What you need to know:
- This conflict traces its roots back to a February 27 letter written by Prof Umar Kakumba, the deputy vice chancellor-in-charge of Academic Affairs, and addressed to all assistant lecturers.
The Makerere University Academic Staff Association (Muasa) chairperson, Dr Edson Kakuru, has condemned a controversial university resolution that requires all assistant lecturers on permanent contracts to have a minimum of a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) qualification by 2027.
This conflict traces its roots back to a February 27 letter written by Prof Umar Kakumba, the deputy vice chancellor-in-charge of Academic Affairs, and addressed to all assistant lecturers.
“The appointments board at its 698th meeting held on October 24, noted that there were many assistant lecturers employed on permanent terms who had not attained the PhD qualification. The board agreed that: All assistant lecturers on permanent terms who had not yet embarked on their studies should do so immediately and must be given a four-year period within which to complete their studies,” the letter reads in part.
This grace period is to expire on January 31, 2027 and all the concerned parties that will not have completed by that time are set to have their contracts terminated, something that Dr Kakuru disagrees with.
He said as much as there are obvious good intentions behind the move, there are several stumbling blocks that the university must address first.
“It is good for the university to demand for all assistant lecturers to have PhDs,” Dr Kakuru said. “However, the university is chewing what it cannot regurgitate. Firstly, the university funding for staff development is not sufficient to enable all the assistant lecturers to do the PhDs, whereas PhDs are very expensive courses and assistant lecturers cannot afford them,” he added.
Besides the astronomical costs associated with pursuing a PhD, Dr Kakuru is also bitter with both the university and the government for failure to promote assistant lecturers who have completed PhDs and the discrimination of lower cadre staff during salary enhancement.
“Some assistant lecturers completed their PhDs about three years ago but have never been promoted and this is causing a lot of demotivation and anxiety among the assistant lecturers with and without PhDs. Also, the gross salary of a science teacher who holds one degree is more than the net salary of a PhD holder so in simple terms, the government is demotivating the staff from pursuing PhDs,” he said.
As a result, Dr Kakuru advised the university to desist from this move of changing employment terms of staff without PhDs, saying it would expose the institution to court cases.
He said Muasa is carefully studying the matter so as to guide members on an appropriate way forward.
The university says
On the contrary, Dr Saudah Namyalo, the Dean of School of Languages, Literature and Communication, welcomed this development as something that has been long overdue in terms of fostering education at the university.
“PhDs are critical components of the knowledge economy and it is all about creating new knowledge, expanding one’s knowledge in a specific area, discovering new things, and learning new skills. Every university lecturer must be able to conduct research, communicate scientifically, and think logically and critically. All of these are acquired and developed as one progresses through the research process,” she said.
Dr Namyalo also clarified that the resolution would not affect the further recruitment of new assistant lecturers without PhDs at the various colleges but only the existing ones with permanent contracts and no PhD qualification will be affected.
“The policy does not prohibit colleges from recruiting assistant lecturers. However, within the first four years of his or her appointment, that staff member must be registered for a PhD. If he or she fails, the contract cannot be renewed. However, there is a group of assistant lecturers who are employed on a permanent basis but have chosen not to pursue PhDs for various reasons. It is this category that may be affected by the decision of the appointments board,” she said.
Attempts to reach out to Prof Umar Kakumba for a comment on the matter were futile as our calls went unanswered by press time. Several assistant lecturers who are to feel the pinch of this resolution declined to comment for fear of retribution.