University World News, in its latest article, refers to World Bank reports about the fast growth rate of several African economies. As a result, the middle class on the continent is expanding. Millions of parents in Africa now can and want to support their children through university. Yet, traditional brick and mortar universities are slow to develop, so there are not enough new places to satisfy demand. Of course, the obvious alternative is online learning. The question is, can online learning build a capable, qualified workforce in Africa, to drive the growth and development of the continent?
Modern technology offers solutions
African universities realise it is impossible to expand their facilities fast enough to satisfy demand. So, they turn to technology. Africa is now described as one of ‘the most dynamic e-learning markets on the planet’.
However, easy access to higher education through online delivery alone does not guarantee the quality and credibility of qualifications earned. Nor does it necessarily secure the employability of graduates from online studies.
Internationally recognised online degrees
Unicaf University is an independent multi-campus university with local and international accreditation. In Zambia, the University’s programmes are accredited by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), and in Malawi by the National Council of Higher Education (NCHE).
Both campuses are also accredited by the British Accreditation Council, based in the UK, as Independent Higher Education Providers.
The University offers a range of internationally recognised degrees via the state-of-the-art Unicaf digital platform. The platform houses the Virtual Learning Environment, which provides access to learning materials 24/7 and an up-to-date e-library.
Through the VLE, students can interact with tutors and fellow students in 156 countries across the globe. They benefit from sharing the perspectives and professional experiences of fellow students and tutors in other cultures.
Another perk for Unicaf University students is that they are able to work and earn a salary throughout their studies. The generous Unicaf scholarships they receive reduce the cost of tuition fees considerably. The remaining balance is divided and paid in easy instalments.
So, can online education help end poverty in Africa?
By increasing access to higher education and providing high-quality degrees online, the continent can look forward to building a well-qualified workforce. But can online education help eradicate poverty from the continent?
According to the Harvard International Review, ‘Online education may not end poverty, but it is a leap towards the right direction, a critical tool for tackling inequality in the 21st century.’
The same article mentions the contribution of Unicaf University in expanding access to quality higher education: ‘Online education has been on the rise in sub-Saharan Africa due to it being a cost-effective alternative to formal education, as well as a way to widen educational opportunity. Already, the higher education category feels this transition. Africa’s public universities are wrestling with expanding capacity without sacrificing quality, which has allowed online-based institutions such as Unicaf, a pan-African university, to assert itself in the education system.’
Building a highly qualified workforce in Africa
African countries search for solutions and tools to enable millions of future teachers, scientists, innovators and leaders to form the desired qualified workforce. Africa needs this army of qualified professionals to attract more capital and investments from foreign countries.
However, in order to thrive, African economies need to offer cutting edge knowledge and skills with an international but also locally relevant perspective.
The role of research in accelerating economic growth and development in Africa
According to a recent report of the Nordic Africa Institute, ‘many African countries lag far behind their needs in terms of researchers and lecturers…. The result is a downward spiral: vast lecture halls brimming with students; underqualified and overworked professors; and consequently a lack of locally produced research’.
Estimates of the Nordic Africa Institute reveal that the expenditure on research and development in African countries averages 0.30%, while the global average is 2.22%.
Furthermore, the number of researchers per million of the population in Africa range from 1,772 in Tunisia to 11 in Burundi, with an average of 91 researchers per million of inhabitants, when the world average is 799 (source: Unesco)
Strengthening academic research in Africa can lead to the investigation of issues at the local level, helping bring about practical solutions and real benefits for citizens.
The Unicaf University doctorates
Unicaf University targets this exact challenge by offering a wide range of PhD and Doctoral degree programmes to Africans. The valuable research conducted through these programmes can recommend innovative solutions for local populations. At the same time, the global community receives new knowledge.
The Unicaf University PhD
Take for example the Doctorate of Philosophy, which aims to prepare the next generation of leading researchers.
The PhD is a programme of independent, self-directed academic research, supported by a supervisor. It makes an original contribution to knowledge in a publishable dissertation.
The PhD equips students with the necessary skills to operate successfully as professional researchers. The ultimate goal is to produce new knowledge and develop new ideas for local and global use.
The Doctorate of Business Administration
Another exciting proposition from Unicaf University is the Doctorate of Business Administration. The DBA is aimed at professionals with Master’s degrees, or many years of managerial experience, who want to enhance their CVs and professional capabilities.
The goal of this programme is to contribute new, state-of-the-art knowledge, through management research in current and future work settings. The DBA is a professional doctorate with an international scope. Equally, its design enhances professional practice through the application of theory and research findings to real and complex business and management issues.
The Doctorate of Education
The Doctorate of Education, is aimed at experienced professionals, who wish to make substantial and original contributions to educational knowledge.
This Doctorate offers the highest levels of professional development and training for educators and those involved with educational policy and administration. It aims to impart an awareness of the philosophical, organisational, socio- political, managerial, and technical dimensions of educational institutions.