African universities told to ‘look East’ for partners

The vice-chancellor of Covenant University tells THE that collaborations within the continent can be most useful for solving challenges

November 30, 2016
Johannesburg skyline
Source: iStock
The THE BRICS & Emerging Economies Universities Summit took place in Johannesburg

African universities should look within the continent and to the East when seeking institutional partnerships, rather than relying solely on Western collaborations, according to the leader of a Nigerian university.

Aderemi Aaron-Anthony Atayero, vice-chancellor of Covenant University, said that the recent improvement of universities in countries such as China and Russia makes them appealing partners, although he acknowledged that language can be a “barrier”.

In an interview with Times Higher Education, ahead of the THE BRICS & Emerging Economies Universities Summit at the University of Johannesburg, Professor Atayero said that international partnerships with Western universities have been beneficial for African institutions “in terms of exposure and in terms of their level of research”, but “it is high time we start looking to the East, too”.

He added that he is also trying to “look inward” at other universities in Nigeria and across Africa that are “facing the same challenges” when seeking collaborations.

“We should collaborate more with sister universities across the continent and even within the country. The collaboration should look more inward,” he said.

“There could be things you have resolved in your own university that are still problems to [a neighbouring institution],” he said.

Professor Atayero, who has led the private Christian university since July, said that Covenant subscribes to “glocalisation – that is, solving local problems but in such a way as to bring in global relevance”.

When asked whether African universities should compete on world terms or devise their own measures of excellence attuned to local needs, he said that in 2012 Covenant launched a mission to become one of the world’s top universities by 2022.

“I’m actually benchmarking Covenant University with Caltech,” he said. The California Institute of Technology was number one in the THE World University Rankings between 2011-12 and 2015-16.

However, Professor Atayero recognised that some African universities would be more likely to compete with institutions within the continent and recommended that any future ranking of African universities should not be seen as “watered-down metrics” from the world league tables to fit the region.

ellie.bothwell@tesglobal.com

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Print headline: Institutional collaboration: African academy urged to look East

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