Sunday, March 3, 2019

Some thoughts on future of Universities and Scholarship

It was my pleasure to give input on this topic at the just concluded DAAD Young Scholars in Africa Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya. As one who is working outside the formal academic spaces namely universities and research institutes I was keen to engage mainstream scholars. My work entails applied research, training and public engagement on public finance nd service delivery. As such I am daily faced with public challenges on public service delivery.

I underscored that future university and scholarship will need to respond to the needs of a fast changing society. The fundamental question being, what skills, knowledge and attitudes will future generations need? What role can universities play to provide them? Will university education as we know it continue and be relevant to that society?

In sharing, I gave three points that I believe will shape how university and scholarship will look like in the future. This is assuming that the relevance question is a granted.

1. Era of the PRACADEMIC: Practice and academia convergence. We are likely to see more and more people choosing to be what is popularly called PRACADEMICs. This are people emersed in industry but commited to scholarship. Some of the persons pursuing PhD have no plans of working in the university as we know it and even if they did cannot be accommodated. Many will increasingly work in industry but want to research and teach. Further declining funding for universities will cause them to rely more and more on outside help that brings practical experience.

2. ICT Enabled Teaching, Training qnd Research: Its an era of just google it!! Technological enablement’s especially big data analytics, communication technology will and are affecting the nature of work and working. It will affect the type of research, how fast and efficiently it can be done and will introduce new topics for inquiry. Interdisciplinary options where all can access publications from other fields and this can enable them be more open in their perspectives to research and teaching.

3. Academics without boarders: Globalization, technology flow and migration trends are pushing creating a new type of academics, scholars and universities without boarders. It is no longer necessary to be physically present in an institution or bound in one space. The future will be such that one can run an experiment in one country while teaching in another and working in another. This means that students can also seek education and training from scholars on any part of the world.

This three and other factors not here mentioned cut against the grain of how most univesities operate today. Scholars in this institutions have to choose to survive or thrive. The later means they just get along and even try to resist this change. Thriving requires a deliberate adjusting of sails to take advantage of the wind of change in society.

Happy to hear what you think.

Privilege and leadership

I have spent my weekend with some DAAD alumni and current scholars from accross Africa. The theme was 'Young Scholars in Africa-Challenges and Opportunities'. In the discussions we reflected on varied issues including the landscape for women in research, the future of universities and the digitalization of research. Two other areas focused on were on the internationalization of research and leadership.

As one deeply interested in the intesection between politics and science, I was particularly interested in two topics. The one on scholarship and leadership, and the one on future of univesities and scholarship in Africa. It was my expectation that we would delve into how can the brilliant scientists in the room are working to solve the problems that abound. How are they leading in their spaces? I was shocked and encouraged in equal measure.

I believe that leaderships core is to take people and situations from one level of growth to another. Leadership is about making things better. To do so a leader must look beyond his or her situation. The fact that one is a leader, by virtue of expertise and knowledge in a field is already privilege enough. What shocked me was that even though many of us in the room were well privileged we were still inward looking. We seemed more focused on what is in it for me and not what can I do with what I have for others good.

What encouraged me was to hear and interact with some among us who were tired on the ME focus. Those who were setting out to apply science in the practical world where such knowledge is of value. It was apparent that a realization that society was moving even without the input of scholars, is making many of us rethink our value add. I got challenged to think of how my position of privilege should be applied in leading others to become better of themselves.

I believe the call to lead is one that requires we apply all we have to make the world a better place. Will I lead better or just focus on myself?

Some thoughts on future of Universities and Scholarship

It was my pleasure to give input on this topic at the just concluded DAAD Young Scholars in Africa Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya. As one...