21.0, and the
results presented in various Tables, followed by a summary of the findings, conclusions
recommendations.

Table 1: Status of Respondents
Profession                                          Occurrence
Faculty                                             9
Parent                                              4
Student                                             24
Faculty/Parent                                      1
Faculty/Student                                     1
Parent/Student                                      1
Total                                               40

Since the respondents of this study are the main stakeholders in Higher Education, their
views are essential for understanding the dynamics of Higher Education and more
importantly, how this type of education can be revitalized and expanded through research and
innovation.

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Based on the responses of this study, twenty-four (24) of the participants are students, nine
(9) are faculty and four (4) are parents. Although, these were randomly selected, the
distribution tends to reflect the population of UCC where majority are students, followed by
faculty and lastly, parents. It must also be noted that 7.5 percent of the respondents had a
double status. For instance, 2.5 percent of the respondents were captured as faculty and
parents, 2.5 percent as faculty and students and 2.5 percent of the participants had a double
status of parents and students. Although the case of single-status is relevant for this study, the
double status of some respondents points to complexities in efforts of achieving equity and
equality on issues of education, particularly at the tertiary level.

Table 2: Causes of Non-competitiveness of Graduates from African Universities
Causes                                                    Percentage (Responses)
Students limit themselves to specific programmes          27.4
Programmes offered in the universities have lost their 38.4
relevance in the current globalization
Graduates do not upgrade their knowledge after school     24.7
Other(s)                                                  9.5
Total (Responses)                                         100

From Table 2, 38.4 percent of the total responses illustrate that programmes offered in the
universities have lost their relevance in the current globalization, igniting notions that Africa
is on a race to the bottom. Further, 27.4 percent of total responses confirm that students limit
themselves to specific programmes and this can limit possibilities of students to broaden their
horizons. Also, 24.7 percent of the responses point to the notion that graduates do not
upgrade their knowledge after school, suggesting that skills development and advancement
become problematic over time. Further, 9.5 percent of the responses demonstrate that there
were other causes of non-competitiveness and these include are the lack of willingness among
students to challenge themselves and create ideas or solutions for African problems. Overall,
the responses depict that programmes are not tailored towards the African reality and largely,
students are only grotesquely engrossed in certificates and not knowledge. Further, these
revelations point to huge fault-lines between graduate skills and the need for competitiveness.

 Table 3: Factors Impairing Global Competitiveness of Graduates from African
Universities
Impairment                                                   Percentage (Responses)
Courses offered are more theoretical and bookish             45.5
Most students are unable to use practical concepts learnt at 34.1
school
Limitation to specific domains which are not marketable      18.2
Other(s)                                                     2.3
Total (Responses)                                            100

In Table 3, there are factors that obstruct the competitiveness of graduates from African
universities. From the feedback, 45.5 percent of the total responses attribute the causes of
non-competitiveness of African universities to theoretically-laden courses and programmes.

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Indeed, these responses repeatedly point to the notion that African universities offer
programmes that lay more emphasis on theoretical aspects and less on how these theories are
or can be practically applied. Coincidentally, 2.3 percent of the responses which provided
other causes of non-competitiveness illustrate the non-practicality of programmes.
Essentially, many African universities excessively dwell on the evolutions of theories without
critiquing these theories or making students appreciate and understand their applications in
various evidence-based scenarios. However, the purpose of university education cannot be
argued to be complete if its teachings and researches cannot be applied to critical areas or
needs for sustained development or human progress. Also, 34.1 percent of the responses
affirmed that majority of students find it difficult to practise the concepts learnt at university,
while 18.2 percent of the responses indicate that most students limit themselves to specific
domains which do not make them ready for different tasks on the job market after completion
of their programmes of study. Invariably, most programmes offered in HEIs are more
theoretical and bookish, most students are not able to make practical use of concepts learnt at
school and most students limit themselves to specific domains which do not make them
versatile/marketable after graduation, leading to impaired-global competitiveness of
graduates from African universities. The point must not be lost that there is a distinction
between the acquisition of relevant knowledge as well as skills and the application of these in
real life. However, in the case of many African countries, the acquisition or teaching of
relevant knowledge is already problematic and for this reason, application is non-existent or
even more compounded than its acquisition.

Table 4: Current Role of Academia in Higher Education Across the Continent of Africa
Current roles                                                  Percentages (Responses)
Universities offer programmes that address continental 29.9
challenges
Universities strive to produce graduates for global job market 35.8
Universities conduct researches for African challenges         28.4
Other(s)                                                       6
Total (Responses)                                              100

Table 4 shows the role of academia in Higher Education in Africa and from the data, 35. 8
percent of the total responses conclude that universities strive to produce competent graduates
for employment globally, while 29.9 percent of the responses point out that universities in
Africa offer programmes that address some of the continental problems. Also, 28.4 percent of
the responses demonstrate that universities across the continent conduct researches to identity
developmental challenges. Although universities conduct research, 6 percent of the responses
confirm that these research activities are not used possibly because they do not possess
cutting-edge solutions or policy makers are reluctant to embrace them.

Table 5: Indispensability of Higher Education in Shaping Knowledge Societies
Value Label      Value      Frequency        Percent            Cum Percent
Yes                      1    24                     53.33                57.14
No                       2    7                      15.56                73.81
Not sure                 3    11                     24.44                100.00
                          .   3                       6.67

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Total                        45                    100.0

Table 5 shows the necessity of Higher Education in shaping and driving knowledge society
in Africa. From the feedback, 53.33 percent of the total number of responses affirm that
Higher Education is important in shaping and driving knowledge in Africa. Indeed, the
responses demonstrate that universities help graduates in sharpening their skills for the world
outside the classroom. In this regard, universities have transcendent roles in which they train
graduates beyond the academic environment where knowledge is acquired. Conversely, 15.56
percent of the responses disagree with the assertion that Higher Education is indispensable in
shaping and driving knowledge societies. However, these responses could not be
substantiated beyond the notions that the structure and form of educating students are not
helpful enough, practical courses are unavailable and that not all knowledge is learnt in
universities. For instance, tacit knowledge cannot be learned in universities. But it remains
debatable if these arguments can lead to conclusions that universities are dispensable.
Furthermore, 24.44 percent of the responses cannot confirm or reject the indispensability of
Higher Education, while 6.67 percent of the responses recorded missing values on the
indispensability of Higher Education.

Table 6: African Universities’ Curricula and Global Competitiveness of Graduates
Existing links                                              Percentages (Responses)
The university curricula focus more on examinations than on 51.5
practical skills
The university curricula make students more "white-collar" 45.6
job oriented than entrepreneurial oriented
Other(s)                                                    2.9
Total (Responses)                                           100

Table 6 shows the complementary relationship between the curricula of African universities
and the global competitiveness of tertiary graduates. The data show that 51.5 percent of all
responses indicate that African universities’ curricula focus more on examinations than on
practical skills whereas 45.6 percent show that the curricula in the African universities make
students more "white-collar" job-oriented than entrepreneurial development. Also, 2.9
percent of the responses demonstrate that higher institutions frequently fail to impart
necessities of African students and the theoretical nature of imparting knowledge reinforces
notions of office work rather than technical or field work where more efforts are needed. The
problem of African universities is that issues of practical learning and entrepreneurial
development are heavily sacrificed or relegated to the background as irrelevant issues.
However, these considerations are at the heart of competitiveness.

Table 7: Impact of ICT on Global Competitiveness of Graduates from African
Universities
Impact of ICT                                               Percentages (Responses)
ICT knowledge contributes to advancement and specialisation 32.6
With ICT, graduates can pursue other online courses         31.5
Literacy in ICT as an added advantage for graduates         32.6
Other(s)                                                    3.4

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Total (Responses)                                                 100

It emerged from the findings of the study that ICT has an impact on global competitiveness of
graduates from universities in Africa, as illustrated in Table 7. From the feedback, 32.6
percent of all the responses confirmed that knowledge graduates have in ICT will be
beneficial to them in their area of specialisation because it can help to position themselves
and become aligned with global changes. Coincidentally, the same number of responses
illustrate that literacy in ICT will be an added advantage to graduates over those who have no
knowledge in ICT on the job market. Also, knowledge in ICT can help graduates pursue
other online courses in order to become marketable on the international job market, as
illustrated by 31.5 percent of total responses in Table 7. Of course, the impact of ICT on
global competitiveness of tertiary graduates are diverse, including the ability to improve
knowledge, conduct research and the acquisition of versatility. Incidentally, the touting of
research-based education in the 21st century as a competitive strategy (Gupta, 2017), can be
achieved through the effective deployment of ICT. Nonetheless, the absence of ICT signals
worries that many opportunities of African universities remain untapped.

Table 8: Role of Academia Towards Revitalizing and Expanding Higher Education
Roles of academia                                              Percentages (Responses)
Innovative programmes for technological and economic needs 36.9
Regular reviews of programmes in line with societal changes    33.7
Academia’s role in university and interdisciplinary researches 29.3
Total (Responses)                                              100

Table 8 shows the role of academia in revitalizing and expanding tertiary education in
innovative ways to address Africa’s challenges. From the feedback, 36.9 percent of total
responses conclude that African universities must introduce more innovative programmes
that can address global technological and economic challenges. Such programmes will help
bridge the gaps between global North and South. Similarly, 33.7 percent of the responses
indicate that course contents must be reviewed regularly to suit the trends of societal changes;
while 29.3 percent of them suggest that academia should encourage inter-university and
interdisciplinary researches to address some of the continental challenges. In consonance with
the views of Mohamedbhai (2014), there is the need for a paradigm shift in the way course
contents are designed and taught as well as how research is carried out. Unless these changes
begin trickling in, African countries may have to bow out of the race for global
competitiveness.

Table 9: Ways to Promote Competitiveness of Graduates from African Universities
Competitive strategies                                    Percentages (Responses)
Courses taught should be made more practical and concrete 44.7
More interdisciplinary courses for curriculum             22.4
Regular revision of courses in line with globalization    31.8
Other(s)                                                  1.2
Total (Responses)                                         100

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Table 9 indicates ways of promoting competitiveness of graduates from African universities.
For courses taught in tertiary education, 44.7 percent of the total responses show that courses
should be more practical and concrete to promote competitiveness of graduates; whereas 31.8
percent point to the assertion that courses in tertiary institutions of Africa must be updated to
suit modern trends of globalization. Also, 22.4 percent of the responses indicate that more
interdisciplinary courses must be introduced into tertiary education curricula across African
universities. Furthermore, 1.2 percent of the responses attest that, to promote competitiveness
of graduates from African universities, learners must be exposed to the world in order for
them to acquire skills. This assertion reiterates the need for producing global graduates whose
skills can be tapped for addressing critical needs regardless of where they are located in the
world.

Table 10: Inter-University Research and Exchanges for Improving Academic Standards
Value Label Value          Frequency        Percent            Cum Percent
Yes                    1      27                    60.00                65.85
Not sure              2       14                     31.11               100.00
Missing                .      4                      8.89
                 Total        45                    100.0

There are various ways of promoting academic standards and one of the key ways of
achieving this is by advancing interdisciplinary research collaboration and exchange of
academic staff across African universities. As illustrated in Table 10, majority of the
responses (60 percent) affirm that research collaboration and exchange of academic staff
could help curb contemporary challenges such as political “massification” and falling
academic standards. To buttress this point, 15 percent of those who responded “Yes”, indicate
that with research and exchange, graduates are capable of attaining knowledge in other
disciplines and this could help them to confront other challenges they may encounter. Despite
the significant percentage of responses alluding to incremental benefits of academic
researches and exchanges for improving standards, 31.11 percent of the responses maintain
neutrality as to whether interdisciplinary research activities and academic staff exchanges
hold the key to improving academic standards. Indeed, issues of research and exchange are
not only complicated but also can take a long time to yield results, thus the inability of a
number of participants to establish any positive causality between these and academic
standards. Also, 8.89 percent of the responses were captured as missing values and as a result,
do not influence results on academic research and exchanges for improving the standards of
knowledge.

Table 11: Relevance of Interdisciplinary Research Activities for African Tertiary
Graduates
Value Label Value        Frequency           Percent           Cum Percent
Yes                   1        36                       80.00             85.71
No                    2        1                          2.22            88.10
Not sure              3        5                          11.11           100.00
Missing                .       3                          6.67
Total                          45                       100.0

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Table 11 shows the feedback that sought the opinion of the respondents on the relevance of
interdisciplinary research activities in addressing some of the challenges confronting tertiary
graduates from the African continent. An overwhelming majority, 80 percent of the responses
prove that interdisciplinary research activities are beneficial in addressing challenges
confronting graduates from African universities. On the contrary, 2.2 percent of the total
responses reject the notion that interdisciplinary research is critical for addressing diverse
challenges of graduates. Since universities thrive on effective research and scholarship, it is
therefore not surprising that only 2.38 percent of the responses object to this widely-upheld
view. Furthermore, 11.1 percent of all responses do not establish causality, whilst 6.67
percent were captured as non-respondents to this particular issue.

Table 12: Role of Stakeholders in Addressing Global Competitiveness Challenges
Roles of stakeholders                                           Percentages (Responses)
More programmes for global technological and economic 24.04
changes
Focusing on theoretical relevance and practice during lectures  26.9
Students’ efforts in broadening their horizons in other domains 28.8
Less involvement of parents in children’s programmes/careers    18.3
Other(s)                                                        1.9
Total (Responses)                                               100

In Table 12, the views of the respondents concerning the roles of stakeholders such as
government, universities, students, faculty, civil society and parents, play to address the issue
of deficient global competitiveness of tertiary graduates in Africa are listed. To
fundamentally address the problem of global competitiveness, 28.8 percent of the total
responses demonstrate that students must make more conscious efforts to broaden their
horizon in other domains rather than just focusing on their areas of specialization, whilst 26.9
percent indicate that faculty must make concepts more concrete and practical during course
deliveries. Similarly, 24.04 percent of the responses illustrate that universities must introduce
more programmes that can address global technological and economic changes. Also, 18.3
percent of all responses allude to the notion that parents must not dictate to their wards,
especially with regard to programmes they should pursue and their career choices. Indeed, if
students are left to independently choose their programmes, with minimal guidance from
parents, this can stimulate interests and undoubtedly home-grown solutions to African
problems by students.

Table 13: Promoting Stakeholder Participation in the Education Enterprise
Mechanism                                                        Occurrence
Organizing seminars/fora where experts can address global issues 31.3
Organizing career guidance conferences for students and parents  30.1
Making funds/grants available for development-oriented research  33.7
Other(s)                                                         4.8
Total (Responses)                                                100

Table 13 shows some measures that should be put in place in order to motivate all
stakeholders to participate actively in the education enterprise. Based on the views, 33.7
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percent of the responses confirm that government and university managements should make
resources available for more development-oriented research work, whilst 31.3 percent of total
responses indicate that universities should organize programmes where experts will address
issues on how global changes can benefit students. Aside these, 30.1 percent of the responses
conclude that career guidance conferences should be frequently organized for students and
parents to motivate them to participate actively in the education enterprise. Also, 4.8 percent
of the responses illustrate that other ways of encouraging participation among stakeholders
regarding the education enterprise: these include the award of scholarships to students and
stimulating research through the provision of funding.

Table 14: Mechanisms Availability for Global Competitiveness of Tertiary Graduates
Value Label Value          Frequency         Percent            Cum Percent
Yes                   1        4                      8.89              9.09
No                    2        17                    37.78              47.73
Not sure              3        23                     51.11             100.00
Missing                .       1                      2.22
Total                          45                    100.0

The views of the respondents concerning existing mechanisms in Ghana that can help address
continental challenges associated with global competitiveness of tertiary graduates are
highlighted in Table 14. Regarding mechanisms, only 8.89 percent of total responses affirm
the availability of such mechanisms, whereas 51.11 percent cannot confirm such initiatives.
Also, 38.64 percent rejected notions on the existence of mechanisms in the country’s Higher
Education sector to address challenges associated with global competitiveness of tertiary
graduates. The point must also be made that 2.22 percent of the responses were recorded
under missing category and as a result, had no influence on the results.

Table 15: Revitalizing Mechanisms in African Universities for Global Competitiveness
Revitalization mechanism                                      Percentages (Responses)
More stakeholder meetings should be organized                 14.5
Regularly reviewing programmes to reflect global changes      43.8
Ensuring all inputs in courses and programmes (re)structuring 39.6
Other(s)                                                      2.1
Total                                                         100

Table 15 shows some revitalizing mechanisms to meet global competitiveness in HEIs in
Africa. To meet this objective, 43.8 percent of the responses show that global changes must
be keenly followed in order to adjust course contents to suit changes; 39.6 percent indicate
that all stakeholders in education must be involved in the (re)structuring of courses and
programmes and 14.5 percent conclude that more stakeholder meetings should be organized
as one of the revitalization mechanisms.

Summary of findings
Higher Education institutions in Africa have a myriad of challenges and whilst education and
more so, the acquisition of knowledge at the tertiary level proves to be a competitive force for
confronting and addressing the continent’s problems, there are seemingly embedded
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stumbling blocks that are preventing the attainment of these noble potentials. The world is
advancing rapidly due to technological advantage leading to enormous contributions
knowledge and research yet Africa is still saddled with old challenges of poverty, diseases,
wars and low agricultural production. Unfortunately, these further stagnate development with
little contribution to knowledge and research as depicted in the world’s rankings (THE,
2019). Consequently, many of these institutions will have to reconsider their role in
development and more importantly, how they can be used as conduits for spurring on
entrepreneurial development and practical learning opportunities tailored towards African
needs.

Conclusion
Considering the universal nature of the roles of universities, the findings of this study could
be universally applicable to determining the role of academia across Africa in addressing the
afore-stated continental challenges and promoting global competitiveness of graduates from
African tertiary institutions. Competitiveness is at the heart of Africa’s development and one
way of achieving this is by producing graduates with a global orientation. In so doing,
African universities will not only be producing graduates with competencies that include ICT
skills but more importantly, they will be churning out graduates who can think and act
globally and locally, thereby ensuring effective and efficient utilization of its dwindling
resources.

Recommendations
On all the issues that informed these headings, respondents have in their majority affirmed
the importance of tertiary education and revealed the need for measures to be taken by the
various stakeholders to ensure the global competitiveness of graduates from African
universities in contemporary times. These are clearly shown in the tables followed by the
analysis. Revitalizing and expanding Higher Education, research and innovation to address
continental challenges and promote competitiveness therefore require that academia in
African universities should introduce more competitive and innovative programmes that can
address global technological and economic challenges; review course contents regularly to
suit the trends of societal changes; and encourage inter-university and interdisciplinary
research to address some of the continental challenges, among other things. There is therefore
the need to institute institutional self assessment and peer-review mechanisms in HEIs across
Africa, in order to promote complentarity.

Academia in African universities should not only focus on merely researching and publishing
in high impact journals but work at ensuring socio-economic development with a view to
taking the continent out of poverty. Research therefore should not be embarked upon solely to
generate knowledge for self-aggrandizement but to promote sustainable development.

In Africa, most tertiary institutions lack policies and strategies for research. Where these
exist, the will-power to implement them is a problem. As a result of this, the HEIs lack
structures for managing graduate programmes and students. There is therefore the need for
revitalization and transformation in African universities; in other words, they need reforms
that should promote intensive research to power development. In fact, the reforms should
inform policies and governments should oblige to use research outputs for policy making. If
Africa is to succeed socially, economically and politically, governments of countries on the
continent must therefore invest seriously in building the higher education sector. One sure

                                              12
way of doing that is through research to understand the peculiar problems and find innovative
solutions to them.

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