Edition 171 - July 2015

Africa Higher Education Centres of Excellence: STEM, agriculture and health experts in the making

It has been over a year since the World Bank kick-started the Africa Higher Education Centres of Excellence (ACE) Project, and a recently published report confirms that modest yet steady progress is being made toward 2018 goals. The ACE Project, funded with USD 150 million (EUR 137 million) in loans from the World Bank, is designed to support 19 competitively-selected “Centres of Excellence” offering quality training and research in the fields of health, agriculture, and STEM-related disciplines. In doing so, the project hopes to increase the proportion of high-skilled workers and researchers in areas considered crucial to tackle Africa’s developmental challenges. 

The ACEs are based in universities across nine African countries, with 10 out of 19 located in Nigeria. Specific goals at each of the Centres include increasing the number of:

  • Students enrolled, both for programmes and internships
  • Internationally accredited education programmes
  • Internationally recognised publications in the target disciplines
  • Partnerships between ACEs and partner institutions

The implementation status report reveals that there are 3 510 students currently enrolled in specialised short courses, masters or PhDs at the various Centres of Excellence. While somewhat encouraging, the number is still far from the December 2018 target of 15 600 enrolments. As for the number of students with a 1-month internship relevant to their field, the goal seems more attainable: 2 281 internships have been secured or completed thus far, the end target being 5 900.  

The three main challenges being faced by ACEs, according to the report, are:

  • Attracting regional students (a problem for 10-12 ACEs, but with progress)
  • A shortage of faculty for taking on new programs and doctorates; and
  • A steep learning curve for interaction with the private sector, meeting international quality benchmarks, and generation of external revenue.
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