The idea of the African university in the twenty-first century: Some reflections on Afrocentrism and Afroscepticism

  • K Horsthemke


The idea of `the African university' is usually accompanied by an emphasis on Africanisation of education, and of knowledge, on changing the demographic profile of student, staff and administrative bodies, educational syllabi and curricula, and the criteria for research activity and for throughput. The idea of `Africanising' universities is frequently couched within a conception that is explicitly `Afrocentric'. On the other end of the spectrum, doubts about the idea of `Africanising' universities frequently give rise to a kind of `Afroscepticism'. The net result has been a dialogical impasse between these two positions, each accusing the other of racial hegemonism. The valuable insights that characterise these different views need to be taken into account in order to arrive at a balanced perspective regarding African higher education in the twenty first century. Ultimately, however, neither Afrocentrism nor Afroscepticism provide a compelling framework for transformation of tertiary education. My own position, while rather critical of the Afrocentric project and of the idea of `the' African university, stops short of a thoroughgoing scepticism. It is informed both by what might be called `Afrorealism' and the cautious hope that Africa and her universities will flourish in the twenty first century, whether in spite or because of globalisation.

South African Journal of Higher Education Vol. 20(4) 2006: pp.449-465

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