|Proceedings of the Khartoum Workshop on Arid Lands Management (UNU, 1979, 96 pages)|
|The university of Khartoum and the United Nations University|
Mohamed Omer Beshir Dean, Graduate College, University of Khartoum
Education is probably the most important activity and concern in Africa, and university and higher education is central to this activity and concern. This is true in the Sudan as in other countries. Of the £S 110 million budgeted for Sudan's Six Year Development Plan, £S 35 million have been allocated to universities and higher education. If agriculture is the central activity of the economy in terms of the number of people involved directly or indirectly, education is the second most important activity. It is recognized today that the Sudan has the potential of being not only a grain basket but also a brain basket. In fact, its potential to provide highly educated manpower for the rich oil-producing countries has been recognized. Hence, higher education and its development to satisfy not only immediate and national needs but also future regional needs is a matter of great importance. Emphasis on the development of post-graduate studies in the University of Khartoum is part of this concern.
The late Frank Bowels, author of Access to Higher Education, said that educational systems must go through certain stages of development before new ideas and methods can be introduced. He recognized five stages:
Stage one. The formation of a basic national educational system, with primary schools, vocational schools, teacher training schools, secondary schools, and non-degree postsecondary programmes. The Sudan achieved this in 1948.
Stage two. The establishment of a university offering undergraduate studies leading to first degrees, but without post-graduate programmes or degrees at this stage. The Sudan accomplished this in 1956.
Stage three. Political measures to generalize the basic national educational systems. This has been done from 1956 until today in the Sudan.
Stage four. This is the stage when the maturation of a university takes place. Post-graduate studies emerge, and research programmes which relate the university to national problems are developed. This is the stage which the University of Khartoum has been going through since the early 1970s.
Stage five. This is the stage when the role of the university is extended to reach out to the community, develop new methods of education, and adjust itself to the political necessities of national development and its programmes.
These stages are not necessarily watertight compartments nor mutually exclusive; for example, l think university and higher education in the Sudan is at present undergoing both stages four and five. The university system in the Sudan, especially the University of Khartoum, has reached the stage of maturity and is also undertaking activities belonging to stage five.
Post-graduate studies in the University of Khartoum aim at doing research relevant to national issues and promoting staff development. Post-graduate studies, together with undergraduate studies (which are still the main occupation of the university in terms of numbers of students and funds allocated) have the purpose of making the university reach out to society through new methods, structures, and institutions. The University of Khartoum is not alone in this task; the University of Juba (1977) and the University of Gezira (1978) are also contributing and share the same orientation from the start.
But this is not the only major development in higher education in the Sudan in recent years:
First, there has been an unprecedented increase in enrolments in higher education, both within the Sudan and outside it. The number of Sudanese students enrolled in local institutes of higher education has risen from 11,000 in 1969/70, to about 20,000 in 1973/74, and to about 25,000 in 1978/79. The number of Sudanese students enrolled in higher education outside the Sudan has also grown from 4,000 in 1973/74 to 15,000 in 1978/79. About 10,000 of these are in Egyptian universities.
Second, the number of students eligible for higher education, that is, those completing courses in higher secondary schools, has grown at an even faster rate. The number sitting for the Sudan School Certificate was 20,000 in 1977, and 45,000 in 1978, and expected to increase to 75,000 in 1979, and to 100,000 in 1980.
These figures should not be seen as alarming, but should be welcomed and applauded, provided that appropriate employment opportunities are created. Studies made for the Six Year Development Plan have shown that the demand for mid-level technicians and professionals will exceed the supply. Our main concern is, therefore, the content and type of education provided. The studies have also shown that the bottleneck will be in the area of non-degree education, for the development of this type of education and training has lagged behind for a number of reasons. As a result, the gap between academic and technical education has widened.
What the Sudan needs is to develop mid-level institutes, technical and professional colleges, and universities, as well as post-graduate courses to provide highly qualified manpower.
In this area of post-graduate studies some positive steps have already been taken, and 1972 was a landmark in this respect. In that year, realizing the need and urgency to effectively develop post-graduate studies, the University of Khartoum established a Graduate College with the specific purpose of promoting this important aspect of higher education. It is important, however, to point out that postgraduate studies have existed in the university since 1958, and that some 500 Ph.D. and masters' degrees have been awarded over the past 20 years.
The idea of a post-graduate college was put forward as far back as 1967, but what is significant is that in 1972 action was taken and a college created to promote post-graduate studies related to national development and to train highlevel manpower. Before that date, this function had been diffused in a number of committees, and there was a lack of coherence and integrated planning.
Today post-graduate studies are the responsibility of the University of Khartoum, with its Graduate College acting as the central point for this activity. About 800 post-graduate students are today registered for Ph.D. and masters' degrees, representing 10 per cent of the total university population. This number is expected to grow to 2,000 by 1985.
Several other autonomous institutes within the university which have specific
responsibility in this respect are:
-the Institute of Africa and Asian Studies (created in 1972);
-the Centre for Economic and Development Studies (1975);
- the Council for Medical Postgraduate Studies (1976);
-the Institute for Building and Road Research (1977);
-the Institute of Environmental Studies (1978); and
-the proposed Institute of Animal Production (approved by the Senate in 1976, but not yet by the Council).
Although these institutes are autonomous they are not independent of each other, and function in a close relationship with the mother faculties. The Graduate College is closely related to them, but acts rather as a catalyst than in any other way.
The patterns and structures for the development of postgraduate studies in the University of Khartoum are unique and most appropriate for the present stage of development and for what we are hoping to achieve. A graduate college would also be the most appropriate structure for performing the university's role at stage four, in addition to enabling it to develop into stage five in the scheme outlined above.
These single-purpose institutes and centres have proved to be effective and dynamic. Their academic programmes and their administrative structures are free from the traditional approaches and the bureaucracy often found in university faculties. All of them, however, have a common purpose: research, training, and solving developmental and environmental problems. This is also the task of the Graduate College, and all work together to achieve this end.
It is realized that, for the successful fulfillment of this objective, teamwork is most necessary. We have found that departmental divisions, as found in traditional faculties, are harmful in this respect. The institutes have to work as single units. We have also found that the provision of professional non-academic staff, for example, librarians, filing clerks, technicians and typists, is indispensable for the smooth functioning of such institutes.
There are four ways in which the Graduate College and these institutes can contribute to the role of integrating teaching and service to the society:
(a) by undertaking research to define the needs and problems of society;
(b) by training effective contributors for developmental and environmental projects;
(c) by applying existing knowledge to the solution of problems; and
(d) by seeking the co-operation of the university community, the government, other agencies, and the students in carrying out such work.
The Institute of Environmental Studies, which is the subject of this seminar, is rooted in the tradition we have developed in the University of Khartoum. It is not alien to our concepts nor to our experience. In this, it has fulfilled the first prerequisite for a positive role in the unique network we have developed to promote concern and awareness and to help solve developmental and environmental problems in the Sudan.