Be Smart About South Africa

The Regional Origins of Africa’s Graduates

While several recent papers have highlighted considerable social inequalities in access to higher education in African countries today, there’s little work that looks at how and why such inequalities have changed over time. Research shows that regional inequality fell in the first two decades of independence. However, from the 1980s regional inequality remained stagnant or grew across this group of countries. Inequality grew primarily because the main urban metropolises have been pulling ahead, leading to a growing urban bias in university access. There are many reasons for this continued growth in inequality in access. The most important factor is one that’s difficult for policymakers to address. The census data shows that the focus countries have a considerable rate of rural-urban migration. These migrants are a small share of the university educated. As a result, university graduates are increasingly concentrated in the cities. University students tend to be the children of the highly educated – they’re in turn more likely to gain higher education. This perpetuates the concentration of the highly skilled.


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