Equity, efficiency and sustainability in higher education in sub-Saharan Africa : a case study of Makerere University, Uganda
The World Bank is one of the most dominant influences in higher education policy in Sub Saharan Africa. Throughout the 1990s, the Bank consistently asserted that a reduced role of the state in providing and organising educational services, and a greater reliance on pricing systems in the allocation of those services would have a positive effect on both equity and efficiency in higher education. Critics of this approach countered that the Bank's neo-liberal framework was inappropriate to the provision of a public good such as education and that, in particular, the introduction of user charges was risky, inequitable and inefficient. This thesis explores these claims and counterclaims through an exploratory case-study of Makerere University (Uganda). Its particular focus is on the introduction of a series of cost-sharing measures, most notably the acceptance of 'privately sponsored students' to the University from the mid-1990s onwards. The thesis examines what impact these initiatives have had on questions of equity and efficiency within the institution, while also interrogating their sustainability. Using a series of semi-structured interviews with senior university and government officials, as well as official university documents and World Bank reports, the major changes to student financing at Makerere are studied and described. The impact that the changes have had on the question of efficiency, equity and sustainability are analysed, using both qualitative and quantitative research methods, including a series of semi-structured interviews with senior academics and administrators; focus discussion groups with students; and a student survey (n 1,030). It is demonstrated that the major effect of the changes to student financing has been the rapid increase of students being able to come to Makerere, as well as the associated increase in resources which these students have brought with them to the institution. It is argued that the injection of new resources has positively affected the efficiency of the university, but that increasing concerns are being raised about equity, as the poor are disproportionately excluded from the opportunities offered by the new funding approach. It is suggested further that the heavy reliance on extended family networks for financing ultimately raises questions about the sustainability of the new programmes. Much of the debate over the financing of higher education has been underpinned by the concern that the way in which a higher education system receives funding has a powerful influence in determining what it does - in particular the impact that a shift away from public funding will have on the sector's contribution to national development. It is concluded here that that the way in which the debate over the financing of higher education is currently constructed encourages an overly economistic view of the sector and its role. It is argued that higher education is especially unsuited to this role. The case study demonstrates that currently there is less to be gained from being dogmatic about the role of either the state or the market, than a greater acceptance that failures of either can result in distorted development. Policy implications point towards a greater understanding of the need to identify what is the most appropriate role for each to play to complement one another in a given context. This is needed so that a particular mix is not at the expense of either equity or efficiency, and to ensure that mix remains sustainable.