Ghettoisation of Basic Research in Higher Education
Before the rude interruption of neo-liberalism in the 1980s, very few questioned basic research as a fundamental component of higher education. Basic research asks basic questions: What is the character of the social order? What is its direction? How does it affect the people living under it?
Whatever they are researching on, explicitly or implicitly, serious scholars and researchers are concerned with these questions. This type of research and the intellectual debates surrounding it are signally the vocation of any University worth the name. But over the last three decades, the situation has changed radically. As Chachage and many others have observed, not only has basic research declined in our institutions of higher education but it has been completely ghettoised, its worth constantly challenged. Neo-liberalism vocationalised and de-intellectualised our Universities while turning many of our eminent academics into hired consultants doing the bidding of their clients. As neo-liberalism is breathing its last, we need to resuscitate the debate on basic research.
There cannot be a better institution to jump-start such a debate than the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH). COSTECH houses the Nyerere Resource Centre under whose auspices occasional papers are published. COSTECH is the premier institution in the country that finances and sponsors research in our universities. The intention behind this publication is to contribute towards initiating debate on basic research, besides celebrating the life of a great Tanzanian intellectual. On behalf of NRC I would like to thank Chambi Chachage for helping us to locate Chachage’s numerous writings from which we selected these essays relevant to our purpose.
It is our hope that Chachage’s contribution will serve as a departure point for us to debate basic research and its vital role in producing knowledge.