Constraints on and Prospects of Academic Freedom in Private Universities in Tanzania: Implications for Human Development and Capacity Improvement

Johnson M. Ishengoma


As part of the government’s efforts to liberalize the higher education sector to allow private providers and other stakeholders to offer education.  Most of the current private universities and colleges in Tanzania were formerly small tertiary education institutions which elevated themselves into university status when the enabling policy was put in place.  The majority of these nascent institutions  - which are proliferating at an alarming rate – heavily rely on part-time faculty and mainly employ retired  faculty from other higher learning institutions and retired civil servants, usually on a three-year contract basis renewable at the discretion of the employer. This nature of employment is essentially a constraint on the vibrant practice of academic freedom in these institutions.  These tuition-dependent institutions mainly focus on teaching rather than independent research and are essentially for-profit institutions albeit disguised; a phenomenon which has wider implications for knowledge production in these institutions.  Around 99% of private universities are owned or affiliated to religious institutions in Tanzania and abroad.  This paper, using documentary evidence and literature review, attempts to shed light on the constraints on academic freedom in private universities and University colleges in Tanzania and the implications of these constraints to human development and capability improvement through knowledge production and dissemination.  The paper attempts to answer the following questions related academic freedom in private universities in Tanzania: (i)  Given the nature of ownership/affiliation, governance and administration, faculty academic qualifications and ranks and insecure faculty tenures, to what extent is academic qualifications and ranks and insecure faculty tenures, to what extent is academic freedom practiced in private universities in Tanzania.                 (ii)  What are constraints in practicing academic freedom in Tanzania private universities?  Throughout this paper the concepts academic freedom and intellectual freedom are used interchangeably.  The concept of academic freedom refers to the freedom of the faculty, individually or collectively to pursue, develop and transmit knowledge through independent  research, study discussions, documentations, production and creation of new knowledge, independent teaching and grading students’ papers  without intimidation; writing and publishing academic papers on any topic of interest without control, restraint or fear of losing one’s tenure at the end of the three-year contract or fear of students who fill out lecturer/course evaluation forms at the end of each semester1.  Academic freedom in the context of this paper also encompasses freedom of movement of academics to attend academic conferences, workshops and seminars outside the country.

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