11. September 2023

Global Trends and Local Challenges Cape Town conference to focus on future of Africa’s universities

Cape Town conference to focus on future of Africa’s universities

In the South African city of Cape Town, two professors at the University of Bonn will be joining forces with researchers from the University of the Western Cape (UWC), the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Stellenbosch University to put on an international conference from September 12 to 14, 2023 on the structure and future of African universities entitled “Negotiating the Fabric of the African University.”

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These days, our idea of universities in the 21st century is shaped by a “global” model. This prototype is the response to international trends in the political debate and in practice, including the launch of initiatives to promote research excellence, rankings and market-oriented financing models as well as challenges posed by climate change and other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There are also growing concerns over quality, diversity, decolonialization and other emancipatory agendas. This is posing existential challenges to African universities at both regional and national level. When they come to negotiate their future structure, they will be caught between the quest for excellence on the one hand and a fraught political and economic environment on the other.

This is the starting point for the second international conference on “Negotiating the Fabric of the African University,” to be hosted by Professor Patrício Langa (University of the Western Cape in South Africa and DAAD Visiting Professor at the University of Bonn) and Professor David Kaldewey (Forum Internationale Wissenschaft at the University of Bonn) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Stellenbosch University (SU) from September 12 to 14, 2023. The conference program will build on that of its predecessor, which was held in the Mozambican capital Maputo and was likewise spread across three venues: Eduardo Mondlane University, Joaquim Chissano University and the Pedagogical University of Maputo.

The two conferences were financed by the Volkswagen Foundation and serve to bring together selected researchers from different geo-epistemological locations and traditions, providing a unique opportunity for academic and intercultural dialogue while reflecting on latest trends in university research and university policy in a global context. Thus the sociological understanding of the university as a unified global cultural reference system is to be interrogated and recalibrated: What features make African universities unique, and how are they to respond to the push for global standardization? What new forms and structures will universities in Africa make use of in the next few decades to carve out a position for themselves?

The conference is just one example of the University of Bonn’s many varied partnerships in the field of university research and is helping to build collaborative networks with selected universities in Sub-Saharan Africa. It will also provide a foretaste of this year’s International Days at the University on October 19 and 20, 2023, which will be focusing on its partner country of Ghana. The Vice Rectorate for International Affairs is inviting students, doctoral candidates, postdocs, researchers and anyone else who might be interested to enjoy two days of talks, presentations and discussions on topics and issues with an international flavor.

More information and links for the public keynote speeches:

Prof. Dr. David Kaldewey
Chair of Science Studies and Politics
Forum Internationale Wissenschaft
University of Bonn
Email: kaldewey@uni-bonn.de

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