The Monash University of Australia is the country’s biggest. It has a student population of 60,000 students with around 15,000 staff all around the world.
Professor Simon Adams, Pro Vice Chancellor (International Engagement) explained that while Australia was disengaging from Africa several years ago they (Monash) wanted to be at the forefront of education. So initially they had a commercial objective which was to get students from abroad to come to Monash in Australia to study and in the process pay for their education and thereby generate revenue for the University. Now Monash has campuses in Italy, Mumbai India, Malaysia and South Africa. He said they then went to South Africa and decided to build a campus there in furtherance of this commercial initiative trying to get African students enrolled. This venture has proved to be very successful and presently students from some 43 African countries are being educated in the South African campus.
Having achieved that aim over the years the focus is no longer commercial. Prof. Adams disclosed that they have now signed an agreement that they will not repatriate a single cent from South Africa. He explained that the focus now is long term strategic interest. “We want to be at the forefront. Africa is at the forefront of everything so we need to get engaged we have much to learn and much to benefit from Africa” he passionately said. The benefits flowing backwards he said is knowledge for the Australians who go to the South African campus “It is a life changing experience” he said. He disclosed that they now have a problem of trying to get Australian students to come back home after they have been transferred to the South African campus to complete their courses. Monash he said gives every Australian student about 3,500 Australian dollars for a single semester.
So what started as a commercial venture has now become so successful that Monash is now recognised as one of the best Universities in the world with state of the art research facilities. Presently one such research involves cassava which arguably feeds over 750 million people and which is said to be threatened.
Another University with a similar agenda is the Edith Cowan University in Perth, Western Australia, where Richard Geddes is the international marketing officer. Richard was recently in Ghana and other South African countries holding seminars and explaining the educational opportunities open to students at the Edith Cowan.
The Edith Cowan has three campuses with about 23,000 students of which about 20% being international. The Edith Cowan has been engaging African students since 1990 and majority of the African students come from Kenya and Zambia although there are also some from Zimbabwe, Mauritius and South Africa. About 60% of the international students come from Africa and we could see a lot of African students in our brief walk around the massive campus. Richard informed us that there are over 400 courses on offer and scholarships are available for graduate degrees.
Edith Cowan also houses the Police Academy of Australia and trains police from other countries also. Again it was obvious here that wary of insufficient government funding Edith Cowan like Monash have been hunting students from other countries to go and study in their universities. This is a commercial venture which raises revenue for the universities and makes them able to improve the quality of their education and conduct world class research.
In this same vein one questions what happened with Fourah Bay College which is the oldest college South of the Sahara. Long ago Ghanaians, Nigerians, you name it flocked to FBC to be educated there. Now the University is a shadow of its self depending on government subvention which when it arrives late leads to strikes and disruption of exams. The campus itself is so dilapidated that it is as if efforts are being made to preserve its old structures as a means of recognising its long existence. Indeed Universities in Sierra Leone could do well to learn from the universities in Australia by trying to generate their own revenue. A massive opportunity by FBC has been laid waste as it could have built on its reputation long ago to expand and make Sierra Leone a hub for education. But alas … By Kelvin Lewis