How should Africa’s universities develop awareness to strategically increase funding, reputation and research opportunities? This was the opening theme of the Times Higher Education (THE) Africa Universities Forum in partnership with the University of Johannesburg (UJ) which took place on Tuesday, 12 June 2019, at the Hyatt Regency, Johannesburg.
Entitled “Universities powering Africa’s renaissance for the fourth industrial revolution,” the assembly will take place over two days, to explore The Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings and gauge universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Significant speakers in attendance were Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, Vice-Chancellor & Principal, University of Johannesburg (UJ) and Phil Baty, Chief Knowledge Officer, Times Higher Education (THE). Featured panel discussions included a Branding Solutions masterclass by Will Sanchez, Regional Director (Latin America and Africa) Times Higher Education and a Hiring Solutions Masterclass session by Nick Davis, Strategic Solutions Director, Times Higher Education.
“Under THE’s Global Forum Series, the University of Johannesburg is thrilled to be able to help bring together some of the continent’s most exciting leaders and thinkers, across teaching, research, business and policymaking, to share their expertise and best practice, as well as propose ideas for the future of Africa’s universities,” said Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, UJ’s Vice-Chancellor & Principal.
The forum is designed for higher education leaders from all over the continent to debate the accuracy and relevance of current international performance metrics to African higher education. This forum will assess the institutional leadership required to foster excellence; explore how diversification of the African academy can prepare graduates for the fourth industrial revolution; and debate how the arts and humanities can play a central role in Africa’s renaissance over the next 30 years.
To start, the pre-forum discussions highlighted the importance of data and also looked at reputation management solutions. According to research undertaken by the World 100 Reputation Network who surveyed and interviewed academics who had completed reputation surveys, “many cited news and online media as how they had heard of universities that had impressed them”.
“Reputations are built primarily on the foundation of high-quality activities, outputs and achievements, but professional communications, marketing and stakeholder engagement can play an important role in building a clear and distinctive identity and a compelling narrative for the University,” said Will Sanchez.
As institutions continue to compete for, and recruit staff and students globally, their university communities are becoming increasingly diverse in terms of race, nationality, religious and cultural backgrounds. The pre-forum also observed how Africa can compete in the global market through implementing strong academic recruitment strategies.
“About a year ago we started analysing the data around the recruitment of international academics and their correlation with other rankings metrics. There is a broad belief that at THEunijobs that by bringing in high quality international faculty you can positively impact each of THE’s 13 rankings metrics. In this instance we have a looked at: International collaboration; Research reputation and citation impact”, said Nick Davis.
In a nutshell, this preliminary Forum aimed at helping universities improve through performance analysis and benchmarking. Most of the presentations enabled the audience to compare their institutions with the world’s elite universities to give clear insight into their strengths, opportunities and global reputation.