Private and Public Universities and the Future of Tertiary Education in Africa

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THE UNIVERSITY OF ABUJA AND THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN Call for Papers Private and Public Universities and the Future of Tertiary Education in Africa University of Abuja, Nigeria July 8-11, 2020

The need to train qualified manpower required in public, private and civic spaces has spurred the establishment of universities in Africa post-independent. As against the few universities that the colonialists established, post-independent African leaders considered university education to be fundamental to the project of national development to which they were committed. In the first four decades of independence, the continent witnessed massive expansion in the number of public universities established by national and sub-national governments. However, as the population continued to grow, access to universities established by the state became severely limited. To fill this gap, churches, rich individuals and in a few instances, international universities began to make in-roads to the higher education sector on the continent. Despite the increase in the number of universities in both public and private sectors, concerns exist on the quality of graduates, research and teaching. The competitiveness of universities in Africa has also been a matter of concern among stakeholders in the sector.

Against the backdrop of the increasing wave of private universities, public universities are affected by poaching of faculty members, competition for bright students, and changing perceptions by the public. In some instances, the increasing relevance of private universities is underscored by the problems associated with public universities such as frequent strikes, reduced capacity to admit students and limited facilities and technological infrastructures. At the same time, scepticism around private universities is based on the perception that many of them lack faculty members of the requisite quality and quantity, affecting research output as well as the competence or knowledge base of graduates, low academic standards, limited programmes focused on expensive fields of study, and poor infrastructure. This is compounded by other structural challenges including prohibitive and unpredictable regulations, delays in accreditation of courses, and a general lack of support from governments. Authoritarian governance structures in some private universities, also constitute a challenge to the atmosphere of academic freedom that universities are known for.

Despite these concerns, private universities have made immense contributions to different African societies. They have alleviated the burden of access placed on public universities, contributed to innovation in curricula, led to increased employability, and provided new models of educational delivery and funding. Some have outpaced and out-performed public universities. For example, The Times Higher Education World Universities ranking recognized Covenant University, a private faith-based institution, as the best university in Nigeria in 2018. Although the importance of private universities is growing, there is a paucity of research on the governance models of these universities and the additional challenges they pose to public universities. Additionally, there are concerns around lack of appropriate policies which are necessary to guide the relationship between private and public universities. Yet appropriate policies are needed to manage these two aspects of higher education on the continent in order to produce expected educational outcomes for national development both in the immediate and foreseeable future.

In the context of the ongoing challenges of development in Africa, the need to boost knowledge production, foster competitiveness of the higher education sector and respond to the fourth industrial revolution, scholars are invited to examine the intersection of private and public universities in Africa and how institutions in both sectors can contribute to meeting the demands for quality university graduates, conduct research and enhance national and continental development. We welcome papers that examine the following thematic issues. While we will consider papers that are grounded in concepts and theories, empirical papers based on country case studies are particularly welcome

  1. History of Private Universities and Public Universities
  2. Governance Models in Private and Public University Education in Africa
  3. Impact of Faculty poaching on Public and Private Universities in Africa
  4. Student Development Issues in African Universities
  5. Curriculum Issues in Higher Education in Africa
  6. Funding of Private and Public Universities in Africa
  7. African Universities and the Decolonisation Movement
  8. Higher Education and the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Africa
  9. Sustainability of higher education in Africa
  10. African Universities and the Decolonisation Movement
  11. Faculty poaching and sustainability of higher education in Africa
  12. Higher Education and the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Africa
  13. Private and Public Universities and The Future of Tertiary Education in Africa
  14. Strategic Roles for Private and Public Universities in Africa’s Transformation
  15. Private Universities and the Reform of Public Tertiary Education in Africa
  16. Stakeholders and Partnerships in Higher Education in Africa
  17. Policy and Reforms in Private and Public University Education
  18. Partnerships between Private and Public Universities in Africa
  19. the instability question in African public universities
  20. Social relevance of African universities
  21. Deficit of critical infrastructure and global competitiveness of African universities
  22. Unionism and the academia in Africa
  23. Funding challenge and performance possibilities of African universities
  24. African universities and development
  25. Future of university education in Africa.
  26. National Policies on Tertiary Education in Africa
  27. Government Regulations and Regulatory Agencies and African Universities
  28. Globalization, Liberalisation and Universities in Africa
  29. Management of Diversity and Inclusion in Private and Public Universities in Africa
  30. Comparative Case Studies of Universities in Private and Public Sectors in Africa
  31. Innovation and Research and Development (R&D) in African Universities
  32. Other related themes


  1. Professor Abdul-Rasheed Na'Allah, Vice-Chancellor, University of Abuja and
  2. Toyin Falola, The University of Texas at Austin

Registration fees (after an abstract has been accepted) are as follows::

  • Foreign-based participants ($100);
  • Nigerian-based (N10,000); and
  • Students (N5,000).

All monies are to be sent to: Kari Garba Umar (0453640816, Guarantee Trust Bank, Domiciliary); 20226746812 (First Bank).
Participants are responsible for all associated costs, including feeding, hotel, and transportation.
Interested participants are invited to send an abstract of not more than 300 words by May 30, 2020 to:

  • A. G. Umar Kari (, +2348034757734) Or
  • Sam Oloruntoba (+27842842427)