Universities in African countries are widely considered to be a colonial relic that is in desperate need of reform. This article argues that useful lessons for such a reform may be drawn from the developed countries' own education institution policy debates and history, especially as those relate to development. In that history, innovation-oriented industrial employers that advocate adjustment and institutional change at universities often clash with the vested interests of the educated elite and its desire to buttress its privileged social position with restrictions on entry into various professions and occupations. Any reform proposals should be cognisant of 'hidden' prestige projects masked in the rhetoric of the public good. It is also argued that in developed countries, schools and intermediate technical institutions were historically more important than the universities at early stages of development and continued as useful complements to the stock of the technically educated in later stages of development. It is therefore suggested that the proper basis for university reform in Africa is to ask first whether the range and quality of educational institutions is appropriate to the current state of private sector activity. Such an enquiry may find, for example, that improving technical schooling should be a priority in any educational reform in a country that is in an early stage of industrial development.
African Technology Development Forum Journal, 2007, Vol 4, Issue 2, p. 48-52