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Universities defend selves, as NCHE remains tight-lipped on list of ‘expired’ courses

Makerere VC Prof Nawangwe explained that some programmes classified as expired had either already been discontinued, or for those merged with other programmes submitted for accreditation.

Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, the Makerere University Vice Chancellor (Photo/Courtesy)

KAMPALA, UGANDA: In the wake of a circulating list of expired academic programmes, several public and private universities have opted to defend selves and instead attack the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) for laxity in updating the courses labelled as outdated on their website.

According to the NCHE Website, which is the country’s regulator of education in higher institutions of learning, at least 2,260 programmes are listed as expired leaving the fate of tens of thousands of current and former students in the affected universities and colleges hanging in the balance.

As the crisis unfolded on Monday afternoon, it is reported that a closed-door emergency was convened at the NCHE offices in Kyambogo, although by press time today (Tuesday), no official communication or statement from the body had been issued to the media or public.

The silence of the regulator and the Education Ministry on such a sensitive matter has been labelled as “unacceptable” by several university administrators in the country amid calls for legal action to be taken against the responsible stakeholders for teaching expired degrees and diploma programs.

Although others flatly disowned being responsible for enrolling and graduating students on the alleged expired academic programmes, some say it is a collective responsibility for both the institution management and the NCHE to ensure harmony in the courses offered to students.

“This problem has been due to laxity partly on our side and also on the side of the NCHE. On our side, there have been unacceptable delays in the review of some programmes by departments, schools, and colleges, and occasionally at the Senate level for re-accreditation as required by law,” Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe told journalists yesterday at his office in Kampala.

“On the side of the NCHE, there have been delays in processing programmes for accreditation and also delays in updating their website,” Prof Nawangwe added.

According to Prof Nawangwe, the incident which he labelled as an embarrassment to Uganda’s higher education fraternity “has led to the denial of admission to one or two of our graduates to higher degrees by some European universities and this has understandably raised concern among members of the public”.

Prof Nawangwe explained that some programmes classified as expired had either already been discontinued or for those merged with other programmes submitted for accreditation.
“We are working with the NCHE to correct errors on their website… However, we must clean up our own house. Colleagues with programmes whose accreditation has expired have been alerted by the Academic Registrar and given a deadline to submit the reviewed programmes,” he said.

His comment followed reports indicating that a British varsity; University of Bristol had reportedly rejected a Makerere University graduate, who had applied to pursue further studies there.

Kyambogo University VC, Prof Eli Katunguka, who also happens to be the Chairman of the NCHE Board said that once a programme has been accredited, it does not necessarily expire while under review.
“It is not anywhere in the law that an accredited programme that has not been reviewed on time is null and void! The NCHE should correct this anomaly and replace the word ‘expired’ with ‘under review’,” Prof Katunguka said.

“NCHE should pull down their website and put our house [in] order. The executive director should clarify this. The only courses that should be condemned are those that were never accredited,” Katunguka demanded further.

Prof Celestino Obua, the Vice Chancellor of Mbarara University of Technology and Science, however, maintained that NCHE is at fault since it is responsible for accrediting the course offered in all higher institutions of learning.

“We submitted and paid for our programmes to be accredited… They have been with our courses for the last two to three years without re-accrediting them. I think they are overwhelmed with the numbers of institutions that have applied,” Prof Obua said, adding that the council should explain to the public why universities continue admitting students to programmes while under NCHE review.

The Uganda Management Institute, which is popular with civil servants studying for advanced degrees or diplomas, moved to pre-empt any panic about its status in a statement it issued out on Monday evening, saying; “The UMI has a number of programmes submitted for review and re-accreditation after their expiry. …We assure the public that all programmes running are fully compliant.“

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Other heads of affected institutions in several statements issued by Monday evening had all put NCHE at fault and blamed it for the crisis which has since seen many current and former students embroiled in uncertainty over their future.

“We continue admitting students on these programmes because we consider them valid even if they are under review and we have re-submitted our review to the NCHE and we are waiting for their guidance,” said KIU Vice Chancellor, Dr Mouhamed Mpezamihigo.

“We are not running expired programmes. The Bachelor of Business Administration Programme will expire on May 28 and has already been submitted to NCHE for re-accreditation,” said Prof Lawrence Muganga, the Vice Chancellor Victoria University.

“What this is bringing out to us is to put in place a monitoring system for different programmes because they start at different times… But there is no university that can intentionally run an unaccredited course,” Patrick Kyamanywa, Uganda Martyrs University VC.

“We always ensure that students are admitted to accredited programmes. According to media reports,83 programmes have been erroneously highlighted as unaccredited programmes,”  Assoc Prof Aaron Mushengyezi, UCU VC.

“We have a very clean record and the only affected course was a foundation certificate course which we no longer offer and we wrote to the NCHE but it has not been updated,” Prof Eddy Twakamushaba, UTAMU University VC.

“Some of the courses that they are talking about are already on their desk for re-accreditation. There is some small delay in NCHE. When they re-accredit them, that is when we start admitting students for such courses,” John Williams Otim, Nkumba University.

“We do not have any non-accredited programme, the only instances could be the programmes which were scrapped but are still reflected as expired. We need to harmonise on this,” Prof Vincent Kakembo, Muteesa 1 Royal University.

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What next for affected students?

Mr Usuf Werunga, former president of the Uganda National Students Association, encouraged affected parties to consider dragging implicated institutions to court.
“The Judiciary should stand firm and support the students… We need justice. They should sue them. Away from that, the institutions and NCHE should sit and agree to authorise these courses as authentic and legal,” he said.

About NCHE

The National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) was established by the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act, of 2001 to, among others accredit institutions of higher learning and their programmes.

Section 119A of the law provides that: “For the avoidance of doubt, no person shall operate a university, other degree-awarding institution or a tertiary institution without the prior accreditation of its academic and professional programmes by the National Council for Higher Education.”

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