Exploring the Linkages of Commerce, Higher Education and Human Development: A Historical Review
African Technology Development Forum Journal, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 35-47, 2007
13 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2009
Date Written: December 1, 2007
Throughout history, institutions of higher learning emerged in response to a thriving culture of commerce and innovation. Yet, the idea of an entrepreneurial university that seeks to create new employment through the practical application of knowledge in the private sector has stirred up public anxiety. Resistance comes from those who fear that this would result in a loss of academic freedom and those who have a vested interest in opposing change. Often, this leads to unholy alliances that portray themselves as guardians of the public interest at home and the cultural identity of non-Western societies abroad. This paper uses historical evidence to illustrate that the entrepreneurial university is neither a particularly Western invention nor did it subvert academic freedom or discourage the pursuit of wisdom.
African universities, which were either set up by colonial powers or coached by them, were mainly designed to educate local bureaucrats. As such, they represent a historical anomaly because they were not meant to serve the needs of the local growth-oriented private sector. As a result, these universities turned out to be ill-equipped to function as driving forces of endogenous economic development and social empowerment. Institutional reform and financial incentives are required to unleash the power of entrepreneurship at African universities and enable it to better integrate the local private sector into the global knowledge economy.
Keywords: Human Development, Technological Change, Public-Private Partnerships, Africa
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