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Janet cautions universities on compliance

Education minister Janet Museveni has called for universities and tertiary institutions to ensure that they provide quality and relevant higher education that leads to the employability of graduates.

Speaking at the closure of the sixth annual Uganda Vice Chancellors’ Forum (VCF) conference in Bugolobi last Friday, Museveni said this can be achieved only if universities follow guidelines set by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE). NCHE is a statutory body that regulates and guides the establishment and management of all institutions of higher learning.

“I have learnt, for instance, that one of the private universities was closed by the NCHE due to its failure to adhere to the minimum standards,” Janet Museveni said, without naming the university.

Her concern raised some murmurs in the conference room, to which the minister only smiled and said: “Now, you trust that I come from the ministry of education and I have to talk about these things. I hope that we consider discipline. How can we allow universities then to multiply mediocrity while they talk of employability?”

Education minister Janet Museveni (L) greets Prof Paul Edward Mugambi, the VCF executive director

The minister said universities must be at ease to welcome external quality assurance processes to ensure quality of the curriculum, its delivery, evaluation, output and, eventually, outcome.

“This is when the students we train will be employable at national, regional and international levels,” Museveni said.

This year’s conference was run under the theme: Training of university students for national, regional and international employability. Prof Paul Edward Mugambi, the VCF executive director, said the forum was constituted in 1996 in order to have a united voice and share lessons on mutual concerns of higher education.

Currently, there are nine public universities and 38 private universities. In an interview with The Observer on the sidelines, Dr Alex Kagume, the NCHE deputy executive director, disclosed that the university in question is privately-owned Fairland University, based in Walukuba Masese zone in Jinja.

In March 2013, NCHE revoked its license after the council discovered that it lacked the requisite components to be recognised as a fully-fledged university.

“Well, they don’t have anything that requires a university to exist. They have no staff, infrastructure and accredited programmes,” Dr Kagume said.

“First and foremost, we had refused to give them a license but they went to court and got it through a court order. But, still they did not put in place anything that would allow them to be a university.”

Asked why the university is still operating yet it had been closed by the NCHE, Kagume said: “They [Fairland University] went to court and gave them an interim order to stop us from implementing our duties until the matter is settled in court.”

He added that a hearing date for the matter is yet to be communicated but degrees awarded from the institution remain null and void.

Meanwhile, the minister also announced that the ministry is yet to convene a stakeholders’ consultative workshop to review the various proposals to amend the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act, 2001.

Kagume said the amendment of the Act will, among others, enable NCHE to enforce compliance at institutions of higher learning.

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