This chapter is based on findings from ESRC-DFID funded project ‘Widening Participation in Higher Education in Ghana and Tanzania: Developing an Equity Scorecard’. This is a new evidence base contributing to making higher education more socially inclusive in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This mixed methods study of one public and one private case study university in each country, combined 200 student life history interviews with 200 key staff and policymakers interviews and 100 Equity Scorecards. An original feature of the study was the inclusion of student voices from sub-Saharan Africa. They narrated a range of experiences, aspirations and disappointments. Positive and enabling experiences were reported by students in both countries and in all case study universities e.g. supportive and accessible lecturers, enjoyable and well-taught programmes of study, good relations with students, independent learning, and the development of social capital in the form of networks, self-confidence and self-efficacy. However, negative experiences were also widely reported e.g. lack of, or poor quality, facilities and resources, large classes, poor pedagogy, lecturers’ lack of professionalism, problems with assessment, favouritism and corruption also lack of transparency in admissions procedures and student loan entitlements. The aspect of higher education that created the strongest positive and negative feelings was assessment. For many, it was experienced as unstable and unreliable, incorporating few quality assurance service-level agreements. However, failure and success were important indicators of academic and learner identities in both countries. In spite of many negative and unsatisfactory experiences, the motivation for social mobility, status and employability drove students to enter, stay in and value higher education. The symbolic power of being a student was noticeable in both countries.
Morley, L. Experiencing Higher Education in Ghana and Tanzania: The Symbolic Power of Being a Student. In: Hinton-Smith, T. (Ed) Widening Participation in Higher Education: Casting the Net Wide. Palgrave, London, UK (2012) 245-262. ISBN 978-0-230-30061