Authorities at Makerere University have revealed that the country’s premier institution of higher learning is facing staffing challenges of lack of intellectual supervision due to poor succession planning.
According to Prof Buyinza Mukadasi, the director of research and graduate training, the university is facing the crisis due to shortage of senior academic supervisors, especially professors because Makerere has traditionally relied on supervising students instead of grooming young scholars to succeed them upon retirement.
“It is very clear in some departments where some senior colleagues retired without a succession plan by grooming somebody to take over from them, meaning we are grooming a decaying institution not a research led institution,” he said.
He explained that the normal practice is for a senior academic to mentor a junior who understudies behaviours of the senior academic such as attitude to research, society and their social life so as to groom them to take over when they retire.
“Mentorship is a fairly new area in the university, we only had researcher supervisors who have since retired without leaving someone who can do exactly what they used to do and this is killing research,” he said.
Prof Buyinza added that there is need to increase the number of professors to increase the research output of the university. He added that the lecturers have to prioritise their time because of competing needs requiring some kind of inducement for them to do work.
“Any staff with a PhD can supervise students but they have to supervise, teach and do community work as well, which means they have to prioritise their time and if you want them to do your work you need to give them an inducement to do your work,” he said.
On Thursday, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, released a Shs3.2 billion grant known as the early career scholars programme to the College of Humanities and Social Sciences to fund PhD studies for 15 staff members.
According to Dr Edgar Fred Nabutanyi, the programme coordinator, the money is supposed to nurture a new generation and community of scholars who will provide intellectual leadership at the college which is currently facing staffing challenges.
“The established structure is for all departments to have five professors. The department of history does not have a professor, department of literature has only two instead of five, in some departments like political science the few who are there are retiring,” he explained.
Prof Josephine Ahikire, deputy Principal of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences noted that the crisis has affected the academic and intellectual culture of the university attributing it to liberalisation of university education where senior professors are being snatched by private universities which are paying better.
“We used to have intellectual debates but today you cannot call for a simple academic meeting without paying people money for transport to attend and this is impacting on the quality of graduates we produce,” she said.
The principal of the college, Prof Edward Kirumira, asked the staff members to benefit from the grants saying the money they are being given is not a donation but an investment by the university in them on the understanding that when they complete their studies, they will be returning to teach at Makerere University.
The Vice Chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, said: “We continuously train staff and where we do not have expertise, we hire staff from other universities.”