Going Global 2015

My participation in the British Council Going Global 2015 annual conference on higher education in London was nothing short of a defining experience. The journey started in February 2014 in my last year as an undergraduate in the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. At the time, I was running an education technology project called Acada360 and also had a rare opportunity to work with the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation of my university as a student manager for ‘UInnovate’ Business Contest- a business idea competition for students and staff of the university which the vice chancellor initiated.

It was during these activities that the research on graduate employability led by Dr. Tristan McCowan of the Institute of Education, University of London, engaged me alongside some other students with a view to participating in the research. Then this year, I was contacted and preparations began. A lot of effort was put into ensuring that the student session was successful; which meant that the panelists had to be informed, adequately aware of the research and the issue of graduate employability in their home country and confident enough to speak on a global stage. I particularly found this part of the preparation very exciting and engaging. Research materials were passed around and even beyond that, each of us had to independently think about the reality of the situation in our environments, as it affects us and those around.

A key highlight of the panel discussion on graduate employability in sub-Saharan Africa was the exchange between myself and an education leader from Nigeria. One of the findings of the research revealed that students are less critical of the education they receive in public, and often say nice things about their institutions, whereas their outcomes and conversations in informal settings say different things. We were still trying to make sense of this important finding when the education leader attempted to shoot down some things I said about inclusive provisions for entrepreneurship education on campuses across Nigeria, maintaining emphatically that her commission, which is in charge of universities in Nigeria, put a policy on the ground insisting that every student must have taken one entrepreneurship course or the other without which they cannot graduate. Then I asked, “I have just recently graduated top of my class from arguably the best university in Nigeria and I wasn’t required to take any entrepreneurship course, how then did I graduate?” At that point, it was clear that either the policy isn’t working or implementation is not followed up or it was a mere attempt to divert attention from the real issue and shut ‘an outspoken student’ up.
Students don’t speak up because their institutions are not sufficiently democratic and open to criticisms which could attract damning consequences ranging from victimization to expulsion. Also, in the absence of jobs, entrepreneurship is the ready tool to neutralize after-school shocks and where possible, create jobs for other people, hence the popularity and acceptance of entrepreneurship in Nigeria.

My participation in the research and panel discussion has exposed me to the situation in other focus countries for the research- Ghana, Kenya and South Africa. While South Africa fares better in the group, she nevertheless shares common issues like prestige level of institutions and their connection to industry. While it takes a Kenyan graduate an average of five years to secure employment, Ghana is doing relatively well in the provision of entrepreneurship education for students. Across board, the four countries need to widen skills development and careers advisory services and ensure greater participation of industry in efforts to prepare students for the job market.

The next British Council Going Global conference takes place in Cape Town, South Africa in 2016, and I hope as many industry leaders and representatives as possible from the four focus countries will be able to attend as was the case in 2015, and important developments and innovations that address the focus of the research would be captured and promoted as steps in the right direction. The Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) of the University of Ibadan, which was established by a directive of the federal government which provided for the creation of entrepreneurship centres in all federal institutions across the country, deserves recognition for its growing involvement in student and staff engagement and development.

It was my first time in London and I enjoyed my stay absolutely. The UK is no doubt a very popular study destination for students from Africa because of the quality of its education and no wonder that explains why graduate holders of UK degrees are highly regarded.  I would like to study there myself in the future.  Against this setting, the British Council’s role in promoting the UK as a study destination and as a place to look for partnerships in furthering education and forging futures cannot be overemphasized.

Author: ifeadedeji

I am a graduate student in African Studies at the Center for International Studies, Ohio University where I work as a research assistant and Editor of Africa@OHIO Blog. I hold a bachelors in political science, and use this space as a container of my thoughts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: