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News & Happenings

September 15,2010


African University Day - 2010

Friday November 12, 2010 is African University Day and the Association of African Universities (AAU) is pleased to announce that the theme for this year's Day is: The Contribution of African Universities to the Achievement of the MDGS.


ln September 2000 all 192 United Nation member states assembled and took stock of the bleak picture of our planet and adopted the UN Millennium Declaration, a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty in all its forms by half by 2015. The following year, agreement was reached on eight goals supported by 21 quantifiable targets and 60 indicators through which progress could be measured. They formulated a vision of how they want their world to be in the future - a world where there is less poverty and fewer hungry people; a world free from infectious diseases, where mothers and their babies can expect to live longer, children can have access to education and girls and women have equal opportunities in life as boys and men; a world which cares for its precious environment and one where the haves and have-nots join hands for the betterment of the whole mankind. The leaders then drew up the MDGs and set the target time of 20 15 for their achievement.

In a paper, 'Contribution of Higher Education to the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),' by Prof. Goolam Mohamedbhai, for the Global University Network Innovation's (GUNI) online newsletter in October, 2007, he argued that the vast majority of academics who were his audience were not aware of the MDGs, and therefore, could not even start thinking about how their institutions can contribute to them. He contended that, there is no question that higher education can, and indeed does contribute towards achieving the MDGs.

Higher education has assumed importance and relevance both as a driver and a vehicle for development towards a better life. The target time of 2015 is just four years away, African governments therefore, need to engage all sectors of the economy to be able to attain these goals. An engagement with higher education institutions would be a step in the right direction.

It is AAU's expectation that African universities would use the African University Day to create awareness on the MDGs, deliberate on the role higher education institutions can play to contribute to attainment of the MDGs. For institutions that are already contributing their quota to the achievement of MDGs in their countries, the Day could be used to revaluate what has been done and to strategize on the way forward in terms of recommitting to achieving the goals.

The Africa University Day is held on November 12 every year, when African Universities, which are members of the AAU, commemorate the Day with various activities. Since 2000, the Secretariat of AAU based in Accra Ghana and the Secretariat of the Vice Chancellors, Ghana (VCG), have jointly organized events to commemorate the day. The events have been lecture to discuss the selected theme.

Previous African University Day Celebrations

From 2000 to date, the following have been the venues and themes for the Day:

  • In 2000 the University of Ghana hosted the event under the theme, 'African Universities and the Challenge of Knowledge Creation and Application in the Information Age. '
  • In 2001 the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology hosted it under the theme' Globalization and Higher Education in Africa. '
  • In 2002 the University of Education, Winneba hosted the day under the theme, 'African Universities' Response to Current Emerging Issues in Africa. '
  • 2003 was the turn of the University for Development Studies with the theme, 'Distance Education and African Universities. '
  • The University of Cape Coast hosted the 2004 event under the theme, 'The implications of WTOIGA TS for higher' education in Africa. '
  • There was a recess in 2005 due to changes at the Secretariats of the AAU and the VCG.
  • The theme for African University Day 2006 was 'Education for Sustainable Development.'
  • In 2007, which was the fortieth anniversary of the AAU, the theme was, 'Forty years of Championing African University Leadership: Prospects and Challenges for the Near Future. '
  • In 2008, University Ghana hosted it under the theme, 'Sustainable Development in Africa: The Role of Higher Education. '
  • In 2009, the theme, for the African University Day was 'African Universities: Linkageswith the Productive Sector.' It was commemorated at the Holiday Inn in Accra.


On African University Day, AAU calls on all Africans to take responsibility for the development of Africa. Each university is invited to celebrate' the Day by organizing a suitable forum for public dialogue, as a means of raising awareness of the critical issues surrounding the theme of this year's celebration. Events organized on this occasion can take the form of seminars, workshops, or panel discussions in which both policy-makers and major stakeholders actively participate. This could be supplemented by interviews given to the public and private media, press releases, articles in local newspapers, and exhibitions of the university's output.

If there is more than one university in your country, you may wish to arrange a joint celebration on this day. We also suggest that you circulate information on the event to Ministries of Education University Councils, Committee of Vice-Chancellors and all institutions involved in the managemen~ of higher education institutions, other public and private universities in your country that are non- members of this Association, research institutions, the media and the general public, inviting them to join in the celebration to give visibility to the Day and the promotion of activities of higher education institutions in your country.

The Association of African Universities (AAU), founded with an initial membership of 34 public universities on November 12, 1967 in Rabat, Morocco, serves as the continental organization and principal forum for consultation, exchange of information and cooperation among higher education institutions (HE s) in Africa. he AAU, which has its headquarters in Accra, Ghana, has grown in membership to 225 from 45 African countries as at November 2008. The Association's Vision is to become the representative voice of the African higher education community both within and outside Africa. Its Mission is to raise the quality of higher education in Africa and strengthen its contribution to African development by fostering collaboration among its member institutions; by providing support to their core functions of teaching, learning, research and community engagement; and by facilitating critical reflection on, and consensus-building around, issues affecting higher education and the development of Africa.

The AAU is governed by a General Conference comprising representatives of the member institutions and is convened once in every four years, while a Conference of Rectors, Vice-Chancellors and Presidents (COREVIP) meets every two years to review issues of common concern to the universities. The AAU Secretariat is responsible for the day-to-day running of the Association under the general supervision of an Executive Board.

For further information please contact: Dr. Pascal Hoba; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; Vera Doku; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


History of the AAU


The colonial powers establishing pioneer university institutions in Africa, especially the British and the French, often held governrnental meetings to discuss the pace of development and the nature of university institutions most appropriate to the conditions in Africa. The year 1960 was not only a watershed but also a vital historical landmark in Africa's struggle and search for a modem identity. It was the year that most colonial territories achieved, or were about to achieve, political independence, and also the beginning of the so-called development decade when African countries immediately found themselves drawn into the vortex of international conferences of varying motivation, rationality and utility, ostensibly designed not only to analyze but also to prescribe solutions to their problems.

Education naturally received high priority not only as a means by which centuries of ignorance was to be wiped out but also the means to train and develop the skills and high- level manpower to replace the erstwhile colonial official as well as staff the new and expanded political, administrative, social and economic institutions, In December 1960, the Economic Commission for Africa organized a conference in Khartoum, Sudan in 'which, among other things, inter-African cooperation in the development of higher education was discussed, The Ministers of Education in' newly independent African countries met under the auspices of the UN Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa in May 1961 to discuss the importance of education to economic development. During the meeting, a committee of six African states was asked to prepare "a synthesis of the educational goals, targets and qualitative attainments during the next twenty five years decided by the African states", This became known as the 20-Year Addis Ababa Plan. This was followed in September 1962 by a meeting of a more specialized conference on the Development of Higher Education in Africa, organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in Madagascar.

In 1963, the heads of Africa's institutions of higher education began to work out the means and machinery for co-op ration and joint action and in September of that year, a meeting of the heads of African institutions of higher learning was held in Khartoum, Sudan, Following this and a number of preparatory meetings and consultations, the Association of African Universities (AAU) was formally inaugurated in Rabat, Morocco on November 12, 19670ri the initiative of EI Nazeer Dafaala, the Rector of the University of Rabat, a former Minister of Education and Chairman of the UNESCO Executive Board. It was attended by representatives of 34 universities who adopted the Constitution of the Association whose preamble reads as follows:

  • We the Heads of Universities and University Institutions of Higher Education throughout- the African Continent;
  • Aware that many of the problems encountered can be solved by developing a system under which there is effective co-operation and consultation among the, institutions concerned;
  • Conscious of the role of African Universities to maintain an adherence and loyalty to world academic standards, and to evolve over the years a pattern of higher education in the service of Africa and its peoples, yet promotin a bond or kinshi to the larger human society;
  • Have resolved to establish a corporate body to achieve our aims and objectives in harmony with the spirit of the Organisation of African Unity.

The decision on the permanent location of the Association's headquarters was taken at the sixth Meeting of the Executive Board at the University of Lagos in June 1970, and the offer from Ghana was chosen upon presentation by the then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor A. Kwapong of a formal letter from the Government of Ghana indicating the facilities and the immunities that would be accorded the Association. This included among others exemption from taxation for the senior international staff and a contribution to the Endowment Fund. Tidiane Sy was appointed Assistant Secretary-General at the same meeting until at the end of 1972 when Y.K. Lule, a former Principal of Makerere University College was appointed the first Secretary- General.


At the time of the inauguration of the AAU, there were forty-six (46) institutions of higher learning that qualified for membership; thirty eight (38) of them joined in 1968, a further three (3) in 1969, bringing the total to forty-one (41) by 1969. By mid 1994, the number of membership had risen to 120. During the s" General Conference in Accra in January 1993, the bye-laws were changed to allow associate membership and the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) became the first Associate Member.

The African University Day

On the level of ideology, the AAU was seen as part of the evolving Pan-African organisations under the general umbrella of the OA U. Thus, the Report of the Executive Vice-President of the Second Conference of the AAU in Kinshasa, 1969, saw the AAU and its scholarship programme as an attempt "to create the type of students, of future leaders, who through their assimilation in" more than one African social scene, will develop an awareness of the realities and aspirations, of the traditions and ideals of their peoples in Africa and hence a sense of belonging not to one tribe or nation but to Africa as a whole, and this is the unity-of Africa which we like to see and are out to achieve".

Thus, there have been close links between the Organisation of African Unity and the AA U since the inception of the latter. As noted earlier, it would appear that the founding fathers of the AAU envisioned the AAU as an Association that would bring together African Universities in the same way as the OAU had" brought together newly independent" African countries. In June 1995, the 62nd Ordinary Session of the Council of the OAU Council of Ministers adopted, without amendment, a draft resolution [CMlRes.160 1 (LXII)] on the Role of African Universities and Institutions of Higher Learning in the Development of the Continent in which the AAU actively participated in. The Resolution took note of the conclusions and recommendations of the Colloquium on "Universities in Africa in the 1990s and beyond" which was jointly organised by the Association of African Universities and the donors to the Working Group on Higher Education in Africa held in January 1995, and calls upon the governments of the OAUMember States to support the Association of African Universities in its efforts to enhance the role of African Universities in promoting the socio-economic development of the African continent.

In 1994, and to coincide with the inaugural anniversary of the AAU, the Organisation of African Unity declared 12th November of every year as African University Day in pursuant to Resolution CMlRes.1534 passed by the OAU Council of Ministers in June of that year. The African University Day has been observed and celebrated by AA U member institutions since then under different themes .