Uganda had six universities in the bottom 10 of the 100 best ranked universities in the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in the East African bloc in a recent research conducted by Kenyan research firm CPS International.
However, Makerere University Business School (Mubs) was number one in the ranking that evolved after in a six-month survey done with an interest to know how the universities and higher education institutions in this region have embraced the use of ICT in teaching and enhancing quality and for effective university education in East Africa.
The survey, conducted among 250 institutions and based on data collection and interviews, found East African universities to be increasingly embracing ICT in teaching and learning and comparing favourably with international universities in the use of technology.
MUBS beat the regions finest universities, Makerere University (7), University of Nairobi (8) and Kenyatta University. “We were pleasantly surprised by the rankings and we are now examining what we have been doing all along,” Prof Waswa Balunywa, the University’s principal, told the Education in an interview.
He says the staff ICT trainings given by the university and interacting with students on several aspects away from academics could have been the reason they topped all the universities in the region.
Mubs, like many other universities in Uganda, does not have an ICT policy regarding ownership of computers. However, it spends at least 10 per cent of its revenue according to university records.
“We use that money to buy projectors to be used by lecturers in classes and holding short courses for staff. We are also upgrading our server at the university to speed up connections such that students can have discussions online especially for classes with few students,” Prof. Balunywa says.
The survey found out that private universities have generally invested more in ICT than public universities in all the East African countries. Further, private universities mostly offering business courses and social sciences have performed better in the use of ICT than public universities offering similar disciplines.
University rankings in not only Uganda but also elsewhere always cause debate among scholars.
Mr Michael Niyitegeka, head, corporate relations at College of Computing and Information Science at Makerere University, however, says he has since failed to know the criteria used by the research firm to come up with the findings.
“We have failed to know what they regard as ICT usage. If it is in terms of equipment or ICT integrations, the number of online courses that we offer; none of the universities here matches us,” Mr Niyitegeka said.
Going by 2005 standards, Makerere university internal ICT budget stood at Shs1.8 billion, the number of ICT literate staff at 3,000 and 300 networked computers, among others.
The university has recently introduced an online library catalogue programme where students can access library books online. “Public universities performed poorly because the bulk of students supported by governments are admitted to study business and other related social sciences courses which overstretched the ICT resources,” the report notes.
Face-to-face interviews with institutions were conducted in addition to getting information on all the universities from reliable primary and secondary data, then comparing the students/staff ratio to access of ICT facilities and services.
This is, however, different from Webometrics rankings which grades universities according to their presence on the internet which puts Makerere University in 11th place in Africa.
“ICT has become the fulcrum on which the world revolves today and continues to be the world-wide preferred ranking model. It is an ever dynamic field, and everyone has to keep themselves updated on the current trends, innovations and inventions,” the report reads in part.
SOME OF FINDINGS
The CPS survey, carried out between April and October 2012, focused on how institutions have embraced the use of ICT in teaching and enhancing quality and effective education.
Kenyan universities, the survey showed, are leading the pack in the use and accessibility of ICT in education in East Africa, while Burundi is lagging behind. Uganda came in second, Tanzania third and Rwanda fourth. The five countries make up the East African Community.
“Private universities mostly offering business courses and social sciences have performed better in the use of ICT than public universities offering similar disciplines,” reads the CPS report.
“Public universities performed poorly because the bulk of students supported by governments are admitted to study business and other related social sciences courses, which overstretched ICT resources.” In terms of the number of universities appearing in the Top 100 in the CPS rankings, Uganda had the highest number, which researchers attributed to the fact that Uganda has more fully fledged universities that any other East African country.