Higher education institutions in Zimbabwe have set themselves a target of June this year to put in place over 10 policies that are considered critical in paving the way for the full-scale internationalisation of the country’s higher education.
A draft framework for the internationalisation of higher education demands that universities must, by the end of June 2020, have in place a training policy, intellectual property policy, research policy, national qualifications policy, curriculum review policy, student and staff exchange programmes policy, industrial attachment or internship policy, admission credit transfer policy, and a global credit accumulation transfer system. They must also publish content relevant to their rankings on their websites.
Meeting the June deadline appears a tall order for the institutions of higher learning, many of which are choking from several years of poor funding and are operating in a turbulent economic environment marked by hyperinflation and an unstable currency.
Dr Evelyn Garwe, deputy CEO of the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZIMCHE), the regulator of higher education, said the targets were achievable because the process of internationalisation of higher education had already started.
“The deadlines are not any magic. They are coming from the universities themselves. The minister of higher education has just approved the framework for internationalisation of higher education but otherwise the universities had started internationalising on their own as far as three years back,” Garwe told University World News.
She said the only problem could be achieving the “minimum body of knowledge and skills” requirements, in terms of which ZIMCHE is reviewing the curriculum of all programmes in universities in line with new Education 5.0 model and the national vision.
“It is hoped that the minimum bodies of knowledge and skills will be implemented in August. It is the basis of all other policies and frameworks,” she said.
According to Garwe, universities are at different levels of internationalisation, with student mobility and partnerships in place in some institutions, but it was with regard to student exchange programmes that most fell behind.
The sector is also nowhere near achieving the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Education and Training’s goal for universities to increase international students from other SADC countries to 5% of total enrolments.
“We have many students who go to other countries but very few that come to Zimbabwe. We need to be fully developed in this area,” she said.
Dr Thomas Bhebhe, a spokesman for university registrars, said while local universities have been pursuing internationalisation as separate entities, the new thrust is to work together and complement each other.
“There is no university in Zimbabwe that has no international student. In a way, it means universities have been moving in the right direction albeit in a slow, uncoordinated way. The new thrust is to increase the numbers of international students, international faculty, collaborative research and international collaborations by providing our quality products to international consumers,” he said.
Bhebhe said the success of internationalisation hinged on action. “We now have targets; we now have a framework; we are now more focused on achieving the SADC Protocol on Education and Training…; we are now re-looking at our curriculum to enrich it by making it unique and more appealing to both local and international students. We are now more focused on producing a complete graduate with internationalised education.”
While African universities view internationalisation as inevitable and an opportunity to generate new revenue, as a tool for decolonisation of higher education, a chance for curriculum redesign and ‘indigenisation’ and for stronger collaborative relationships, some educationists are wary of the process.
In a paper entitled “The state of internationalisation of higher education in Sub-Saharan Africa”, presented at an internationalisation of higher education meeting in Harare earlier this year, Hadiza Kere Abdulrahman, Evelyn Garwe, Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni and Juliet Thondhlana argued that given the growing complexities of internationalisation, African universities are disadvantaged by structural and historic imbalances in relation to the Global North.
“There is a need for internationalisation to be implemented in a strategic manner, one which takes into account not only issues of globalisation but also decolonisation, de-imperialisation and deracialisation,” they argued.
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