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A “paradigm shift” is needed in African university funding, says World Bank education specialist Olatunde Adekola. In this film, he argues that funding should be linked to results.
The film visits Nigeria to examine the World Bank’s Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence Project, which aims to turn the continent’s best universities into regional research hubs. This will make them globally competitive while also fostering locally relevant research.
The concept is experimental and the funding strategy is too: the World Bank will provide loans that governments can only access once their universities have achieved demonstrable results.
The project is one of several that mark a shift in the bank’s policy towards African higher education over the past two decades. In the 1960s and 1970s, the World Bank advised African governments to redirect support away from tertiary education and towards primary and secondary education.
At the time, the bank argued that this policy was justified by the desperate need for basic education across Africa, but it contributed to the decline in African universities.

The run-down, under resourced universities now also face a huge expansion in demand for places — as a result of successfully increasing the provision of secondary education.
A growing emphasis on the knowledge economy has led the bank to recognise the urgent need for a better-funded African higher education sector that is both able to produce the research and the workforce needed for tomorrow’s knowledge-driven economy.
This is part of the Africa’s PhD Renaissance series on higher education across the continent, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.