Introduction / Background
I have a strong, ongoing interest in the African K-16 education pipeline. I spent all last year doing the coursework for my dual degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Education where I am pursuing an Ed.M in International Education Policy. During that time, my thesis idea crystallized and it's a topic near and dear to my heart, which I was able to incorporate in a number of papers there.
That being said, here is the ‘umbrella’ question I would like to explore, followed by various facets which I'll probably have to narrow:
How effective would various partnerships (study abroad exchanges, co-authorship on articles, etc) be in creating a sustainable revenue stream for African universities?
These institutions are currently dilapidated (none are in the top 500 worldwide), isolated from the worldwide academic community and forced to charge fees to make ends meet, which crowds out many promising but low-income students. These universities must be revitalized in order to ensure African countries have well-educated leaders capable of improving the livelihoods and well being of their nation. When I was working at the Institute of International Education in NYC, one of the programs I worked on was the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa, funded by 7 major foundations. This experience really opened my eyes to the central importance of having a strong university system to complement strong primary and secondary systems, especially in the developing world. Without such systems, there often occurs a vacuum of qualified leadership and the country is more susceptible to tyrants and leaders who rule by force rather than wise decision-making and consensus. Other benefits include increasing diversity in those universities, as well as making them more appealing for both competitive students and competitive faculty who want to interact with other scholars from the rest of the world, plus the U.S. would (I hypothesize) benefit a great deal by expanding its study abroad partnerships beyond the 'usual suspects' (still primarily Europe, though growing in Asia and the Middle East); meanwhile, there are very few in Sub-Saharan Africa.
I would like to ultimately earn a fellowship to go in person to explore this topic, specifically to Kenya, in order to interview university officials, students, faculty, and possibly even parents and government officials. I could attempt to survey or interview such people via email or Skype wherever possible. (I am in the process of putting out feelers to promising contacts I have accumulated over the last two years.) I have spoken extensively with Rusty, since he has wide expertise in social network analysis, and have asked him about the usefulness of conducting a such analysis on existing and / or potential relationships between U.S. institutions and scholars and African universities and scholars. We think that depending on how the questions around this topic are framed, it could be a promising avenue through which to explore it. He also suggested a more specific angle, such as networks of co-authorship or citation among African scholars and Western scholars, to consider similar questions of improving African university systems.
As I alluded to above, there are a number of sub-questions that may be plausible angles from which to address the broader ‘umbrella’ question and from which SNA strategy could emerge. I have listed three below:
To what degree are Sub-Saharan African academics connected to the broader world of academe in their fields?
a. How to get at this question:
i. Determine whether co-authorship of papers with Western scholars has led to individually authored / published papers later on
b. Likely Steps:
. conduct an extensive Google Scholar search (perhaps narrowed to certain fields of interest of interest to Africa such as international development, education and public health) for co-authored articles with African scholars
i. Note the number of citations for these articles to consider their influence.
ii. Conduct further searching for individually written articles by the African co-authors and note their citations.
iii. Parallel to these searches, create a data set that can be worked into a social network analysis in UCINET / Netdraw in order to consider which universities or more broadly, nations, in Africa are the best “connected” based on the co-authorship variable and using the number of these as strong vs. weak ties
iv. perhaps interview these scholars to consider why they have been able to achieve this level of connectedness
What would be the benefits and costs of creating a study abroad partnership (in which the U.S. school is the sending university and the African school is the receiving university) between ___________ (U.S. school - either specific university or ‘umbrella’ org like SIT) and ____________ (African university such as Makerere, Univ. of Nairobi, etc)?
a. How to get at this question:
i. perhaps a comparative analysis with successful cases, such as universities in China, Eastern Europe, or South Africa
b. Likely steps:
. use study abroad literature to form educated conjectures as to these benefits and costs
i. extensive interviews with study abroad officials in the U.S. and appropriate African university personnel
ii. consider the implications of these benefits and costs and the choices they imply along with recommended decisions
iii. as part of recommendations, use Netdraw to visualize both the existing networks between U.S. and African institutions (perhaps with weakness / strength of ties based on the number of students sent abroad from either institution) and THEN do a corollary visualization depicting a more ideal network, with structural holes filled in and emphasis placed on those who can act as connectors, who may also have eigenvector centrality in the existing network
What has been the legacy of the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa? (Has it left African higher education systems better off? What is left to do? What are next steps and is there progress being made on these?)
a. How to get at these questions:
i. a comparison of what projects were undertaken under the PHEA grants and an investigation of what results have come from those projects?
b. (HOW MANY TO LOOK AT, SINCE THERE ARE HUNDREDS?)
c. Likely Steps:
. historical literature review of the mission and principles / goals of the PHEA and its policies / projects
- additionally a brief review of the challenges of African higher education systems that initially led to this investment on the part of 7 foundations
- follow-up via interviews or web review of the results of those projects (hopefully something empirical) and what other progress they have catalyzed on these campuses
i. ideally at the end of this, would need to make recommendations for where opportunities lie to move forward with the goals of the PHEA that have yet to be fully realized
- African Higher Education Collaborative - AHEC (particularly Sabine O’Hara) http://www.africahighered.org/
- Boston College’s International Network for Higher Education in Africa http://www.bc.edu/research/cihe/inhea.html
- Google Scholar (for citation searches and co-authorship searches) http://scholar.google.com/advanced_scholar_search?hl=en&as_sdt=0,22
- Institute for International Education (IIE) former colleagues and contacts http://www.iie.org/en/Our-Global-Reach
- also, IIE Passport resource website http://www.iiepassport.org/
- former Partnership for Higher Education in Africa (PHEA) coordinator (and colleague) Suzanne Grant-Lewis
- St. John’s International Recruiter (and co-fellow in 2006-7 with me for the Susan Schiffer Stautberg Fellowship) Clare Lloyd Jones http://www.stjohns.edu/admission/undergraduate/meetcounselors/jonesc.stj
- Scholars and Practitioners I met from the 2011 Annual Conference of the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars:
- Other study abroad contacts:
- School for International Training (SIT) http://www.worldlearning.org/staffdir.cfm
- Huffington Post Top 10 Study Abroad Programs (for best practices, especially since Africa is the most under-served region as far as study abroad programming from the U.S.) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/29/the-10-best-study-abroad-_n_1065216.html
- Harvard Office of International Programs (former employer) http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~oip/study_abroad/contact.html
I anticipate that the biggest challenge in this venture (and Rusty has confirmed this in our conversations) will be to determine how to standardize the attributes of the relationships I want to document / promote in a useful way that is both easily understood and substantive. To be honest, I have not yet worked out all the ‘kinks’ for how social network analysis could be useful to these questions of African higher education, but the more I’ve learned about the concepts in this field, the more convinced I become that it has the potential to be an invaluable tool and I would welcome any feedback as to how I might utilize it more effectively.