Increasing Capacity for and Quality of Research in Higher Education
August 22, 2011 – 3:45 p.m.
||Teshome Alemneh, Higher Education for Development (HED)
Dan Davidson, American Councils for International Education
Brian Darmody, University of Maryland
Marilyn Pifer, CRDF Global
||Luba Fajfer, USAID Bureau for Europe and Eurasia
This session focused on activities connected to Goal 2 of the new USAID Education Strategy: “Improved ability of tertiary and workforce development programs to produce a workforce with relevant skill to support country’s development goals.” Teshome Alemneh briefly explained the functions of HED as a grant managing institution and its role in implementing partnerships between U.S. universities and host country higher education institutions. Though varying according to demands from host countries, HED supports programs representing a range of disciplines such as business, agriculture, education, and health. These areas contribute to human and institutional capacity building in host countries and ultimately benefit the United States.
The speakers highlighted examples from initiatives in Africa and Russia, such as the Basic Research and Higher Education (BRHE) and Enhancing University Research and Entrepreneurial Capacity (EURECA) models, to elaborate on the importance of higher education in host countries. The panelists stated that research in universities has the potential to contribute towards development. In this context, they discussed the importance and benefits of partnering with universities in United States that share common research interests. Higher education (HE) was emphasized as a mechanism to address developmental challenges. Speakers briefly discussed ongoing partnerships with U.S. universities, the role of HED and its six sponsoring associations that are enhancing the scope for higher education in addressing developmental issues. HE partnerships were identified as cost-effective and sustainable mechanisms to solve problems, reach out to local communities, and result in long term mutual benefits.
All presenters expressed the view that the field of science and technology has the potential to bring about social and economic development. The common challenge faced by host countries (in this case, various African countries and Russia) was finding ways to attract more students to pursue science and technology courses and research. There has been an increase in the number of graduates in social sciences and humanities but not in science and technology related programs. Publishing, as identified as a research capacity indicator, is almost non-existent in Africa, with only about 48 researchers per million inhabitants.
All speakers stressed that USAID’s new Education Strategy strives to develop long-term relationships among stakeholders to ensure that programs are sustainable. Political support and private sector involvement were found to be critical for program sustainability.
Key take away points include the importance of higher education partnerships in contributing to human and institutional capacity building. These partnerships are often cost effective and offer a mutually beneficial relationships to help solve problems and address developmental challenges.