University: Postcolonial

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University: Postcolonial

The late twentieth century saw a renewed interest in the postcolonial development of higher education systems within broader literature on globalization and education policies. Particularly, efforts by international institutions, such as the World Bank, to prevent the global and local effects of the so-called knowledge divide, led to a number of policy documents and initiatives aimed at leveling the pace of changes and development in higher-education landscapes of rich and poor countries. Policy in this domain seemed largely influenced by studies that presented the gradual domination of managerialism in the organization of both teaching and research, the commercialization of research, and the outsourcing of many services to create leaner structures as inevitable consequences of globalization and the "knowledge explosion." As a result, most developing countries were restructuring their already inherited systems of higher education along similar patterns to those observed in the West and the Pacific Rim. How this processsometimes described as the "recolonization" of educationtranslates into actual higher education landscapes around the world seems to depend on a number of contextual variables.

A Contrasted Picture

A closer look at local and regional situations reveals persistent differences, in terms of institutional management, relations to the state, enrollments, and patterns of participation and academic careers. Beyond similar policy agendas, these realities signal contrasted histories and unequal states of development of higher education.

The fortune of universities and university education in countries that regained independence from waning European colonial "empires" (e.g., France, Britain) in the mid-twentieth century have differed, following routes largely influenced by their regional environment. If university education in Jamaica, Malaysia, Nigeria, and India still bears the mark of a common colonial origin, the universities of the West Indies in Mona, of Ibadan, of Malaya, and the Jawaharlal Nehru University of Delhi have, by will or by happenstance, been permeable and responsive to the realities and needs of postcolonial societies they had, to a large extent, not been designed to serve.

With a few exceptions, these countries are located in low-income regions where university education was reluctantly established in the agonizing days of the colonial era. As part of the colonial educational edifice, universities contributed to the spreading of a knowledge base rooted in the Western episteme. But as training centers of a mid-ranked indigenous bureaucracy, they also turned out to be the breeding ground of two generations of postcolonial political elite who led their countries as politicians, public servants, professionals, and businessmen. Following independence, the mission of universities established under colonial rule or with Western universities as their models was everywhere challenged and replaced by much more ambitious agendas for the development of genuine postcolonial university education systems.

Indian Higher Education System: The Crippled Giant

When India achieved independence in 1947, only a few thousand students were enrolled in higher education. In 2004, with 250 universities and approximately 8 million students, India had the world's second-largest system of higher education and produced more Ph.D.s per capita than anywhere in the world. However, the gross enrollment ratio in tertiary education stagnated at 11 percent. This figure, although higher than the average of 4 percent in Africa, remained low as compared to the countries of North America (60 to 70 percent) and Europe (40 to 60 percent), or the recently developed Asian Tigers (33 to 55 percent).

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, universities throughout the postcolonial world were still criticized for underachievement. The criticisms remained the same: it was said that the universities produced graduates who were unemployable; they inculcated alien values; they failed to serve the interests of the vast majority of the population through appropriate courses and research dealing with the problems of the common man; they engaged in pure research that adds little value to the economy; they lacked in innovation and perpetually copied innovations in the developed world that may not be suitable for local circumstances. Despite these criticisms, enrollment in higher education grew steadily over the period, and universities gradually emerged as protected spaces, promoting a unique gender-and minority-inclusive culture. From the 1980s, female enrollment grew considerably in the poorest countries while it remained fairly flat in Europe and America. However, in the case of sub-Saharan Africa, while significant progress was made, the troubles of history since the mid-twentieth century (unstable governments, supra-and international pressures, civil strife, pandemics) made it extremely difficult for universities to develop appropriate curricula or to adjust their research agendas to local needs and realities. Once the euphoria of the 1960s waned, universities fell victim to distrust from growing authoritarian regimes and were among the first victims in the 1980s of the structural

CountryGER M & FGER MaleGER FemaleGender Parity Index for GER. Tertiary
Czech Republic3029311.05
Hong Kong2524251.06
Jamaica16(**) 11(**) 221.89
Libya(**) 49(**) 50(**) 480.96
South Africa1514171.23
Trinidad and Tobago6581.53
United Kingdom6053671.27
United States7363831.32
source: UNESCO. 2003

adjustment policies imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank on almost all African countries that qualified for loans.

Drastic cutbacks in research and infrastructure grants, along with the withdrawal of state support to student services and the rapid downfall of the standard of living of staff threw most developing world universities into a state of dereliction. The situation was condemned in the following terms by a task force convened by the World Bank in cooperation with UNESCO in 1999:

Since the 1980s, many national governments and international donors have assigned higher education a relatively low priority. Narrowand, in our view, misleadingeconomic analysis has contributed to the view that public investment in universities and colleges brings meager returns compared to investment in primary and secondary schools, and that higher education magnifies income inequality. As a result, higher education systems in developing countries are under great strain. They are chronically under-funded, but face escalating demand. (The Task Force on Higher Education and Society, 2000, p. 10)

A Peripheral World of Learning

The dilemma facing higher education worsened through the 1980s and 1990s due to a massive south-north intellectual migration flow. The movement illustrates in itself the role higher education plays in keeping up the tight and imbalanced links initiated in the colonial era.

Alongside the development of local elitist systems of higher education, and in reaction to the growing attractiveness of North American institutions among local "educated elites," colonial powers were keen to encourage the most promising graduates of secondary schools to further develop their training in the home institutions. This fact, added to the flow of students migrating as a result of the higher education Malthusianism applied in the colonies, constituted the basis of a steady south-north study migration flow, which in many cases resulted in a "brain drain." Leaning on family networks or supported by external donors, and fostered by the ever-increasing economic gap between industrialized and developing countries, the flow was barely affected by the development of university education in newly independent countries. On the contrary, with local curricula largely untouched, postcolonial higher education offered excellent basic training to candidates for postgraduate programs in the developed world. This diversion of funding opportunities affected in return the quality of higher education in the developing countries. The earlier perspective of encouraging students from abroad to study in the United Kingdom or France as a form of colonial or postcolonial aid and encouragement of trade (in goods or ideas) was transformed; education came to be seen more as a directly saleable commodity. The concomitant abandonment of scholarship policies, which primarily affected students from low-income countries, impacted markedly on the origin of international students in host countries. However, as shown in Table 2, postcolonial study migration routes continued to reflect strong economic, cultural, and linguistic ties with the former home institutions, except where the United States and Australia (notably in Asia) took over leadership in the provision of higher education services.

The Euphoria of the 1960s: Universities and Postcolonial Development in Africa

In 1962, UNESCO and the Economic Commission for Africa organized a conference on the Development of Higher Education in Africa in Tananarive, Madagascar, which highlighted many of the challenges of the African universities. The conference focused on problems related to staffing, financing, and content of higher education, with particular attention to the Africanization of staff and curriculum. The participants at Tananarive concluded that in addition to the role of teaching and of research, higher education was to contribute to the social, cultural, and economic development of Africa. Higher education was to do so by promoting national unity, prioritizing teaching and research on African concerns, and training human resources to meet "manpower" demand, while simultaneously maintaining international standards of academic quality. This focus on the role of universities in national development, marked the rise of the notion of the "developmental university."

Mediating the Global and the Local

The postcolonial era is marked in most countries by attempts to combine the quality of teaching inherited from highly elitist higher education systems and the necessity to widen access to higher education to "bridge the development gap" and to strengthen democratic institutions. However, political developments since the 1960s, economic choices, and global pressures show that higher education cannot be developed to the exclusion of broader policy initiatives, leaving out the sociocultural context. The unequal distribution of colonial universities generated contrasting

Algeria (F)3661324,0403463238586381
Cambodia (F)254431,15145245034324
Côte d'Ivoire (F)62035,0792522281421,104
D.R. Congo (B)23,4821,516206038390
Djibouti (F)0102,144100613
Ghana (UK)9051118374112822,0154,282
Hong Kong (UK)15,84240140016,24413,230
India (UK)12,3902384621,413395988,44194,822
Indonesia (NL)21,4521593652,1282,4201,0582,07020,165
Jamaica (UK)1212212827157,328
Kenya (UK)1,054113228202105344,78810,805
Madagascar (F)0744,62012520027199
Malaysia (UK)25,858102141973,2412418,18313,521
Nigeria (UK)12627834667701324,5986,626
Pakistan (UK)1,91242237681210843,78112,052
Rwanda (B)85743610022993452
Senegal (F)6202243247484521,269
Singapore (UK)21,430109673259209,0757,226
Suriname (NL)43422201,73712209
Trin. & Tob. (UK)2004813428835,032
Vietnam (F)3,2603052,8011,4581,229673313,507
Zambia (UK)16418103526107991,063
Former colonial authorities in parentheses.
source: OECD statistics, 2001

expectations from populations. National policies on education then endured enormous tensions from the multiple pressures of ever more exigent demands from an educated minority; of ever more dramatic educational, social, and regional discrepancies; and of ever more restrictive recommendations and conditions set by international organizations. The landscape of higher education that emerged from these contradictory tensions reflected both the peculiarities of national trajectories and the inequalities of the postcolonial world order.

See also Colonialism ; Education: Global Education ; Education: India ; Empire and Imperialism .


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Yann Lebeau

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