Pan-African University to launch in 2010

The Pan-African University (PAU) — envisaged as a continental network of institutions training postgraduate students and promoting research — is set to open its doors to the first 100 students next February at the University of Stellenbosch. The centre at Stellenbosch, one of five institutions that will host the project, will focus on space sciences.

Supported by the African Union, the PAU will not construct a new higher education infrastructure for now, but will use existing universities to train master’s and PhD students.

It will eventually comprise a main campus linked to a network of five regional centres, chosen for their academic and research strength and the relevance of their work to Africa’s needs. The centres will be located in North, West, East, Central and Southern Africa.

A second satellite centre, focusing on energy and water research, will be launched in Algeria the following year. Other regional centres — in the fields of life and earth sciences, basic science and engineering, and governance and social sciences — are expected to open in 2011.

During a visit to South Africa recently, Professor Jean-Pirre Ezin, the commissioner of science for the 53-member African Union, said the new university was born out of the need to strengthen higher education in Africa and capitalise on the performances of strong universities.

The aim is to create a specialist science and technology university that contributes to Africa’s development and helps reverse the continent’s under-achievement in science by training scientists, supporting research and encouraging collaboration between scientists in Africa and the diaspora. It will also promote greater collaboration between universities and industry.

The Academic Ranking of World Universities, produced by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, lists only five African universities among the top 500 in the world — four of them in South Africa. Ezin said it was hoped that the PAU would improve Africa’s ranking.

It is expected that the PAU project will cost $66-million. Ezin said funding would be obtained from the AU, international partners and host institutions, and would mainly be spent on bursaries for students. — University World News (Africa Edition)

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