By The Reporters News
Undergraduate and graduate programmes declared “expired” at various institutions overlap humanities and sciences, among them, law, mass communications, business administration, civil and building engineering, biochemistry, and human medicine.
According to Thomas Tayebwa, the Deputy Speaker of the 11th Parliament, the media, the institutions and other key stake holders should come out clear on the issues around the now burdening Statement-Expired Courses.
Tayebwa points out how the media is awash with stories on universities teaching what is being termed as “Expired Courses” noting how there is a very big concern in the country.
“I’ve received very many messages from parents as well as student leaders across the country, wondering what’s the fate of those attending to or have already done these expired courses” Tayebwa notes.
However, says that, “After consulting most of the stakeholders from National Council for Higher Education(NCHE) to the Ministry of Education and Sports, to Universities, this issue needs to be given serious attention.
To him, It’s therefore critical that ministry of education brings a detailed statement on this issue very soon.
“The country must be updated about the situation because some of the information I got from a very critical stakeholder was that the original statement on expiry of courses is a fake one. So we need clear communication and the government’s stand to avert this situation”
“We want the government to reassure Ugandans that indeed those who are educated, their degrees/ courses are okay, and if they are not okay, what are you going to do about it? How do we make a declaration as a country that our courses/ degrees are expired? It’s so scary so it needs to be handled seriously.” Tayebwa guided.
Universities defend their position;
Universities across the country leapt to their collective defence on Monday amid calls for legal action to be taken against them for running programmes deemed to be invalid, and whose graduates face the grim prospect of being declared non-degree holders.
As the crisis unfolded, the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) convened for a closed-door emergency meeting, with its leadership not taking calls all through Monday.
By Monday, neither the ministry of Education nor the council had issued a statement about the disturbing developments which some university administrators described as “unacceptable”.
Some institutions have flatly rejected any responsibility for enrolling and graduating students on expired degree programmes, saying it was the regulator, National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) to blame.
At least 2,260 programmes are listed as expired on NCHE website, leaving the fate of tens of thousands of current and former university students hanging in the balance.
With the gravity of rendering affected degrees null and void sinking in, students at Kyambogo University called for a general strike.
Early this week, most heads of affected institutions had denounced the NCHE and blamed it for the crisis which has rocked Uganda’s higher education fraternity.
Prof Eli Katunguka, the vice chancellor at Kyambogo University, 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.
He demanded that “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”.
His views may, however, add to the confusion because he also happens to be chairman of the NCHE and yet Kyambogo has 222 programmes categorised as invalid or expired.
The council was established by the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act, 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.”
Universities continue to admit students as valid even with these courses under review.
“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,” Dr Mouhamed Mpezamihigo, KIU VC
At the country’s oldest and largest public university, Vice Chancellor Barnabas Nawangwe was both livid and said they have been embarrassed.
“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,” he said.
“On the side of the NCHE, there have been delays in processing programmes for accreditation and also delays in updating their website,” Prof Nawangwe said, confirming that it “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”.