By Soteri Karanzi Nabeeta
I refer to the article in The New Vision dated June 19 2017 which reported that the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) has directed that all higher education institutions accredited to offer post-ordinary level certificate programmes conduct them for two years as a minimum.
Recently the same body accredited similar programmes to run for one year, some of which are examined by the Uganda Business and Technical Examinations Board (UBTEB).
This directed seems rushed and does not sufficiently involve key stakeholders, particularly the institutions which will be affected. Involvement of key stakeholders would have helped to address key concerns including:
(a) The curriculum that should be taught for two years for these certificate programmes.
(b) Transition period from the one year programmes to 2 years, without undermining the rights of the already enrolled clients on such programmes.
(c) Specific programmes that should be offered at certificate level.
(d) Clear role of NCDC and NCHE in curricula development and accreditation, respectively.
The need to streamline higher education in Uganda is long overdue. Regrettably, this cannot be achieved through piecemeal political directives by statutory bodies like NCHE. The NCHE can only ensure its statutory objective of assuring quality education in higher education institutions only once the sub-sector is deliberately streamlined.
In the circumstances, as enshrined in the 1992 government White Paper on Education, the need for reforms in the [higher] education sector, cannot be overemphasised.
There is need for a clear policy on higher education with regard to a delineation of missions, levels of institutions, curricular orientations and concentration, financing, governance, coordination and linkage with the outside world/international education.
This review should seek to do the following:
Amend higher education laws, particularly the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act 2001 (as amended). This law, as it exists, needs to be amended such that universities, which are the highest level of institutions dedicated to the professional and intellectual development of society, concentrate on research, teaching and public service or consultancy.
This amendment should stop universities from offering post-ordinary level certificates and diplomas, but rather degrees and other post graduate qualifications. Other Tertiary Institutions (OTI’s) could affiliate to universities offering similar academic programmes for mentorship and development need-based programmes as a result of research.
The OTI’s ought to be devoted to human resource development for middle and intermediate level human resource needs of the country by focusing on programmes for post-ordinary level certificates and diplomas.
Harmonising the roles of NCDC and NCHE in curriculum development and accreditation is urgently required.
Once body’s mandate is conclusively agreed, all OTIs would teach same curriculum developed by NCDC and accredited by NCHE. The current practice of OTI’s developing their own curricula and submitted to NCHE for accreditation, legal as it may be under current law, undermines the intentions of establishing NCDC.
Change the law so that all curricula for OTI’s is now developed by NCDC and accredited by NCHE. All OTI’s should be examined by the national examination bodies like Uganda Business and Technical Exminations Board; Uganda Allied Health Examinations Board, among others.
In effect, NCDC should periodically review the programmes offered at certificate and diploma levels to design appropriate curricula for OTIs and examination by national examination bodies. This will assure quality, consistency and eliminate duplication of courses influenced by assumed demand and ultimately address human resource needs of Uganda.
Thirdly, any review of higher education policy should suggest how we can improve access to higher education in Uganda.
The National Development Plan II indicates that total student enrolment in higher education increased by 26 percent from 183,985 in 2010 to 232,612 in 2014. Universities continue to enroll the majority (67.3%) of post-secondary students (156,747) as of 2013. Sixty percent of these are in public universities.
Rural areas are challenged in access to higher education. Of all registered universities and other degree-awarding institutions in Uganda, approximately 68% are located in the Central region, with majority of these in Kampala; 13% are in western region, 11% up north while only 9% are found in the east. Do we care that Karamoja sub-region does not have a single university?
Similarly, a review of UBTEB-accredited centres as at 2016 indicates that approximately 52% of OTI’s are located in central region, 25% are located in the western region, 16% are located in the eastern region and 10% are located in the northern region.
Whereas these institutions largely follow the forces of demand, government should deliberately support investment in higher education in rural areas for inclusive growth and development.
The writer can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org