The National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) has raised concern about degrees granted to students who did not meet the minimum entry criteria for various programmes.
In a report to Busoga University, the NCHE has cast doubt on whether the degrees are genuine. This followed complaints to the NCHE last year that the university intended to award degrees to South Sudanese and Nigerian students who had only spent about four months at the institution.
The NCHE report is based on a complaint, raised by the university’s former academic registrar, Pastor Godwin Batuwadde Sempebwa, along with others, including Isabirye Ngobi Waiswa, a concerned citizen, and Lual Akol Nhial, the South Sudan education attaché to Uganda. Nhial particularly requested NCHE to review the semester results for South Sudanese students, tuition payment and drop the names of students found to be unqualified to be on the graduation lists.
In their report seen by The Observer, the NCHE concluded that, “Busoga University [sic] to graduate students who did not qualify and were never properly taught, amounted to a serious breach under the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act 2001, as amended.”
The NCHE investigative team observed that the vice chancellor, Prof David Kibikyo, and his management team were not cooperative in giving information, and in some instances it looked as though they were hiding some information.
“There was no evidence of graduated student’s progressive assessment nor was there any evidence of final assessments provided to us. Although samples of examination scripts were requested for by the team, they were never provided,” reads the report.
The NCHE set up a team to look into the complaints led by Prof William B. Banage, Innocent M. Byuma (member) and Mary Innocent Tumwesige-Asiimwe, a technical officer.
In order to verify the accuracy of the complaints, the team had on-site observations, meetings with management, a brief by the vice chancellor and reviewed some university documents.
In a September 29 letter to NCHE, the university denied “to have willfully and knowingly engaged in the acts alleged by the complainants” but the report found otherwise.
The team was informed that the total number of Sudanese students who graduated on September 30, 2016, was 1,173. However, the list provided by the university indicated 1,169 students.
The breakdown of graduands by nationality from the list provided indicated that there were 137 Sudanese graduands from Juba and nine registered from Uganda.
According to the report, Busoga University provided a copy of the memorandum of understanding with Juba-based Starlight International University, signed in April, under which the students were presumably admitted.
“This, therefore, indicated that the students were of Busoga University for only five months. How did they end up on the graduation list?” the team wondered.
The discrepancy between all the bits of information that was presented to the team was not explained by BU management. On the admission criteria for the graduands, it was discovered that the students were admitted to Cavendish University Uganda in 2013, but appear to be the same students admitted to Starlight International University in Juba and later readmitted to Busoga University in January 2016 to pursue similar courses.
It is alleged that the degree courses were scheduled for two years, effective January 25, 2016 which is contrary to the minimum study period in order to graduate.
On further examining of information from files, the team found that none of the Sudanese students was eligible to pursue the various programmes.
“At Busoga University, the students presented foreign qualifications, not verified by NCHE/UNEB, or the foundation programme for Cavendish University which, at the time, was also not accredited by NCHE,” the report says.
“This is a very confusing state of affairs.” The investigation team later found that the so-called Juba students were in fact Cavendish University students and not Busoga University or of Starlight International College, Juba students.
DEGREES NOT RECOGNISED
Considering to Busoga University’s 15th graduation handbook, for September 30, 2016, the Sudanese students graduated from unaccredited programmes, according to the NCHE programmes database.
“This implies that since the student’s admission to Busoga University, in spite of everything else, did not meet the minimum admission requirements, the final qualifications awarded by [Busoga University] are not recognised.”
The programmes, in which the Sudanese students graduated, are Bachelor of International Relations (16) students, Bachelor of Public Relations and Media Management (3), Bachelor of NGO Management (1) and Master of Arts in Security Studies (2).
The team noted that the manoeurvre could have been intentional for Busoga University to also graduate Nigerian students since the conditions under which they were transferred from Cavendish University to Busoga University remain unclear.
According to the report, with only 18 years of existence, Busoga University had employed 16 academic registrars, something that explains the challenges in managing students' admissions.
The team was also informed that almost three quarters of the staff were of recent appointment. In addition to the undeclared Busoga University campus in Juba, the university was running nine other campuses and planning to set up a medical school.
This, according to the report, would be an overreach, considering the university’s meagre facilities, resources and staffing.