The Public Diplomacy (PD) Section at the U.S. Embassy in Harare has prioritized and focused their program resources to strengthen Zimbabwean academic research capacities, to expand graduate-study abroad programs, instruction and curricula processes, and to contribute to Zimbabwe’s goal to internationalize campuses.
The Fulbright program in Zimbabwe aims to serve as a foundation for internationalization of campus communities and a catalyst for university partnerships with U.S. counterparts. In addition to teaching and research, American Fulbright scholars make significant contributions by guiding their host departments/institutions on how they can internationalize their programs and deepen their international partnerships.
Higher education in Zimbabwe has evolved over time from a small elite system to broad, country-wide university structure. At independence in 1980, Zimbabwe had only one university with a total enrolment of 2,200 full-time students. Currently, there are eight public and four private universities with a total enrolment of more than 43,000 full-time students. As a result, most of the country’s recently established universities started as colleges under the tutelage of the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), the country’s oldest and most well-known university. This model was designed to ensure that the new institutions had a steady stream of highly trained teaching professionals.
All universities receive accreditation from the Zimbabwe Council of Higher Education (zimche.ac.zw), however, many Zimbabwean universities do not have formal quality promotion policies or structures to meet the audit requirements. Most universities in Zimbabwe use peer review and external reviewers or examiners as the main mechanism for quality assurance. The Senate/University council is the main custodian of academic quality and acts as a quality assurance body.
The growth in the number of universities has necessitated differentiation based on unique strengths, including, but not limited to number of faculty with PhDs, research interests, multi-disciplinary collaboration and university location – rural vs urban. Older and more recognized universities have a higher ratio of established scholars whereas younger institutions tend to employ younger, enthusiastic faculty and administrators who are eager and open to engaging with international scholars. Some of the new university mandates are STEM focused to drive the country’s technological development.
During the late 1990’s to early 2000’s the University of Zimbabwe had vibrant, strategic international partnerships and global collaborative research funded by international foundations. The political and socio-economic crisis from the mid-2000s resulted in the end of these partnerships, negatively impacting new universities which had yet to make their international footprints. Today universities actively seek opportunities to engage international scholars. In 2019, the government of Zimbabwe launched Education 5.0, an initiative that adds innovation and industrialization to the three pillars of teaching, research, and community engagement on which all universities functioned. In line with Education 5.0, Zimbabwean universities compete to update existing programs to meet international best practices as a step towards internationalization.
Zimbabwean universities all run on the American semester system; August/September being the start of the new academic calendar. However, to accommodate extra students and increase revenue through student fees, some universities have additional intakes that start in March/April and then run concurrently to the mainstream calendar. For purposes of uniformity, all Fulbright scholars operate on the American academic calendar.
More recently, COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns negatively impacted academic calendars. As a result, incoming Fulbright Scholars must be flexible and adaptable to a significant amount of uncertainty. Often, these schedule shifts provide opportunities to pursue new programs and research opportunities. Fulbright Scholars are encouraged to consult with the Public Diplomacy Section of the Embassy in the event they need guidance as to their programs, duties or new projects.
Interested candidates can contact the Public Diplomacy Section of the Embassy at HararePD@state.gov if they have questions about the program or the country.