Date: Friday, February 7, 2003
Moderators: Dode Ackey, Jennifer Dapko
General Topics: We would like to find out how the Africa Students Association (ASA) members feel about American and African universities and about AIU, and what they feel our strengths and weaknesses are.
Details: Jennifer and Dode were the moderators for the focus groups. Each had their own room with 7 – 9 ASA students. The questions below were presented to each group and the responses were recorded for further review and analysis. It was important for the moderators to stay unbiased in their gestures, actions, and words so as to not invoke responses that the ASA students felt were “correct”.
Topic: African vs. American universities: Understanding the Difference
1 - What do you like about American universities?
2 - What do you dislike about American universities?
3 - What do you like about the universities in your country (what country)?
4 - What do you dislike about the universities in your country?
5 - In selecting a college, what were your top five requirements?#
6 - What were your reasons for attending an American university? What brought you to USF?#
7 - How do you pay for your education? Did you have a set budget for school?
8 - Would you attend an African university of the same American quality or would you still come to the U.S. for your education? Why or why not?
9 - What would you be willing to pay for an American-style university in your country?
Topic: Next briefly discuss AIU. Review programs, amenities, and costs:
- American-style university
- No waiting of up to 3 years upon acceptance
- Internship opportunities
- Financial aid assistance
- Career fairs
- Equal opportunity university
- Department of Business Administration
- Department of Engineering
- Department of Law, Social Sciences, and Humanities Student
- Cost is $225 per credit hour
1 - While you were listening to my description of AIU, what came to your mind?
2 - What are your thoughts about AIU?
3 - Is AIU a good idea, why or why not?
4 - Are you familiar with a university that is similar located in your country? If yes, what were your reasons for not attending?
5 - What problems do you foresee with AIU?
6 - What would you say is AIU’s biggest selling point?
7 - Is there anything else you would like to add?
Topic: Marketing and Advertising
1 - What would be a good way to reach high school students in your country so they know they know what their college options are?
2 - If you were to attend college in your country, what is the critical information you would need to know?
Focus Group Analysis
Group 1 (Jennifer’s Group):
1 student from Ghana
4 students from Togo, Senegal, Benin
2 students from Nigeria, Belize, St. Lucia
3 students from US
1 student from Haiti
- Lack of job security in Africa
- Credibility of universities in Africa
- Lack of resources
- Name recognition of universities
- Lack of teacher recognition
- Full-time professors paid minimally and work second jobs
- No schedule security (strikes prolong school semesters, teachers prone to strike from frustration)
- Can plan future better in US universities
- Flexibility of US universities (time to study at own pace, less pressure to perform with the group)
- Highly competitive student environment in Africa
- Intense knowledge in Africa
- More opportunity in US to shape own career, networking opportunities
Came to US because:
- Learn English
- Mindset from early age to go to US university, never thought otherwise
- If can afford education abroad, then it is a first option to do so
- Easier schooling in US (due to competitive situation)
- Various Comments
- High school credits transfer to US universities
- System here is more practical, can apply what you’ve learned immediately. No jobs back home to apply skills/degree, or underpaid in degree jobs
- Internship opportunities
- Fail one class, must take entire set of classes again for that particular year of school
- Only choices in school education is language selection (lack of flexibility)
- Built on the British “destroy” model versus US help for success model. Professors unapproachable outside of class, level of difficulty of classes
- Difficult exam upon graduating from high school to enter college. Very difficult to pass (British “destroy” model)
- Great minds from back home are in the US. Not appreciated in Africa (Nobel prize winners, one teaching in England one here)
- Attempt to have the least amount of students pass exam to comply with lack of room for all students
Requirements for US University:
- Reputation of school, diversity
- Recognition of school
- Afford school
- Loans & Financial aid primary funding source
- Very few are funded by parents
- Getting here is the first priority. How to pay for education is secondary.
- Tuition is too expensive in US
- Family members will pool money together for one bright child to study in the US
African university students
- Can’t afford to study in US
- Risk graduating with an useless degree
- “60% of students would prefer to be in US”
- What will their degree be worth elsewhere? Will there be a job for them?
- What is the importance of a university? Opportunity to get a job, provide means to live, and people are not getting that. Education may be better or equal to education here, but there are no jobs.
- What makes a degree credible? US standards
- Bribe for jobs
- Civil service sometimes required upon graduation
Issues with AIU
- Discrimination based on money and ability to attend the university. Ex: private universities that currently exist are for government officials’ kids (mentality that you can pay for your education vs. working for it). Don’t make it a “club” university
- Diversity is necessary (all economic levels).
- Internships great idea
- Where will the teachers come from?
- Important for US professors to train African professors on US style teaching (i.e. open communications)
Group 2 (Dode’s Group):
5 students from Nigeria
2 students from Ivory Coast
1 student from US
2 students from Haiti
1 student from Cameroon
- Professors have no accountability (they can show up whenever they want to). Professors take other assignments during the middle of the academic year, leaving students with no lecturer for the rest of the academic year. Students must still be ready to be tested whenever their professor is back.
- Universities do not make learning enjoyable like in the US.
- Local and foreign companies do not give back to the community through scholarships, internships, cop education, and others.
- Some faculty members sometimes get sexually involved with students for grade, giving less or no credibility to universities.
- Limited or no access to information resources (library, internet, etc).
- No schedule security (professors can take other assignments in the middle of the academic year leaving students with no lecturer. Strike also represents a major handicap for a smooth semester).
- Universities in US are involved in the job market to help students find job upon graduation.
- Easy and free access to Internet in US makes learning easier and exiting. Also stimulate students to do researches.
- School is easier in the US. In Africa you must pass all your class at once. Failing one class means a repetition of all classes taken during the academic year.
- Books are extremely expensive in the US and sometimes are not useful for the class.
- In Africa, teachers will give you every material necessary that you need via a dictation. However, the US educational system is more simplified.
In selecting university, what are students’ requirements?
- Ultimately, the weather was the biggest factor that influences students’ choice.
- The type of program available at USF.
- Scholarships available for them at that particular university.
- Students will be willing to pay the same amount of money per credit hour to attend AIU if they are convinced that they will be getting the same quality of education like the one at USF.
- Being able to provide students with scholarships.
- Diversity of faculty members.
- How successful AIU will be in having student being ready to take classes in two foreign languages (English and French), even though it is a great idea.
- Being able to have American faculties to teach at AIU will give a strong credibility to the university.
- Help student in getting scholarships in US universities to continue their advanced degrees (PhD for example)
- If students get a chance to continue their advance degree in US, how will AIU convince them to come back to Africa to help the continent? AIU will be perceived as an institution that help Africa loose its brains (Image issue).
- Some students were advised to go to big name universities located in Africa such as University of Ghana, University of South Africa; however, the chose to come to the US. What would AIU do to convince student to stay in Africa.
- Being able to recruit non traditional students.
What problems do you foresee with AIU?
What would you say is AIU’s biggest selling point?
- The fact that US teacher will go to teach at AIU will be very attractive to students.
- Opening campuses (physical or virtual) in different states in Africa will facilitate learning if necessary tools are made available to students.
- People in Africa tend to believe more in outsider.