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Uganda higher education inferior, says new report

National Council bans four universities

The quality of higher education and training in Uganda is worryingly declining, a report by the regulator, the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE), reveals.

The report, released on September 17, 2009, highlights worrying aspects, such as the continued under-funding of higher education, reduction in middle level institutions in favour of poorly facilitated universities, and continuing loss of academic staff through brain drain and early retirement.

Titled ‘The State of Higher Education and Training in Uganda, 2007,’ the report signed by NCHE’s Executive Director, Dr. Abdul Kasozi, opens with a sad note: “The report for the year 2007 has been delayed by a number of factors, notably the inadequacy of funds and the methodology of collecting data from the survey sites. The National Council is unable to produce a full report for the year 2007.

We are therefore able to produce a summary report and the [sic!] year later than it should have been the case!” The report concludes: “Uganda is gradually losing its competitive edge in the region due to the inferior quality of its higher education.”

It also points out a regional imbalance in the number of higher institutions, with the Central Region dominating with 47%, Western Region coming second with 25%, Eastern and Northern following with 19 % and 9% respectively. It calls for the private sector and the state to open higher institutions of learning in the latter two regions.

The total number of higher education institutions in 2006/7 was 145, up from 139 of 2005/6. Total enrolment was 154,023, representing a 12.3% increase from the 137,190 students in 2005/6.
The report shows that enrolment in all universities, both public and private including affiliated colleges, was 107,728 or 69.5% in all higher institutions.

This number was higher than that of the previous year (92,605) by 15,123, reflecting a 14% increase.
The number of foreign students enrolling in Uganda’s higher institutions was put at 8,287 (5.3%), which was lower than the previous year’s 12,930 (9.4%). The report decries the existence of illegal institutions with 4,145 students, equivalent to 2.7% of total enrolment.

It laments: “The National Council for Higher Education is not funded sufficiently to clean up the system. Lack of staff and other facilities has led to inability to eliminate all illegal institutions and programmes.”
“The phenomenon of duplication of programmes still persists and has not been squarely addressed.

The programmes offered do not place Uganda on the international market and do not make higher education a sustainable export product for Uganda. The relevance of programmes offered is still questionable and too many of [them] are theoretical. Memorisation rather than problem solving was the preferred and widespread method of education delivery in 2006/7.

Serious efforts to have field attachments with the labour market and practical training in the world of work will have to be made if the relevance is to be enhanced,” adds the report. The low level of research is also highlighted, pointing out that most of the little research conducted is linked to pursuance of higher degrees. Also mentioned are the poor and dilapidated infrastructure, which makes studying not conducive.

On the legal side, universities are not protected against some statutory obligations, which is not the case in other countries such as Ghana, Rwanda and Kenya. For instance, non-profit universities are not protected against paying corporation tax or getting waivers on donations.

ILLEGAL UNIVERSITIES

Meanwhile, as the regulatory agency for higher education, the Council last Thursday placed a warning on its website, advising the public not to send students to four institutions. The Council said in its statement that it had recently written to those institutions, ordering them to close immediately and cease enrolling students. The banned institutions were listed as: Luweero University, Global Open University, Central Buganda University, and Nile University.

MANDATE OF NCHE

The National Council for Higher Education is a statutory regulatory agency set up by The Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act, 2001. Its mandate is to regulate higher education, to guide the country in the establishment of institutions of higher learning, as well as ensuring that quality and relevant education is delivered.

The Act spells out the mandate of: (a) regulating and guiding the establishment and management of institutions of higher learning, and;
(b) regulating the quality of higher education, equating of higher education qualifications and to advise government on higher education issues.

In specific terms, the Council’s main functions are: to advise the Minister of Education on higher education policy issues; license higher education institutions; accredit all academic and professional programmes taught in higher education institutions; set national admission standards and ensure that higher education institutions meet those standards; publish information on higher education; and, determine the equivalence of academic qualifications obtained elsewhere with those awarded by Ugandan higher education institutions for recognition in Uganda. 

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