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Universities in trouble

By Joan Akello

Kyambogo’s unaccredited courses spark sector-wide scrutiny

October 3 at Kyambogo University in Kampala was destined to be a day of drama; literally. By 12 noon students had started to gather at the University’s Peace Park for the 10th Cultural Gala. Even though the three tents erected at the venue were not yet filled, many students preferred to stand under the sun, probably to have a better view of the performances. But the real drama was elsewhere.

Outside the gala arena, a few minutes’ walk from the Peace Park, students could be seen flocking the noticeboard at the university’s administration block, the Senate Building. Among them was 25-year old Steven Opila, a second year student of Higher Diploma in Electrical Engineering.


Holding a book and pen in one hand and a clear bag in the other, his frustration was etched on his face as eyes scrolled through an article on the noticeboard. The article was from The Daily Monitor under the headline: `70 courses at Kyambogo not accredited by education council’.

“I was told my course was mentioned in the news among those not accredited,” Opila told The Independent as he scanned the article.

“Unfortunately, we are 28 in total and it is a purely private sponsored course,” he added. Per semester, he pays Shs580, 000 which includes tuition and examination fees. But wasting this money is not his only worry. He worries that employers might not accept his diploma when he completes the course.

An accredited course means that the programme is nationally recognised and that the university has authority to issue a recognised qualification for it. Anyone issued with a qualification when the programme is not accredited gets a document that is unrecognised and can be challenged.

Opila is hoping on the words of one of his lecturers, Sulaiman Muwanga, who told him not to worry because“the course is over 40 years old”.

Unfortunately, Opila and his lecturer appear to have missed a critical point; that all university courses have to renew their accreditation every five years, something Kyambogo appears not to have done.

Opila’s course is among the many diploma and degree programmes that MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of parliament on Oct.1 highlighted as not accredited. It happened when top Kyambogo University officials were meeting PAC to answer queries raised in the Auditor General’s 2013/2014 report. The committee asked the officials to explain why; according to the AG’s report, only 20 percent of the 134 courses taught at the university are accredited.

A summary of the review shows that only 39 programmes at the university have since 2009 been accredited and are being taught. Meanwhile, the accrediting body; the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) has forwarded 13 courses to the Uganda Institute of Professional Engineers for review. Another 82 programmes are at senate, committee, or faculty level of the accreditation process.

Section 119A of the Universities and Tertiary Institutions Act, 2006 provides for mandatory accreditation.

It stipulates that “for the avoidance of doubt, no person shall operate a University, Other Degree Awarding Institutions or a Tertiary Institution, without the prior accreditation of its academic programmes by the National Council for Higher Education.”

The Kyambogo University boss, Acting Vice Chancellor Prof. Eli Katunguka told PAC that he accepts the AG’s findings.

“We have accepted that the Auditor General was right to point this one out,” he said.

Way forward

The Kyambogo administrators appear to have no way around the dilemma as portrayed by the University Secretary, Sam Akiromo’s request for guidance from the parliamentary committee.

The university blames the omission on the chaos the institute has undergone in the last three years under the previous administration of Prof. Isaiah Omolo Ndiege.

But MP Gerald Karuhanga (Western Youth) who was acting chairperson of PAC when it met the Kyambogo officials told The Independent that the committee will write a letter to summon the Minister of Education for an explanation. He said, although the committee is writing a report over the issue, it will take some time yet this situation calls for urgent action.

“They (Kyambogo Officials) have to apply to NCHE for an expeditious accreditation of the courses,” Karuhanga said.

Karuhanga says, however, that the 11 year old university cannot be excused because its technical team should have ensured that all programmes adhere to the minimum standards stipulated in the law.

But a former deputy vice chancellor of a university who spoke to The Independent on condition of not being named says that instability among many other factors affects the smooth running of institutions more so where management has issues such as infighting which eventually delay decision making. Among these is the University senate not sitting to approve programmes to be forwarded to NCHE for accreditation.

Prof. Ndiege Omolo, whose five year tenure  as vice chancellor started in January 2009 and expired this year, was conflicted with some members of the Senate that comprises  the  vice chancellor, deputy vice chancellor, Deans of faculties and schools ,heads of academic units, non-academic staff, representatives from the students guild council and the public. The conflict stalled decision making and accreditation of the programmes.

But with a new management, many are hoping the issue can be tackled. Prof. Katunguka has given some reassurance that the issue is being addressed and that by June next year, all programmes at the university will be accredited.  For now, students pursuing any of the unaccredited courses will have to watch the universities, PAC, and NCHE’s move to resolve the issue.

More universities affected

Coincidentally, according to the Deputy Executive Director of NCHE, Rev.Can. Dr.  Alex Kagume, Kyambogo is not the only university that needs to scrutinise its courses.

“Technically all universities should have applied for fresh accreditation of programmes,” Dr. Kagume says, “It is possible that some of Kyambogo University’s programmes have expired.”

He explains that the provisional extension that ended in 2009 was later pushed to 2010 which therefore means that many programmes are due for accreditation.

“Therefore, we should not look at Kyambogo as the most miserable offender but all institutions should ensure all programmes are accredited.”

Dr. Kagume adds something that should re-assure most students: “In practice, only those entering the university this year are affected.”

Earlier, in another explanation to the PAC, Kyambogo’s Acting Academic Registrar, Anne Mugerwa, had said NCHE had given the institution a blanket accreditation for all its programmes. However, Prof. Moses Golola, then-deputy executive director NCHE in his letter dated December 17, 2010 stated that all accredited universities were given a one year provisional accreditation of all programmes ending September 26, 2009.Therefore after 2009, all programmes are to be accredited for a period of five years.As of December 2010, Kyambogo University had 144 programmes, all accredited. Mugerwa’s explanation was, therefore, rejected by PAC and the only way forward appears to be seeking re-accreditation.

But Mugerwa told the committee that the process of accreditation is lengthy arising from delays by the NCHE which, she says, at times takes as long as three years.

Dr. Kagume disagrees. He says much as NCHE faces financial and human resource constraints whereby the Directorate of Quality Assurance and Accreditation, headed by Dr.Pamela Tibihikirra-Kalyegira has only five staff, the accreditation process takes a maximum of six months.

He adds that the Council has plans to raise  the accreditation staff  number to 100 in the mid – term  to ensure effective and efficient monitoring of  courses and programmes offered in public and private universities, public university colleges  and tertiary institutions.

Kyambogo’s unaccredited courses spark sector-wide scrutiny

October 3 at Kyambogo University in Kampala was destined to be a day of drama; literally. By 12 noon students had started to gather at the University’s Peace Park for the 10th Cultural Gala. Even though the three tents erected at the venue were not yet filled, many students preferred to stand under the sun, probably to have a better view of the performances. But the real drama was elsewhere.

Outside the gala arena, a few minutes’ walk from the Peace Park, students could be seen flocking the noticeboard at the university’s administration block, the Senate Building. Among them was 25-year old Steven Opila, a second year student of Higher Diploma in Electrical Engineering.


Holding a book and pen in one hand and a clear bag in the other, his frustration was etched on his face as eyes scrolled through an article on the noticeboard. The article was from The Daily Monitor under the headline: `70 courses at Kyambogo not accredited by education council’.

“I was told my course was mentioned in the news among those not accredited,” Opila told The Independent as he scanned the article.

“Unfortunately, we are 28 in total and it is a purely private sponsored course,” he added. Per semester, he pays Shs580, 000 which includes tuition and examination fees. But wasting this money is not his only worry. He worries that employers might not accept his diploma when he completes the course.

An accredited course means that the programme is nationally recognised and that the university has authority to issue a recognised qualification for it. Anyone issued with a qualification when the programme is not accredited gets a document that is unrecognised and can be challenged.

Opila is hoping on the words of one of his lecturers, Sulaiman Muwanga, who told him not to worry because“the course is over 40 years old”.

Unfortunately, Opila and his lecturer appear to have missed a critical point; that all university courses have to renew their accreditation every five years, something Kyambogo appears not to have done.

Opila’s course is among the many diploma and degree programmes that MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of parliament on Oct.1 highlighted as not accredited. It happened when top Kyambogo University officials were meeting PAC to answer queries raised in the Auditor General’s 2013/2014 report. The committee asked the officials to explain why; according to the AG’s report, only 20 percent of the 134 courses taught at the university are accredited.

A summary of the review shows that only 39 programmes at the university have since 2009 been accredited and are being taught. Meanwhile, the accrediting body; the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) has forwarded 13 courses to the Uganda Institute of Professional Engineers for review. Another 82 programmes are at senate, committee, or faculty level of the accreditation process.

Section 119A of the Universities and Tertiary Institutions Act, 2006 provides for mandatory accreditation.

It stipulates that “for the avoidance of doubt, no person shall operate a University, Other Degree Awarding Institutions or a Tertiary Institution, without the prior accreditation of its academic programmes by the National Council for Higher Education.”

The Kyambogo University boss, Acting Vice Chancellor Prof. Eli Katunguka told PAC that he accepts the AG’s findings.

“We have accepted that the Auditor General was right to point this one out,” he said.

Way forward

The Kyambogo administrators appear to have no way around the dilemma as portrayed by the University Secretary, Sam Akiromo’s request for guidance from the parliamentary committee.

The university blames the omission on the chaos the institute has undergone in the last three years under the previous administration of Prof. Isaiah Omolo Ndiege.

But MP Gerald Karuhanga (Western Youth) who was acting chairperson of PAC when it met the Kyambogo officials told The Independent that the committee will write a letter to summon the Minister of Education for an explanation. He said, although the committee is writing a report over the issue, it will take some time yet this situation calls for urgent action.

“They (Kyambogo Officials) have to apply to NCHE for an expeditious accreditation of the courses,” Karuhanga said.

Karuhanga says, however, that the 11 year old university cannot be excused because its technical team should have ensured that all programmes adhere to the minimum standards stipulated in the law.

But a former deputy vice chancellor of a university who spoke to The Independent on condition of not being named says that instability among many other factors affects the smooth running of institutions more so where management has issues such as infighting which eventually delay decision making. Among these is the University senate not sitting to approve programmes to be forwarded to NCHE for accreditation.

Prof. Ndiege Omolo, whose five year tenure  as vice chancellor started in January 2009 and expired this year, was conflicted with some members of the Senate that comprises  the  vice chancellor, deputy vice chancellor, Deans of faculties and schools ,heads of academic units, non-academic staff, representatives from the students guild council and the public. The conflict stalled decision making and accreditation of the programmes.

But with a new management, many are hoping the issue can be tackled. Prof. Katunguka has given some reassurance that the issue is being addressed and that by June next year, all programmes at the university will be accredited.  For now, students pursuing any of the unaccredited courses will have to watch the universities, PAC, and NCHE’s move to resolve the issue.

More universities affected

Coincidentally, according to the Deputy Executive Director of NCHE, Rev.Can. Dr.  Alex Kagume, Kyambogo is not the only university that needs to scrutinise its courses.

“Technically all universities should have applied for fresh accreditation of programmes,” Dr. Kagume says, “It is possible that some of Kyambogo University’s programmes have expired.”

He explains that the provisional extension that ended in 2009 was later pushed to 2010 which therefore means that many programmes are due for accreditation.

“Therefore, we should not look at Kyambogo as the most miserable offender but all institutions should ensure all programmes are accredited.”

Dr. Kagume adds something that should re-assure most students: “In practice, only those entering the university this year are affected.”

Earlier, in another explanation to the PAC, Kyambogo’s Acting Academic Registrar, Anne Mugerwa, had said NCHE had given the institution a blanket accreditation for all its programmes. However, Prof. Moses Golola, then-deputy executive director NCHE in his letter dated December 17, 2010 stated that all accredited universities were given a one year provisional accreditation of all programmes ending September 26, 2009.Therefore after 2009, all programmes are to be accredited for a period of five years.As of December 2010, Kyambogo University had 144 programmes, all accredited. Mugerwa’s explanation was, therefore, rejected by PAC and the only way forward appears to be seeking re-accreditation.

But Mugerwa told the committee that the process of accreditation is lengthy arising from delays by the NCHE which, she says, at times takes as long as three years.

Dr. Kagume disagrees. He says much as NCHE faces financial and human resource constraints whereby the Directorate of Quality Assurance and Accreditation, headed by Dr.Pamela Tibihikirra-Kalyegira has only five staff, the accreditation process takes a maximum of six months.

He adds that the Council has plans to raise  the accreditation staff  number to 100 in the mid – term  to ensure effective and efficient monitoring of  courses and programmes offered in public and private universities, public university colleges  and tertiary institutions.

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