Higher Education Training and Development Centre hosts First HEFAALA SymposiumGeneral

The participants at the Higher Education Forum for Africa, Asia and Latin America (HEFAALA) Symposium.The participants at the Higher Education Forum for Africa, Asia and Latin America (HEFAALA) Symposium.

The Higher Education Training and Development (HEDT) Centre, which operates as both a Discipline in the School of Education (Education Development cluster), and as Higher Education Training and Development within the Teaching and Learning Office, recently hosted its first international symposium, themed “Continental Realities and International Imperatives” as part of the Higher Education Forum for Africa, Asia and Latin America (HEFAALA).

The two-day Symposium, supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, was marked by robust discussions and rigorous analyses of topical Higher Education issues of regional, trans-regional and international significance by leading experts from five continents: Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America.

UKZN academic and convenor-founder of HEFAALA, Professor Damtew Teferra, sees the Symposium as the only forum to deliberate on African, Asian and Latin American Higher Education with an eye on international trends and developments.

‘Both the symposium and the Forum are intended to foster discussion, research, policy formulation and analysis, publication and communication.  This is in recognition of the enormous common challenges as well as emerging opportunities, particularly in the three regions in the increasingly globalised Higher Education domain,’ said Teferra.

UKZN Vice-Chancellor Dr Albert van Jaarsveld sees the Symposium as a wonderful initiative for conversations about Higher Education. ‘Higher Education is evolving and developing rapidly from a shift from knowledge production to a skills economy and it would be great to see how HEFAALA contributes further to the Higher Education landscape,’ he said.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning Professor Renuka Vithal noted the appropriateness of the Symposium theme, saying, ‘It forces us to ask pertinent questions and to anticipate what universities will be like in the next 50-100 years in terms of knowledge production, technology in universities and human capacity.’

One of the topics discussed was “Key Trends in Global Higher Education”.  Professor Hans de Wit, Director of the Centre for International Higher Education, Boston College, talked about several indicators - privatisation, diversification, internationalisation, academic profession, academic freedom, rankings, access and equity of Global Higher Education.

‘Academic freedom is an important basis for quality Higher Education, teaching and research, but it is under pressure in emerging and developing countries. Even rankings drive the agenda of institutional leaders and government. Rankings are here to stay but governments and institutional leaders should not let themselves be guided by the indicators, but by investing in a diverse and broad Higher Education system. Free Higher Education as an isolated policy is not only an illusion but has also proven not to guarantee equity,’ said de Wit. 

In light of these issues, he sees the Symposium as an important contribution in bringing the knowledge from the three continents together and setting a research agenda for the future.

Other issues discussed were Key Trends in African Higher Education, South-South & South-South-North Cooperation; Internationalisation/Regionalisation: Academic Mobility, Brain Drain/Circulation; Access, Expansion, and Institutional Differentiation; Quality and Relevance; Similarities and Peculiarities in the Global South; Doctoral Education, Research Capacity, and Knowledge Production; Governance, Leadership and Management and Women in Executive Leadership.

HEFAALA is one of the initiatives of the International Network for Higher Education in Africa, based at HETD, UKZN.

Melissa Mungroo