THE FIRST traces of formal education arrived in Madagascar in 1820 when a mission school was established in Antananarivo. Eighty years later, the French set up a schooling system of sorts. However, it would be another half century, and amid the clamour for independence, that the first public tertiary institution came into being. The Institute for Advanced Studies, started in 1955, was the embryo from which the University of Madagascar grew. Before this development, several small training opportunities did exist in medicine (from 1896) and law (from 1947), and these were subsumed into the central institution around the time of independence.
The University of Madagascar consisted of several faculties, including Law, Economics, Sciences, Medicine (health services), Letters and Human Sciences. In 1964, a National Institute for Telecommunications and Posts came into being on the university campus; and a year later a Radio Isotopes Laboratory was installed.
During the late 1970s, the authorities established five regional university centres, sited at Antsiranana in the far north; at Mahajanga on the west coast; at Toliara in the southwest; at Fianarantsoa in the southern highlands; and at Toamasina, the island’s main east-coast port. After 1988, however, these regional centres became autonomous institutions, and the central University of Madagascar changed its name to the University of Antananarivo.1
The emphasis at Antananarivo is on business and management studies, which attracts more than half of the university’s 25 000 students; and science, engineering and technology, which absorbs 390 of the university’s 662 academics and researchers.
A difficulty faced by all Madagascar’s universities is overcrowding. A total of 40 000 students are enrolled when the collective capacity is only 26 000. Low success rates are also a concern. Only 10% of students complete their courses, and they take nine years to do so, as opposed to the average five years for mainland African countries.
Facts and Figures at a Glance2
In 2007, Universite’ de Antananarivo had a student population of 24,966, all of whom were studying through contact learning and on a full-time basis. Of these students, 24,598 are Malagasy and 368 are international students from countries outside the SADC Region.
 The other five universities, the erstwhile satellites, are treated individually.
 All data presented in this section is headcount data.
 Note: That the number of students enrolled per level of study does not add up to the total number of students.