The role of universities in African social and economic development cannot be refuted. Their most explicit role is to equip individuals with high level skills for the job market. Consequently, quality university education is imperative. However, the traditional university’s roles are constantly being challenged.
The word university comes from the Latin word “universitas” which means “the whole’. This signals the role of universities in promoting balanced knowledge in everything. University education helps students to distill all that is best in human potential. The graduates use their skills to catalyse social improvement.
During these times of radical social, political and economic changes, the university in developing countries, has the added role of helping to build new civil society institutions, says a report titled, “The role of Universities in the Transformation of Societies” by UK Open University and Association of Commonwealth Universities.
In this “techno-whirlwind” era, enhancing our university education should help the continent to catch up technology-wise with the rest of the world. This is not necessarily in spearheading Research and Development. Rather, the university ought to encourage new cultural values, train and socialise new elites that would help us adopt in a new world. This is imperative now that the global economy is shifting from West to East, with Africa becoming the fulcrum. This will require people socialised differently in readiness for the new reality.
But with increasing cybercrime, political crises, gender violence, cults and child abuse it is safe to argue that the university is not playing its role as an agent of social transformation. The Open University report says that one problem is that the university has been left behind by other institutions.