Universities are important institutions in the development of a nation not only by playing an important role in the education but also preparation of many students for their professional careers (Drummond, 2011). By definition, universities are institutions of higher learning providing facilities for teaching and research and authorized to grant academic degrees (Merriam-Webster 2015). The primary goal of universities is to serve the nation as well as local communities through education and research. Of equal importance, is the fact that they also impact the surrounding communities in a much broader way thereby contributing more to their wellbeing (Kleinsmith et al., 2015). The impact may be in various forms that include employment, providing business opportunities, attracting and improving social institutions such as hospitals and banks and strengthening the community’s social capital.
Different studies have been done concerning the impact of universities in different host communities’ world over. Many of them have highlighted how universities impact these communities economically (Blackwell et al., 2002; Steinacker, 2005; Carroll and Smith, 2006; Sen, 2011). This is mainly through livelihood diversification, knowledge transfer, induced migration of human capital and attraction of industries amongst others. A bunch of these studies have dwelt on university impact mainly on developed countries and their urban hinterlands. A few have focused on how much they can help build up or revitalize developing countries and in particular rural communities (Weller, 1998). Most studies done so far have focused on the economic aspect of university impact with particular emphasis on employment creation and amount of income added into the local economies. This is either through university expenditures by the institution, staff, students or a combination of the same. For instance, Ohme (2004) stated how the University of Delaware alone created approximately 8,170 jobs through its economic activities. However, consensus on the actual contribution to development of local communities through the eyes of the local residents is varied (Drummond et al., 2011). This paper attempts to explain the spill over impacts of university projects to surrounding communities from the perspective of the local communities.
On the African context, university contribution has mainly been viewed through its contribution to national development and not particularly on how much they contribute to the host communities’ development (Zavale and Macamo, 2016). The focus has mainly been towards improvement of the knowledge economy of these nations so as to compete at a global level. However, as earlier stated universities have a much broader impact by contributing economically through employment creation, real estate development and livelihood diversification with particular examples highlighted by (Kleinsmith and Horn, 2015) in Kimberly, South Africa. On this note, Malawi is no exception, more often than not universities have been viewed on their contribution to national development (Kamchedzera, 2015; M’gomezulu, 2015) at a broader level, and hence this study fills the existing gap by looking into the impact of university projects on host communities.
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