Faculty Crisis

Demographics of Faculty Photo: Frank Odwesso

Faculty Crisis

Student enrolment rates at universities and colleges in sub-Saharan Africa are booming. This is driven by a combination of population growth and economic development. Good news, but where will the lecturers and professors come from to teach this growing student population?

Investment in faculty has a low profile. We are working to improve planning across sub-Saharan Africa, to ensure there is enough quality teachers. 

Even with the most intelligent use of technology and the most effective learning models, colleges and universities are going to have a tough job ensuring they have sufficient faculty ready in place with relevant expertise. If they do not, the consequences will be serious not just in terms of unfulfilled potential, social and economic development for Africa’s youth but also for the implications of social unrest and migration. We want to change this.

By assembling the facts, changing the discourse and creating robust planning tools for Higher Education institutions, ESSA, and its partners want to influence the scale and nature of investment in high-quality faculty to match both need and demand.  

Progress so far

  • In 2021, together with the Universit ́e F ́elix Houphou ̈et-Boigny (UFHB), Coˆte d’Ivoire, and the University of Cape Coast (UCC), Ghana, we produced a comprehensive report titled ‘Case Studies on the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Responses from West African Universities'. This report contributes to existing knowledge by providing case studies about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on two West African universities and how these universities are responding. 

  • In 2018, together with the Association of African Universities (AAU)Ghana Tertiary Education Commission (GTEC), the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) and the Mastercard Foundation, we launched a Demographics of African Faculty initiative in January 2018, with a Ghanaian pilot study.

  • The Demographics of African Faculty pilot study on faculty supply and demand needs and challenges in Ghana. Data from 213 Ghanaian Tertiary institutions was gathered and analysed (including Public and Private universities, Colleges of Agriculture and Education as well as Nursing and Midwifery Colleges).

  • The resulting analysis considered the current picture as well as how things might evolve to 2025. The study looked at growth in demand for faculty, current policy objectives,  student-teacher ratios, gender and other factors. 

  • At the 50th annual conference of the African Association of Universities in Accra in 2017, Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo spoke to over 350 University leaders from across Africa about the urgent faculty issue. This was supported by contributions from AAU, GTEC and ESSA which raised awareness of the project in Ghana and the wider African University community. 

  • Leaders from Ghana's tertiary institutions have been involved from the start. We also welcome the Ghanaian government’s support in this project.

"The Ghanaian government are to be applauded for their refreshing desire to address this major challenge, and for their transparency and openness throughout this first phase of the project."

- Olaf Hahn, Former CEO ESSA.

Resources and Events

Next steps

  • The project partners and the Ghanaian government are planning a further stakeholder gathering to agree on a series of policy and practice actions.

  • ESSA, AAU and PRB are also considering how to capitalise on the momentum of this pilot and raise further funds to extend and deepen impact.

  • We intend to work with our partners to extend the study to further countries in sub-Saharan Africa.


Carnegie Corporation of New York

Carnegie Corporation of New York is one of America’s oldest grantmaking foundations that seeks to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. In keeping with this mandate, the Corporation's work focuses on international peace, the advancement of education and knowledge, and the strength of our democracy. 

ESSA together with IUCEA, AAU and PRB have secured $390,000 of funding from Carnegie Corporation of New York for a two-year research project focusing on understanding and addressing ‘faculty challenges’. 

Carnegie Corporation

Ghana Tertiary Education Commission (GTEC)

The Ghana Tertiary Education Commission (GTEC) is an agency of the Ghana mandated to assure quality at the tertiary education level. 

Formerly known as National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE), the body is devoted to providing leadership in the direction, functions, role and relevance of tertiary education in Ghana, leading Tertiary Education to new heights.

GTEC is ESSA’s first government partner for the pilot on “Demographics of Faculty”.


The Association of African Universities (AAU)
The Association of African Universities (AAU)

AAU is one of the key players in higher Education in Africa. With almost 400 members its mission is to enhance the quality and relevance of higher education in Africa and to strengthen its contribution to Africa’s development.

From its headquarters in Ghana the AAU serves as a platform for African Universities to co-operate on research and to reflect and consult on issues pertaining to Higher Education. It possesses a unique capacity to convene and communicate with institutional leaders and policy makers from all parts of Africa. 

AAU formed a partnership with ESSA in 2017, and we have been working together on a range of projects, most notably the “Demographics of Faculty” and the creation of a “Pan African Academic Jobs Board”.  AAU also gave ESSA a prominent role at its 2017 50th Anniversary conference in Accra, expanding ESSA’s network and reputation at an early stage in its development. 

“ESSA is a great partner for the AAU, and I particularly appreciate their fresh thinking, dynamic approach and highly collaborative way of working. ‘Joining up’ is really part of their DNA!”

Prof. Etienne Ahile, Secretary General, Association of African Universities

The Association of African Universities (AAU)

Logo: The Population Reference Bureau (PRB)
The Population Reference Bureau (PRB)

The Population Reference Bureau (PRB), in Washington DC, is one of the world’s leading demographic institutions. It informs people around the world about population, health, and the environment, and empowers them to use that information to advance the well-being of current and future generations. Its flagship product is the World Population Data Sheet.

PRB works with AAU and ESSA on the Demographic of Faculty initiative. 

“ESSA has ambitious goals for addressing systemic obstacles to increasing returns on investments in higher education in African countries.”

Jeff Jordan, President and CEO

Population Reference Bureau (PRB)

Logo: Mastercard Foundation
Mastercard Foundation

The Mastercard Foundation is one of the world’s leading foundations in the higher education space, with a deep presence in Africa especially in capacity building and scholarships.  The Mastercard Foundation is a natural partner for ESSA on the “Demographics of Faculty” project and has enthusiastically provided funding for the Ghana pilot as well as other support and insights.

The Mastercard Foundation