Short Courses back on the road with long term benefits

Common short courses that are currently on demand include Administrative Law offered by Makerere University through the College of Education and External Studies which is mandated by the university council to teach both intramural and external mural courses within and outside the main university.

Steven Masiga

By Steven Masiga

Short courses are offshoots of the main courses or can be specifically designed by a university to meet anticipated academic needs among members of society. Common short courses that are currently on demand include Administrative Law offered by Makerere University through the College of Education and External Studies which is mandated by the university council to teach both intramural and external mural courses within and outside the main university.

Other universities offering short courses in fields like ICT and others are Uganda Christian University (UCU), and the Ismalic University in Uganda (IUIU) which also offers short course trainings in Arabic studies. These short courses impart various skills to the learner, for example, legislative skills in drafting ordinances by councillors and core skills in criminology to law enforcers including aspects of rule of law, separation of powers and discretionary exercise of authority among others. Many local governments have found such legal skills literally relevant this explains why they have encouraged councilors and parish chiefs including sub county chiefs to take such vital skills.

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Many organizations such as local governments or NGOs find it fit usually can put up requests with a university to design for them tailor made short courses to address emerging needs either at the organizational level for example a short course right now on financial literacy skills for members of the parish development model(PDM) can be envisaged.

In Uganda, all universities have the academic latitude to design short courses without any sort of interference from the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) and other regulators. Actually, even the degree courses or masters and PhDs are designed by universities though for them they must be regulated by statutory regulators as commanded by law. Specifically, the national council for Higher Education regulates degrees, masters, PhDs and two-year certificates (or higher certificates as they have chosen to refer to them ) meaning that short courses are outside their purview since they are non credit in nature and only help to address certain gaps identified.

The famous Chinese sage Confucius over 2000 years ago provided his compatriots with very valuable lessons on how to plan for the future. “He advised that if you are planning for ten years plant trees, and if you are planning for the future train and educate” and i can hasten to add that if you are hungry you plant quick-yielding crops which may spare you from famine or even death since they can quickly yield.

This brings on board the rationale behind the introduction of two months short courses in various fields in a number of institutions in Uganda and beyond, statistically put there is no university across the world that does not conduct short related training in countries like Tanzania for example an applicant to a bachelor of law course must demonstrate mastery and completion of a  short course in administrative law certificate. In Uganda, Makerere University uses pre-entry exams as a criterion for establishing suitability for the Law degree course and once an applicant to the LLB course excels in pre-entry exams then he or she may be admitted. I know it will be a few steps into the future and Uganda will bring on board this Tanzanian experience.

Shifts in statutory and policy approaches have affected the teaching of a number of degree programs, with many universities disentangling themselves from teaching some degree programs including re-evaluation of their suitability from both national and global contexts. No wonder that many countries have seen failures in the design and implementation of education programs and plans and may not reasonably posit how all this came about but simply many degrees and masters degrees becoming antiquated this is quite unthinkable. While the degrees get outdated and eventually ignored by employers, the short course stays relevant for centuries  

The benefits associated with short courses are quite many and may not be encased in just one line, benefits include putting an applicant in an advantageous position during interviews, for example, assuming there is a tie or draw among competing candidates who are in possession of some uniform qualification like a degree. The employer will shift to additional qualifications possessed by the applicant based on this additional qualification an applicant will knock off one without a short course training. Many of the short courses come with free marks as already explained above since every additional qualification in one’s possession during interviews earns one extra free 5 marks on top of other marks. Besides this, they also help to fill up some academic gaps among learners.

whereas it may not be possible to have about 15 degrees but it is possible to have twenty-plus qualifications in short courses, the knowledge acquired through short courses inures forever just like the famous river Mississippi and cant expire as I have heard elsewhere about some degree programs which have a certain academic life.

Additionally, also short courses are affordable including being conducted closer or within the vicinity of participants under the watchful eyes of many stakeholders including local governments and university management which has gone a long way in eliminating forgeries. I know of a man who broke up with his wife because he accused her of infidelity when she was in Kampala for two months pursuing a short course in some institution to cure such concerns many institutions such as makerere university are spread across Uganda and no need to cross roads hunting for where to study.

 Many international organizations such as the United Nations Organization (UNO), the African Union (AU) and the Red Cross among others, prefer hiring applicants with hands-on skills or experience for example skills in disaster management or skills in agricultural communication may earn one a job much quicker in organizations like food and agriculture organization.

Towards the beginning of 2000 or so, Makerere University was requested by the Public Service Ministry to train Ugandans in areas of public administration and management to holders of ordinary certificates and others for about four months and skills in public administration and management were imparted. As I write today about 90% of these trainees are now employed as parish chiefs in various local governments across the country, while graduates are moving from street to street kneeling for jobs while a holder of a short course in either public administration or medical records is safely employed and very well earning.

The skills acquired through the short course trainings have helped our youths acquire skills and also above all get jobs, with the economy not doing well where many parents are unable to take their children to conventional courses.

 A survey conducted on institutions of higher learning across Uganda captures Makerere University as one of the best institutions with an architectural plan on how to conduct short courses and long courses across the country and beyond. The university has empowered the College of Education and External Studies (CEES) and this is why there are various branches spread across the country from Mbale to Kabale, Iganga, Soroti and Lira among others. No wonder thousands of Ugandans have safely secured their qualifications in an authorized way without any form of askance since awards are awarded publically after the exhaustion of studies

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The short courses are determined by a department or college of the university and can be taught within or outside the university depending on the enabling policy of the university and under the watchful eyes of the senate and council and other university officials with a direct mandate.

Mr Steven Masiga is an administrator and a researcher from Mbale

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