A Benchmarking Study of Selected ASET Oriented Universities in Africa and China


Overview of the work

The purpose of this study is to benchmark African universities focusing on Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (ASET) programs with peer universities in China in order to identify the strength, weakness and other features of the former.

In order to set a background for the institutional level benchmarking, a few national indicators on higher education and R&D are first compared for the countries involved.

A web based instrument has been developed to present the benchmarking in a visualized and convenient way.
African Universities included in this pilot study

Since March 2014, invitation letters had been sent to potential universities in Africa by colleagues at World Bank. So far, eight universities expressed their interests in participating in the study and seven of them submitted their institutional data by July 31. Table 1 gives information about these universities.

Table 1. Participating Universities from Africa
Code Institution Abbr. Country Status
Gaston Berger University- Saint-Louis
GBU-SLSenegalData submitted
Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta
FUNAABNigeriaData submitted
International Institute of Water and Environmental Engineering
2iEBurkina FasoData submitted
University of Abomey-Calavi
UACBeninData submitted
Makerere University
MakUgandaData submitted
University of Dar Es Salaam
UDSMTanzaniaData submitted
University of Ghana
UGGhanaData submitted
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology
KNUSTGhanaData yet to be submitted
Comparison on higher education and R&D indicators for involved countries

China has been the second largest economy in the world since 2010. Now its GDP is more than fourteen thousand billion. Nigeria is the second largest economy in Africa, its GDP is nine hundred and thirty billion dollars while the GDP for other involved African countries are all less than 100 billion dollars. With the consideration of the population, China’s GDP per capita has also exceeded ten thousand, around double of that of Nigeria, and three to eight times of that of other involved countries.

Table 2. Comparison on National Indicators of Economic Development
2012 GDP(PPP) $Billion 2012 GDP per capita (Int$)
Burkina Faso24.91,555
Source: World Bank

China’s Tertiary Education Enrolment Ratio has reached 26.7%, while for all involved African countries, this ratio are all lower than 13%. According to Martin Trow’s theory of three stages of higher education massification, the criteria from elite education to mass education is 15%, so these African countries are still in the stage of elite higher education.

The Government Expenditure on Tertiary Education Institutions as a % of GDP for African countries varies from 0.38% to more than one percent, while china’s value is 0.69%, around in the middle of that for six African countries.

Data in Table 3 demonstrates that Tertiary Education Enrolment Ratio is not always proportional to the Government Expenditure on Tertiary Education institutions as a % of GDP, countries that invested more than 1% of their GDP on Tertiary Education institutions could still have low Tertiary Education Enrolment Ratio.

Table 3. Comparison on National Indicators of Tertiary Education
Gross Tertiary Education Enrolment Ratio Government Expenditure on Tertiary
Education Institutions as a % of GDP
Benin12.4% (2011)0.58% (2010)
Burkina Faso4.6% (2012)0.71% (2012)
Ghana12.2% (2012)1.07% (2011)
Nigeria10.4% (2005)0.50% (2003)
Senegal7.6% (2010)1.13% (2005)
Tanzania3.9% (2012)Not Available
Uganda9.1% (2011)0.38% (2012)
China26.7% (2012)0.69% (2010)
Source: UNESCO Institute of Statistics

The Gross Domestic Expenditure on R & D (GERD) for African countries ranges from dozens of millions to hundreds of millions, while China’s expenditure on R&D is more than 200 billion, hundreds to thousands times of that of African countries.

The per capita expenditure on R&D in African countries is only a few dollars, China’s GERD per capita is 152 dollars, dozens of times of that for African countries.

The data on GERD as a % GDP shows that African countries invest 0.2% - 0.4% of their GDP in R & D, while China invest 1.8% of its GDP in R&D.

Table 4. Comparison on National Indicators of R&D Expenditure
Gross Domestic Expenditure on R & D
(GERD)(in Millions PPP$ )
GERD per capita(in PPP$ ) GERD as a % of GDP
BeninNot AvailableNot AvailableNot Available
Burkina Faso38 (2009)2.5 (2009)0.2% (2009)
Ghana73 (2007)3.2 (2007)0.2% (2007)
Nigeria645 (2007)4.4 (2007)0.2% (2007)
Senegal81 (2008)6.6 (2008)0.4% (2008)
Tanzania213 (2007)5.2 (2007)0.4% (2007)
Uganda164 (2009)5 (2009)0.4% (2009)
China207,418 (2011)152 (2011)1.8% (2011)
Source: UNESCO Institute of Statistics

The gap on the R&D expenditure in higher education sector is smaller between African Countries and China.

When looking at the higher education sector’s share of R&D expenditure, in Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania, higher education sector plays major core role in R&D activities while in China, less than 10% R&D expenditure was spent in Higher Education sector, and much more was spent by research organizations and industries.

When comparing the R&D expenditure in Higher Education as a % of GDP, China’s performance is in the middle of 5 African countries.

Table 5. Comparison on National Indicators of GERD in Higher Education Sector
Gross Domestic Expenditure on R & D (GERD)
in Higher Education Sector(in Millions PPP$ )
As a % of GERD As a % of GDP
BeninNot availableNot availableNot available
Burkina FasoNot availableNot availableNot available
Ghana2 (2007)2.3% (2007)0.01% (2007)
Nigeria418 (2007)64.8% (2007)0.14% (2007)
Senegal33 (2008)40.7% (2008)0.15% (2008)
Tanzania115 (2007)54.1% (2007)0.24% (2007)
Uganda28 (2009)17.6% (2009)0.07% (2009)
China16447 (2011)7.9% (2011)0.15% (2011)
Source: UNESCO Institute of Statistics

The FTE R&D Personnel for four African countries ranges from 1.4 thousand to eleven thousand, while China’s R&D personnel is close to 3 million.

In higher education sector, Nigeria and Senegal still maintains a few thousands R&D personnel, while China only has around 300,000 R & D personnel in Higher Education. This again shows that in China most R&D activities happened outside the higher education while in some African countries, the situation is reversed.

Table 6. Comparison on National Indicators of R&D Personnel
Total R&D Personnel (FTE) R&D Personnel (FTE) in Higher Education
BeninNot availableNot available
Burkina Faso2,049 (2010)Not available
Ghana1,431(2007)63 (2007)
Nigeria11,330 (2007)6,987 (2007)
Senegal55,40 (2008)4,353 (2008)
TanzaniaNot availableNot available
UgandaNot availableNot available
China2,882,903 (2011)299,296 (2011)
Source: UNESCO Institute of Statistics
Selection of peer universities from China

When selecting peer universities from China to be included in this study, the following procedures/considerations were applied:

First, in order to obtain the data for the benchmarking, we limited the scope to those who reported their institutional data to us through 2013 Global Research University Profile (GRUP) (This project will be explained further latter). In total, there are 43 universities available.

Second, because the main focus of this study are ASET universities, those Chinese universities that are relatively strong in Engineering, Technology or Agriculture are reserved.

Third, it has been noticed that the participating universities from Africa seem relatively small in terms of number of academic staff, ranging from less than 100 to 1200 (Table 7). While the number of academic staff for Chinese universities are much larger, very few universities have less than 1000 academic staff, most of them are in the range of 2001-3000 (Table 8), in this situation during selection we gave preference to those relatively small ones but they are still larger than African universities.

Fourth, all participating universities from Africa do not appear in any of influential global rankings and a rough estimation is that they should be after top 1000 in terms of ARWU. In order to set a meaningful coordinate for African universities, we mainly selected those Chinese universities ranked between 751-1000 in ARWU (Table 9).

Finally six universities are selected and their information are shown in Table 10.

Table 7. Size of African Universities in terms of Number of Academic Staff
African University Number of Academic Staff
Table 8. Distribution of the Number of Academic Staff for Chinese Universities that Reported Data
Number of Academic Staff Number of Chinese Universities
Table 9. Distribution of World Rank for Chinese Universities that Reported Data
World Rank Number of Chinese Universities
Top 50017
Table 10. Chinese Universities Selected for the Benchmarking Study
Code World Rank Number of Academic Staff
C1: A university strong in traffic and transportation engineering
C2: A leading agricultural and forest university in northwest China
C3: A national university featured by its strength in information and electronics
C4: A university strong in material science and located in central China
C5: A traditional agriculture university in east China
C6: A young university and a public one but supported by a private foundation
Data collection of African universities

For the purpose of better understanding the characteristics of World-Class Universities and exploring globally comparable indicators that could assess universities from different perspectives, the Center for World-Class Universities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (CWCU) started the Global Research University Profile (GRUP) project in 2011. A comprehensive database on the facts and figures of around 1,200 global research universities was established based on the data reported by universities and those collected from third parties by CWCU researchers.

In 2013, 520 universities participated in the annual GRUP survey and reported their data on students, academic staff and resources. The participating institutions cover 67% of Top 100 universities and 61% of Top 500 universities according to Academic Ranking of World Universities 2013; therefore they formed a very good sample set to describe and reflect the characteristics of world leading research universities.

Table 11. Distribution of Participating Universities in GRUP 2013 by Rank Range
Rank Range Number of Participating Universities
(who reported the data)
Participating Rate
Top 1006767%
Top 500 Subtotal30461%

Based on the data submitted by participating universities, 35 indicators were calculated, including 13 indicators about Students, 9 indicators about Faculty and 13 indicators about Resource. In addition, GRUP system adopts those 5 indicators used in ARWU ranking. Therefore, there are totally 40 indicators that could be used to observe universities.

For this study, we also used the GRUP as a tool to collect institutional data from participating universities in Africa.