Editor's Comment

Zambia’s universities should improve

THAT Zambian universities have yet again failed to make a mark in Africa and the globe should be a source of concern to the institutions, students and authorities tasked to run higher education in Zambia.
In fact, it should concern the country’s public universities as well as the private ones because the desire is make these institutions of international reputation.
The Zambian education system was once one of the best in southern Africa as could be evidenced by the number of foreign students coming to study at the University of Zambia’s Great East Road Campus and the Copperbelt University.
However, over the years, the two universities have gradually been losing their reputation and although they still receive foreign students, it is evident that the institutions are not as attractive as they used to be.
Some private institutions too are attracting foreign students but given this scenario there is a risk that the numbers will dwindle unless efforts are redoubled to improve their status.
A major concern about the public institutions is industrial instability at the campuses as students and lecturers take turns in going on strike for various reasons.
This has caused turbulence to the learning cycle, thereby delaying students’ graduation.
This unpredictability has seen foreign students looking elsewhere for university education as well as Zambians sending their children abroad.
Failing to make it among the top ranked universities on the continent and the world has undoubtedly raised eyebrows regarding the standard of education offered by our universities.
The latest 2016/2017 rankings by the Times Higher Education released recently places a premium on the Higher Education Authority to be strict on guidelines regarding the registration of universities.
The Higher Education Authority which draws its mandate from the 2013 Higher Education Act, which replaced the 1999 University Act, should work with all universities to raise their game.
The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-2017 list the 980 top universities in the world. It is the only global university performance table to judge world class universities across all of their core missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.
The top universities rankings use 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators to provide the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons available, which are trusted by students, academics, university leaders, industry and governments. The calculation of the rankings for 2016-2017 were subject to an audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
Zambian universities should raise their game like yesterday so that parents choose to keep their children in universities in Zambia.
With these sobering rankings, we mean the fact that none of our universities has been rated highly in Africa and the world at large, we expect stakeholders to fashion ways in which the gloom should be substantially reversed.
We have no other expectation, especially that we have great potential to soar high on university rankings. It is our expectation that university stakeholders will put effective measures to redress that awkward situation.
Obviously, Government and other stakeholders like our universities, both public and private, have to work harder to ensure that on top of the good work they have in expanding university education (number of universities), quality of research and teaching is augmented.
Our stakeholders need to up the gain as far as university education is concerned. Thus, we demand not a laissez-faire attitude on their part but diligence for the benefit of the future generations of this country.
We must ask ourselves what is it that universities in South Africa are doing that we are not. That could be one of the best platforms to launch from.
Zambia could also take a leaf from Oxford University, the world’s top ranked university. In a recent interview with Ellie Bothwell, Oxford’s vice-chancellor Louise Richardson said: “Any university is only as good as the academics it can attract. The best academics attract other top academics as well as smart early career academics. They attract the best students and the most competitive research funding, so it really is a virtuous circle. The key is for universities to provide an environment in which these academics are valued, in which young academics are supported and in which all are free to set their own research agendas.”

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