The capture of institutional autonomy by the political elite and its impact on academic freedom in African universities

Tuesday, 11 August 2015  |  Admin

The capture of institutional autonomy by the political elite and its impact on academic freedom in African universities by Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua, Klaus Beiter and Terence Karran

Although the cradle of university education is traced to Africa, modern university education in Africa emanated from European systems which set the tone for their replication on the continent through colonialism. For ideological and other reasons, African universities were subjected to significant violations of their institutional autonomy after independence, which trickled down to affect academics and students alike and thereby violated academic freedom generally. One major area where the abuses centred was the appointment of political leaders to occupy the high echelons of university management and to run the universities as political organs of the one-party systems in vogue at the time. Discussion of this subject has mainly centred on critiquing the excesses of immediate post-colonial governments, sometimes with no linkage to academic freedom. Where academic freedom is introduced into the discourse, the key components of the concept of academic freedom are not clearly delineated and discussed in a manner that links one component to the other. This paper aims to fill this gap. It does so by developing a theoretical framework for academic freedom which is used to analyse and categorise violations of academic freedom under its five pillars – institutional autonomy, self-governance, tenure, individual rights and freedoms for academics, and individual rights and freedoms for students. The paper also examines the factors responsible for the violations of academic freedom and their impact on the evolution of higher education in Africa.

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