Higher Education Systems and Institutions, Burkina Faso

  • Akemi YonemuraEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9553-1_494-1

Higher Education System Development


Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa Sahel, surrounded by Mali, Niger, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Cote d’Ivoire. It achieved independence from France in 1960 (IMUNA 2018). The population was estimated at 19.2 million with the median age of 17 in 2017 (UNDP 2018). Its high population growth (3.1%) and limited natural resources result in poor economic prospects for the majority of the population (World Bank 2018a).

Historical Development of Higher Education System

In 1965, the Higher Institute of Pedagogical Training was created with the help of France in Ouagadougou. It was transformed into two independent structures: the University Institute of Pedagogical Technology and the Center for University Studies, which became the Center for Higher Education in 1969. In 1974, various institutions became the University of Ouagadougou: comprised of 12 schools and institutes. At the time of its creation, the University of Ouagadougou’s mission was to train secondary school teachers in order to provide for the next generation of French teachers. During several reforms particularly those in 1985, 1991, and 2000, it underwent significant structural, institutional, and academic changes to adapt the training to employment. In 2017, there were four public universities: University of Ouagadougou (Ouagadougou founded in 1974), University of Ouaga II (Ouagadougou 2007), Polytechnic University of Bobo-Dioulasso (Bobo-Dioulasso 1997), and Norbert Zongo University (Koudougou 2005), and three polytechnic university centers: Polytechnic University Center of Dédougou (Dédougou 2012), Polytechnic University Center of Ouahigouya (Ouahigouya 2017), and Polytechnic University Center of Kaya (Kaya 2017) (UniRank 2019), which would be transformed soon into universities. There were 54 higher education establishments in total, including 19 public and 35 private institutions (IIEP-Pole de Dakar 2017).

Tertiary Enrollments

The participation in tertiary education in Burkina Faso increased significantly in the past two decades from 9,878 in 1999 (male: 7,627 and female: 2,251) to 94,728 (male: 63,260 and female: 31,468) in 2016. The increase may be partly due to the high population growth and greater output from the secondary and primary school sectors, but the gross enrollment rate (GER) also grew more than five times during the same period from 1% (male: 1.5% and female: 0.5%) in 1999 to 5.6% (male: 7.3% and female: 3.8%) in 2016. On the scale of the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) (UIS 2011), in 2012, about one fourth of the tertiary students were enrolled at ISCED 5 (short-cycle tertiary education). The majority of students were enrolled at ISCED 6 (Bachelor’s equivalent) followed by ISCED 7 (Master’s equivalent). Doctoral enrollment (ISCED 8) was about 3.5% of all tertiary students. Private institutions seem to be on the rise, represented 15% of the total tertiary institutions in 2006, which increased to 25% in 2016 (UIS 2018).

In terms of program orientation, in 2012, the largest proportion of students were enrolled in social sciences, journalism, and information (29%), followed by business, administration and law (24%), arts and humanities (17%), natural sciences, mathematics and statistics (13%), engineering, manufacturing and construction (6%), health and welfare (5%), education (4%), and communication technologies (2%). Services as well as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and veterinary programs have less than 1% of tertiary enrollments. Female participation was low in such programs as natural sciences, mathematics and statistics, engineering, manufacturing and construction, communication technologies, and education (UIS 2018).

Higher Education Governance

The Role of the Ministry of Higher Education

The Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research, and Innovation manages the higher education system in Burkina Faso. One of its essential missions is to produce high-level professionals who can effectively steer economic and social development of the country. Higher education welcomes holders of diplomas or degrees of upper secondary education at universities, public and private higher education institutions, and Grandes Ecoles. It is organized in two or three cycles according to the courses. The introduction of the system of “License, Master, Doctorate” (LMD) and its implementation face a major challenge for the professionalization of training in higher education structures in Burkina Faso (Ministries in charge of education of Burkina Faso 2013). For the management, monitoring, and evaluation of higher education, research, and innovation, there are three national steering structures: the Directorate General of Higher Education (DGESup), the Directorate General of Scientific Research and Innovation, and the Directorate General of Studies and Sectoral Statistics (DGESS) (UNESCO 2019).

Institutional Governance

At the national level, major needs addressed were well-governed resource management and creation of an autonomous national quality assurance agency, which would put in place internal and external quality assurance mechanism throughout the country. At the community level, the Francophone Council for African and Malagasy Higher Education (CAMES) has developed quality assurance mechanism in its Strategic Development Plan for the 2015–2019 period, requiring all the member countries to strengthen the quality assurance that promote effective education and research systems (UNESCO 2019). At the level of higher education institutions (HEIs), introducing autonomy and merit-based processes and facilitating the flow of funds would help foster innovation and encourage the development of alternative forms of higher education service delivery.

Quality Assurance

The improvement of quality assurance (QA) in HEIs is a priority in the Government educational plan, Programme sectorial de l’education et de la formation (PSEF) 2012–2021 (Ministries in charge of education of Burkina Faso 2013). The Government aims to strengthen the operationalization of the governance mechanism through a World Bank project. The objective of the project is to strengthen quality assurance in tertiary education by: (a) implementing relevant aspects of governance issues in HEIs and the CAMES; (b) establishing quality assurance units in selected HEIs and a National Quality Assurance Framework (NQAF) with benchmarks of evaluation to link up with regional quality assurance practices; (c) increasing the capacity of universities to implement projects; and (d) strengthening the management and communication of the HEIs and to adapt to diversified delivery modes. The project specifically supports (a) the definition of a national quality assurance system; (b) the creation of internal quality assurance units (IQAUs) within HEIs and the development of internal quality assurance strategies or policies, their engagement in the self-assessment process of institutions or programs, and the preparation of the external evaluation and/or accreditation; and (c) the creation of an independent and autonomous national quality assurance authority, the international accreditation of professional training programs, and training of engineers and health professionals (World Bank 2018b).

Finance/Funding Systems

Government Expenditure

Since 2005, overall, Burkina Faso has invested more than 4% of its gross domestic product (GDP) in education. In 2015, the government expenditure on tertiary education was 0.6% of GDP, which was PPP$ 175 million. The share of tertiary education of the total government expenditure on education was 13.7%. Per student government expenditure has always been the highest at the tertiary level compared to primary and secondary levels. In 2010, more than $3,000 was spent per student at tertiary level (more than ten times of primary and secondary levels), which has declined to about $2,000 in 2015 (UIS 2018).

Higher Education Revenues by Source

Since the government resources are limited, the World Bank-financed project aims to identify and tap additional sources of financing for higher education by creating revenue-generating activities by HEIs, including tuition fees, other student fees, consultancies, joint research, fund-raising and donations (World Bank 2018b). The available data (2006) show that the initial household funding of tertiary education as a percentage of GDP was 0.1% (UIS 2018). In 2013/2014, household contribution for the tertiary level mainly went to tuition fee: 108,255 CFA (public: 19,309 CFA; private 358,420 CFA), followed by supplies: 18,688 CFA (public: 16,929 CFA; private: 23,636 CFA) and food: 7,933 CFA (IIEP-Pole de Dakar 2017).

Academic Profession and Students

Academic Profession

Data are not available every year, but in 2012, there were almost the same number of teachers at ISCED 5 programs (total: 1,800; female: 130; male: 1,670) and at ISCED 6, 7, and 8 programs combined (total: 1,871; female: 191; male: 1,680) (UIS 2018). The conditions of work and employment of educational personnel are not different from those of other public servants. Wage processing and recruitment methods do not distinguish between male and female sex, and are based on the following principle: identical diploma and equal pay (IBE-UNESCO 2010).


Major challenges for Burkinabe tertiary students are high student-teacher ratio and student strikes reducing lecture time and learning. Most student aids come from the National Fund for Education and Research, which provides grants to new secondary school graduates who are enrolling in any university in Burkina Faso, as well as loans for students during their last year of education. Another body, the National Information Center for Student and Professional Orientation and Scholarships provides bachelor’s degree scholarships for which all new secondary school graduates can apply. Once the quota of scholarships has been awarded, there are a further 300 scholarships that are offered only to young women (World Bank 2018b).

Other Main Issues

Use of Technology

Burkina Faso has already started developing distance education through Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and massive open online courses (MOOCs), which creates new opportunities in higher education. Burkina Faso is positioning itself to be one of three knowledge hubs in West Africa with Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire and is well set up with basic ICT infrastructure. A dedicated cloud for the Government is sponsored by Norway for developing an e-learning platform. The World Bank is financing to extend these technological developments at the undergraduate level by establishing the Virtual University of Burkina Faso (VU-BF) based on the model of community college in the USA or the Open University in the UK. The UV-BF also aims to improve teaching by sharing resources and developing joint programs of studies, offering teacher training programs (World Bank 2018b).


The number of international students enrolled in universities in Burkina Faso increased from 880 (Female: 338; Male: 542) in 2005 to 2,154 (Female: 601; Male: 1,553) in 2013, which is about 3% of the total tertiary enrollment in Burkina Faso. Between 1998 and 2017, the number of outbound tertiary students increased from 2,140 to 5,374. The rate of outbound mobility, however, was declining from 22% in 1999 to 6% in 2016. In 1999, the most popular destination region for Burkina Faso was within sub-Saharan African region (12%) followed by North America and Western European region (7%), which decreased to 2% and 3%, respectively, in 2016. Top destination country for Burkinabe students was France (1,176 students in 2014), followed by Cote d’Ivoire (619 in 2015), USA (574 in 2015), Canada (366 in 2013), and Saudi Arabia (287 in 2014) (UIS 2018).

An excellent example of internationalization in research activities is the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering (2iE) in Ouagadougou, established to support the Africa’s growth through the training of highly qualified and innovative entrepreneurial engineers. Originally, it started with 14 Western and Central African countries’ collective political commitment, leading to two founding schools, Rural Equipment Engineering School (EIER) and Rural Equipment and Hydraulic Technicians School (ETSHER), which trained 3,000 engineers and senior technicians since 1968 and then turned into 2iE in 2006. It is the only African school whose engineering degrees are internationally recognized and known for a solid governance model and public/private partnership (Center for World-Class Universities, Shanghai Jiao Tong University 2014). It is reputed for its research work and currently it hosts a World Bank-funded African Center of Excellence (ACE) in Water, Energy and Environmental Sciences and Technology (World Bank 2017).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DakarSenegal

Section editors and affiliations

  • Goolam Mohamedbhai
    • 1
  • Patricio Langa
    • 2
  1. 1.Rose-HillMauritius
  2. 2.Centre for Adult and Continuing EducationUniversity of the Western CapeCape TownSouth Africa