Perspectives on Regional Identity and the role of Higher Education in Southern Africa

Regional integration has been an important aspect of economic, social and political development in Europe, Africa, South America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Arab world. Over the last two decades in Southern Africa, however, integration has been viewed primarily in terms of economic and trade integration. Perspectives on regional identity and the role of higher education in Southern Africa contends that meaningful regional integration involves more than this. In particular, it requires the development of a common identity amongst citizens. The contributions in this book explore the role of higher education in developing this common identity and the implications this holds for higher education institutions in Southern Africa.

The first chapter by Piyushi Kotecha, “Engaging universities in the regional integration project in Southern Africa”, argues that a shift is well overdue from the exclusive and dominant trade paradigm and that social engagement needs to be central to the way universities function. It contends that state-led regional integration has had limited impact and that regional identity and citizenship need to develop from the “bottom up”. Universities could play a role in broadening participation by engaging with regional policies and programmes, building African scholarship and innovation and fostering active citizens and socially responsible leadership.

The second chapter by Lucienne Abrahams and Titilayo Akinsanmi, “Revitalisation of higher education in Southern Africa: Key themes and issues for the attention of policy-makers and university leadership”, positions the revitalisation of higher education within a knowledge economy paradigm, describing the starting point for higher education renewal in relation to poverty and low knowledge intensity. It discusses key themes in higher education revitalisation, including research and innovation-based activities, human capacity development challenges, infrastructure investment and financing issues.

The third chapter by Glenda Kruss, “Conceptions of higher education, development-oriented social engagement and innovation in the SADC context”, offers a critique of conventional models of the role of universities and explores conceptions of university engagement and innovation relevant to Southern Africa. The chapter reflects concerns about the relevance of international conceptions of higher education, leadership and management within the conditions framing higher education development in the region and identifies gaps in the innovations study literature that limit its application to the SADC context.

The fourth chapter by Kwandiwe Kondlo, “Regional identity for higher education in SADC and its implications for higher education governance, leadership and management", provides an historically-based account of higher education development in the region within the context of the political economy of state formation. It describes the development of higher education through four phases, highlights the urgent need for transformation of African higher education institutions and argues that the university system needs to be fundamentally re-configured.

The final chapter by William Gumede, “Fostering a regional higher education identity in the Southern African Development Community”, reviews the literature on higher education identity in the context of regional integration, arguing that a regional identity based on inclusive economic development and democracy has been severely undermined in Southern Africa. It reflects on how higher education can facilitate the formation of regional economic clusters and assesses the implications for governance, leadership and management of higher education institutions.

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Perspectives on regional identity and the role of higher education in Southern Africa