Encyclopedia of International Higher Education Systems and Institutions

Living Edition
| Editors: Pedro Nuno Teixeira (Editor-in-Chief), Jung-Cheol Shin (Editor-in-Chief)

African University Traditions, Historical Perspective

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9553-1_10-1


The early African university education/higher education system was characterized by its entire or partial indigenous origin. In contrast, contemporary African universities are of European colonial legacy. Despite its earlier experiences, the continent is now the world region with the lowest university enrollment. Its 54 countries have major differences in institutional capacity. The numbers and types range from a single public university in some small countries like São Tomé and Príncipe to dozens of universities like in South Africa and Egypt and more than a 100 universities and colleges like in Algeria and Nigeria. In the 2015–2016 and 2016–2017 editions of international ranking system, no African institution was among the first 100 universities. While this ranking is controversial, it suggests Africa’s standing in global knowledge production.

In a recent book, Göransson and Brundenius (2011) analyze the evolving mission of universities in the changing local and global...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Africana Studies and Research CenterCornell UniversityIthacaUSA