Most people come to Uganda as returning citizens, refugees, consultants, experts, diplomats etc with foreign academic and professional qualifications.
Some obtain them through open distance & e-learning programmes. However, they cannot access professions, employment or pursue further education simply because their qualifications are difficult to interpret by employers or professional regulators based on languages and grading systems.
Some organizations or regulators need to be satisfied with the accreditation of the institution in the foreign country to award the qualifications and in the case of further education, the institution to admit a person with the foreign qualification will require certainty as to whether the qualifications form the minimum requirements for admission.
It follows that if the institution and the programme are not recognized or either of the two, the qualification shall not be recognized in Uganda.
Equating, verifying or recognising foreign academic and professional qualifications is the process of acknowledgement and determining the equal value of foreign qualifications by competent authority to their counterparts in the Ugandan educational and professional framework.
It is available at primary, secondary, undergraduate, postgraduate and professional levels with the view to access education or employment opportunities. Equating foreign academic qualifications at primary and secondary levels to Ugandan standards is a province of the Uganda National Examination Board (Uneb) while undergraduate and postgraduate is a preserve of the National Council for Higher (NCHE).
In some cases, the regulator evaluates foreign professional qualifications before the holder can access the profession and is allowed to practice, for example, the Law Council, the regulator of the legal profession under The Advocates (professional requirements for admission of persons enrolled in foreign jurisdictions) Regulations, 2022, may require a person with foreign professional qualification to undertake a post call profession training course or apply for a clearance certificate to have his or her name entered on the roll to practice law in Uganda.
In all cases whatever process the foreign qualifications are subjected to, it is intended to enable the holder to use the qualifications in Uganda. NCHE is a body established by an Act of parliament, The Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act, 2001 as amended with the mandate of equating foreign academic qualifications to Ugandan standards at higher education level following the laid guidelines by the law.
This process is very crucial since it determines one's career and enables one to pursue further studies. NCHE has been much known when it comes to clearing politicians during nominations for elections where they equate their qualifications to determine their eligibility to contest for different political offices.
People should be aware that equating is not done only for politicians and political purposes only. Equating is done by NCHE in collaboration with the regulatory body in the foreign country and awarding institution, upon verification of qualification, the NCHE equates and issues a qualification equivalent to Ugandan standards.
People should not sit with their foreign qualifications when the same can be equated and put to use. A person who wants to equate has to go to the NCHE head offices with a filled application form, proof of payment of equating fees and present academic documents for consideration. Documents not in the English language must be translated and certified by the embassy of the country of origin.
The author is an advocate of the High court of Uganda and a former teacher at Kibuli Demonstration School.