Positioning Uganda As A Quality Higher Education Hub: My Perspectives


this web geneva; font-size: small;”>Am I a child or am I a man? Maybe I am neither or maybe I am both, maybe I am what you’d call a childish man or a manish child. It’s confusing. I don’t know what I am and it’s my greatest problem.

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It’s ironic because it actually defines who I am. I’ve lived the vast majority of my life trying to answer that question not always with the best result, never ever with the best results actually.

It’s not always easy to admit when you’re wrong, I never admit when I’m wrong. I put up high walls with strong towers and hide behind a gate of my own self importance just so that I don’t ever have to admit that I’m wrong.

It, as high walls and strong towers are apt to do, isolates me from those I love and even though it has never failed me, is a double edged sword. It hurts me more than it’s supposed to help me. Enough of high walls and strong towers then.

Tear them down. Pull the bricks and burn the timber. Today the mighty castle falls, today I admit I was wrong.

I am young and with it comes an unreasonable belief in the labor of my hands and the strength of my thoughts. It’s funny because I can’t keep using that excuse anymore. Something else I’m good at, excuses.

I acted in a very selfish manner recently, I did what I thought was good for myself. I did the math and the calculations were valid but there was one variable I didn’t consider, one variable I didn’t equate.

I didn’t think about the one’s I cared about, I didn’t think about how they’d be affected until I saw it before my own eyes, images of disappointment, mistrust and of course pain.

What was I thinking? At that time I thought I was thinking but it turned out I thought wrong because I wasn’t thinking, I was only day dreaming and that’s where the problem lay.

Idealism and selfishness has a way of fogging our vision, blinding us until we find we’re inside the wrong end of the high towers and strong walls if there’s such a thing as the right end.

I learnt the hard way. We don’t live for ourselves, we live for those around us and we live for each other. Animals know this why shouldn’t we.

I learnt this because someone gave me the opportunity to start over, to define myself in a way that makes not only me proud but also those I care about. A new page and a new day.

Redemption is such a beautiful idea, don’t you think, utterly beautiful. I’ll work for that and so can you. Mistakes will always happen but they can be overcome. Be a better person and always remember that little word called responsibility

Now I’ll write of the death of the childish man and the manish child and I’ll write about a man. This is the first page. This is the first day.

story geneva; font-size: small; line-height: 200%; text-align: justify; text-indent: 0in;”>The oldest being Katigondo National Major Seminary in Masaka District, pharm which was established in 1911 followed by Kampala Technical School in 1922, which was later renamed Uganda Technical College in the same year; and then Makerere University College.

From 1949 to 1963 Makerere University College was a constituent college of University of London offering programmes for the award of the degrees of University of London. In 1963, Makerere University College became the University of East Africa.

It is believed that at independence of Uganda in 1962, the higher education then was better than it is today. This could be attributed to the high academic standards that were set by University of London.

Most of the academic staff then were PhD holders and the student numbers at Makerere University College were very few.

Today, Uganda has over 35 universities with a total of less than 700 PhD holders. More than 60% of the PhD holders in Uganda are staff at Makerere University. Most universities world over require a PhD as the minimum requirement for anyone to be appointed a lecturer.

We have over 140,000 students in universities in Uganda. So the average PhD: student ratio is approximately 1:200. At Makerere University the PhD: student ratio is on average about 1:80.

In some of Makerere University colleges with high student numbers it is estimated to be around 1:150. The PhD: student ratio gets worse when you move outside Makerere University.

For instance at Kyambogo University the PhD: student ratio is over 1:300. This ratio gets worse when you consider staff in private universities, as it is rare to find a big number of PhD holders in most private universities.

One indicator of a good university is the percentage of PhD holders within the academic staff. As per the National Council for Higher Education Indicators, a university should have at least 60% of its staff as PhD holders but also have an average academic staff: student ratio of 1:15.

It is very likely that not more than 2 universities in Uganda will have met this condition by 2020 and less than 10 universities out of the over 100 universities in 2040 will have met this condition.

This speaks volumes about the quality of university education in Uganda if we are to go by one indicator of PhD holders as a percentage of total academic staff in a university that has an average academic staff: student ratio of 1:15.

In simple terms the number of universities in Uganda will be over 100 in 2040 but not more than 10% will be regarded as quality universities by just looking at one indicator of academic staff with PhDs.

More so, with the fast increasing population, Uganda will not be able to put up enough buildings to meet the requirement of student: space ratio. It is also quite unlikely that universities will be able to have sufficient well-equipped physical laboratories and libraries in the near future.

However, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) based resources can help Uganda to bridge the gap in the provision of quality higher education. Online libraries are slowly replacing the physical ones.

It is easier to share resources in an online environment than in a physical environment. For instance, millions across the globe can share one online book; and millions of students across the globe can as well follow one online course.

As a country we need to come to the realization that in the near future we shall not have enough lecturers, teachers, lecture theatres, laboratories, teaching materials etc. Yet these are critical if we are to have quality education.

Therefore for Uganda to position herself as a higher education hub, it needs to move quickly and adopt ICT enabled education at higher education level and later at lower education levels.

The government should as part of the preliminaries:

(i) Ensure that the national ICT backbone linking all districts is completed and educational and research institutions are freely linked to it;

(ii) Ensure that video conferencing facilities are set up at county/ district level and later alone at lower levels to enable the communities benefit from education programmes delivered via video conferencing;

(ii) Ensure that bandwidth is subsidized to make it affordable for educational and research purposes;

(iii) Ensure that access to internet is made possible through subsidized computers/ laptops imported into the country for educational and research purposes;

(iv) Ensure that internet laboratories are developed as a national resource to be freely accessed by all educational institutions to enable teaching at all levels (primary, secondary and tertiary);

(v) Ensure that the minimum academic programme requirements developed by the National Council for Higher Education are transformed by the same body in consultation with the higher education institutions into online course content to be shared and in some instances customized to assure quality across the higher education spectrum.

The above interventions should be supplemented by a deliberate programme by government to provide education and research funds either directly or indirectly to higher education institutions for PhD fellowships, video conferencing facilities, teaching materials, and equipping laboratories both for teaching and research among others.

All developed countries had to invest in PhD training and still do it todate. The Republic of South Africa is currently heavily investing in PhD training. This is for the simple fact that the level of research output and economic development of a country are directly proportional to the number of PhD holders in that country.

As part of improving access to higher education, the developed countries have enabled higher education institutions to provide distance education that is ICT enabled.

Several institutions world over have transformed from the provision of traditional distance education that involved distribution of hardcopy reading materials coupled with face to face interactions of about a month per year to tele-education and online learning.

Examples of institutions that use tele-education and online learning to provide quality higher education include Phoenix University in the USA, University of London (International Programmes), Open University of UK, Amity University, University of South Africa (UNISA), Open University of Tanzania (OUT), and Korea Open National University.

These are just a few of the many universities world over that have adopted tele-education and online learning as a way of providing quality (distance) education.

Currently you can obtain an international degree that is ICT enabled by studying online or via tele-education e.g. by video conferencing. This arrangement is enabling Ugandans to study from Uganda (home) and save on air tickets, visa fees, accommodation while abroad, staying away from family which usually leads to family breakups, resigning from a job to study, etc.

The concept is simple: study at home, sit for the same examinations as those abroad and obtain the same quality of degree at a lower cost.

Under tele-education/ online education students are provided with the following for each course:

(i) Recorded audio lectures covering the whole course that are enriched with pointers to reference materials and sample questions and answers.

(ii) Fully developed online course notes, trial tests and examinations.

(iii) Frequently asked questions that have corresponding answers and this list is regularly updated.

(iv) Online discussion groups independent of the students locality that are student centered and moderated by an online tutor.

(v) Students staying in a given locality are paired up for face-to-face student discussions.

(vi) Every student has an online supervisor, advisor to guide the student on a (research) project.

(vii) The official assessment (tests and examinations) are done online at a specified time from registered centres where the student must identify himself/ herself before being allowed to sit for the tests and exams.

(viii) In some instances, some optional in country face-to-face lectures.

Tele-education/online education is enabling the sharing of resources such as professors, course materials, Internet laboratories, online library resources and other online resources.

Every university in Uganda is setting up a campus. Adoption of tele-education/ online education could assist in improving on the quality of what is offered at these campuses. So universities should take advantage of tele-education/ online learning to providing quality distance education to the students. This mode of delivery encourages sharing of resources across the universities, which is an excellent way of utilizing scarce resources like PhD holders.

The author, Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba, is a consultant and an expert on higher education.


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