Policies emphasising internationalisation are amongst the imperatives for change in higher education worldwide. Internationalisation has many aspects one of which is transnational collaboration not only within Europe, but across the North-South divide. In this presentation, we ask how international collaboration with the Global North affects knowledge production in the Global South.
While education has been high on the development agenda for years, universities have been recognized only recently as key drivers for societal growth in Africa. Some twenty years ago, the World Bank recommended closing universities in the region and instead sending graduates overseas for training (Obamba, 2013; Brock-Utne, 2002). However, with the knowledge economy discourse, the tides have changes and capacity building of the African higher education sector has become widely included in donor policies in Europe. Such policies often lead to so-called capacity building projects where donors from Europe finance collaboration between higher education institutions in the Global South. The type of institutions and knowledges promoted worldwide are the outcome of development in learned institutions in the Europe over the past 200-300 years (Adriansen et al. 2016a). Furthermore development assistance, internationalisation, and other global trends lead to academic dependency as argued by a number of African researchers (e.g. Arowosegbe, 2016; Teferra, 2014). Few, however, have shown what this dependency entails (exceptions being Breidlid, 2013; King, 2008). The objective of this presentation is to analyse the ambivalent ways in which collaborative projects can be a means to independence while reinforcing dependence at the same time.
While coming out of an African context, we believe that the findings in this presentation are relevant for collaborations between universities outside Africa too.
Analytical framework: Knowledge as universal or contextual
The debate about dependency in Africa’s knowledge production dates back to 1990, when the Beninese philosopher Paulin Hountondji published his article ‘Scientific dependence in Africa today’. In this he applied concepts and theories from development research such as dependency, centre-periphery and world-system to argue that research in Africa was ‘extroverted’ and ‘dependent’. By that he meant that research was dependent on Europe and the US in a number of ways and not related to the situation in Africa (Hountondji, 1990). Still today, African universities are dependent upon external actors through funding and collaboration as seen for instance in capacity building projects.
Universities and the scientific knowledges they hold are often seen to have ubiquitous qualities; therefore, capacity building projects in higher education can appear straight forward from a European perspective; it may become a matter of ‘teaching them what we know’ as we have experienced ourselves (see Adriansen and Madsen, 2013). At the same time, schooling and the ‘colonisation of the mind’ has been debated in the Global South (e.g. Fanon, 1968; Wa Thiong’o, 1987) and it has been described how schooling entails the ‘crossing of epistemological bridges’ (Breidlid, 2013). When schooling is based on ‘Northern’ knowledges and ways of thinking, epistemological dependency occurs. In recent years, this critique of the perceived universality of knowledge has been spread to academia, and simultaneously with the increased understanding of knowledge as situated and contextual there have been calls for a decolonisation of methodologies (Chen, 2010; Smith 2012) and theories (Connell , 2007). These scholars show how the Global North is seen as a place of theorising and thus represents the universal, while the Global South is perceived as a place for collecting empirical material and thus represents the particular. However, when knowledge production is based on theories and methods developed for and in other historical and geographical contexts that knowledge will be ill-suited for solving local problems (Adriansen et al., 2016a).
Adriansen, H. K., Madsen, L. M., & Jensen, S. (Eds.). (2016a). Higher Education and Capacity Building in Africa: The Geography and Power of Knowledge Under Changing Conditions. Routledge, Derby. Adriansen, H. K., Mehmood-Ul-Hassan, M., & Mbow, C. (2016b). Producing scientific knowledge in Africa today. In Adriansen et al. (Eds.) Higher Education and Capacity Building in Africa: The Geography and Power of Knowledge Under Changing Conditions, pp. 124-146. Routledge, Derby. Adriansen, H. K., & Madsen, L. M. (2013). Quality Assurance or Neo-imperialism: Developing Universities in the Third World. SRHE Annual Research Conference: Experiencing Higher Education: Global Trends and Transformations. Arowosegbe, J. O. (2016). African scholars, African studies and knowledge production on Africa. Africa, 86(2), 324-338. Breidlid, A. (2013). Collaboration in University Development: North-South, South-North. A Norwegian Case. Postcolonial Directions in Education, 2(2), 355-380. Brock-Utne, B. (2002) Whose education for all? The recolonization of the African mind. New York: Falmer Press. Chen, K.H. (2010) Asia as Method: Toward Deimperialization. Durham: Duke University Press. Connell, R. (2007) Southern Theory, The Global Dynamics of Knowledge in Social Science. Cambridge: Polity Press. Fanon, F. (1968) ) The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press. Hountondji, P. (1990) ‘Scientific dependence in Africa today’, Research in African Literatures, 21 (3), 5–15. King, K. (2008). The Politics of Partnership: Peril or Promise. Norrag News, 41. Retrieved 01/06 2016 from http://www.norrag.org/fileadmin/Full%20Versions/NN41.pdf Levinson, B.A. and Holland, D. (1996). The cultural production of the educated person: an introduction. In Levinson, B.A., Foley, D.E. and Holland, D. (Eds.) The Cultural Production of the Educated Person: Critical Ethnographies of Schooling and Local Practice. New York: SUNY Press, pp. 1–54. Madsen, L. M., & Nielsen, T. T. (2016). Negotiating scientific knowledge about climate change. In Adriansen et al. (eds.) Higher Education and Capacity Building in Africa: The Geography and Power of Knowledge Under Changing Conditions, pp. 147-168. Routledge, Derby. Obamba, M. O. (2013). Uncommon knowledge: World Bank Policy and the unmaking of the knowledge Economy in Africa. Higher Education Policy, 26(1), 83-108. Smith, L.T. ( 2012) Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. Croydon: Zed books. Teferra, D. (2014). The shifting landscape of development Cooperation: reprecussions for African higher education. Journal of Higher Education in Africa/Revue de l’enseignement supérieur en Afrique, 12 (2): 1-28. Wa Thiong’o, N. (1987) Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. London: Currey.
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