Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the hot spots of Christian higher education growth worldwide, a trend that can be observed across the continent.
In a broad sense, the Christian university movement is driven by the massive demand for access to higher education and the liberalisation of government chartering – both global trends.
But the religious scene in Africa provides its own drivers of this movement.
The building of universities in Africa is part of a larger effort by church leaders –Protestant, Catholic and Pentecostal – to institutionalise, and thus conserve, the huge gains in Christian adherence.
Christian groups in Africa often look first to sponsor primary and secondary schooling, but they also move quickly to train clergy.
In 1950, there were only perhaps 70 or 80 pastoral education programmes or theological schools across Africa, but a recent survey found 1 468 of them.
Christian universities announce Christian purposes and perspectives for learning non-religious subjects and they structure campus life to reflect Christian norms.
Many of them have strict codes of personal conduct for students. Yet most welcome qualified students regardless of faith.
These new Christian universities are very dynamic places, and their leaders express high hopes that they will help their nations flourish. But one of the main themes of higher education history has been secularisation.
State officials have decided to accommodate religious educational partners, but some still wonder why Christians want to impose religious hiring criteria, curricular development, and student norms.
Broad state purposes inevitably rub against religious particularity, even in highly religious Africa.
It is too soon to predict the trajectory of the African wing of the worldwide Christian university movement, but one cannot miss its growing presence and emerging challenges.
By Joel Carpenter. This article is reproduced from The Conversation