African Studies Association of the UK biennial conference 2018

The qualitative data collection has been progressing steadily over the summer and we are getting closer to completing the interviews with international students in Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Namibia. In September, 2018, the ASAUK conference took place in Birmingham, UK, which provided us with an opportunity to share initial findings with a diverse audience. With more than 800 participants at the conference, there were a number of relevant panels and discussions that gave new insights into current research in Africa.

On behalf of the IDEAS team, Markus Roos Breines prepared, in collaboration with Parvati Raghuram, a presentation to contribute to the streams on higher education. Unfortunately, several panels were cancelled and in the process our presentation fell out of the programme! In the end, however, I managed to get on board to the panel ‘Violence, Protest and Discipline at African Universities’, where I presented the paper: ‘Rethinking access to higher education in Africa: the case of international distance education’. The focus of the presentation was the role of international distance education in enabling people in different countries who, for various reasons, are not able to pursue higher education in their local context, and how this transforms how we understand access to higher education beyond national frameworks.

The focus of my presentation was slightly different from the other presentations on the panel, which included historical work on the University of South Africa, a study of contemporary government surveillance of university campuses in Zimbabwe, and an analysis of radicalization among students in Kenya. Unfortunately, there was little time for discussion after the presentations, but we had some stimulating questions and comments from the audience. Considering that international distance education is largely overlooked in academic literature on higher education in Africa, the research was well received and stimulating conversations followed after the panel ended.

In attending the conference for three days, I had the pleasure of encountering former colleagues from SOAS and the University of Sussex, but also to meet a range of academics from the UK, the US and various countries in Europe and the Global South. There were a wide range of publishers present, which provided an opportunity to find books that I was not aware of and that are not easily available elsewhere. All in all, the conference provided a valuable space for rethinking and developing that we are intending to publish in the near future.

Markus Roos Breines

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