Uganda denies reports of Nigeria rejecting its degrees

Graduands of Bachelor of Laws during the 73rd graduation ceremony at Makerere University, Kampala on February 13, 2023. PHOTO/FRANK BAGUMA

What you need to know:

  • Prof Mary Okwakol, the executive director of NCHE, at the weekend said  Uganda has not received any complaint about academic papers issued by institutions here.

The National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) has denied any knowledge of claims that Uganda is among the African countries whose degree certificates risk being rejected by Nigeria over authenticity issues.

Prof Mary Okwakol, the executive director of NCHE, at the weekend said  Uganda has not received any complaint about academic papers issued by institutions here.

“We have not received any complaint from any individual, institution or authority in Nigeria regarding degree certificates awarded by universities in Uganda. One of the core functions of NCHE is to receive and investigate complaints relating to institutions of higher learning and take appropriate action,” Prof Okwakol said.

News website Ghanaweb on Thursday reported that Nigeria had suspended accreditation and evaluation of degree certificates from Benin and Togo, and that similar sanction would be extended to more countries, including Uganda, Kenya and Niger.

It was reported that Nigeria’s Minister of Education Tahir Mamman confirmed the proposed sanction while appearing on Chennels Television.

It was also stated that an undercover journalist with Daily Nigeria newspaper voluntarily testified how he had allegedly acquired a degree from a university in Benin after studying for only two months, after which he was deployed in the National Youth Service Corps.

Prof Okwakol said it would be prudent for the concerned country to avail information in case they came across fake degrees for necessary action to be taken.  “In this case, there is need for the complainants to furnish us with information such as the specific degree certificates that have been found to be fake and the institutions that awarded,” she said.

An educationist, Ms Rose Stella Akongo, the principal of Luigi Giussani Institute of Higher Education Kampala, said a degree obtained in under two months sounds like a joke.

She warned intending students against falling prey to institutions that may be offering substandard courses to avoid wasting their time and money. Ms Akongo also advised them to desist from acquiring academic documents in a fraudulent manner.

“There are minimum credit units below which a degree programme cannot be accredited. I always tell people to find out if their institution is regulated by NCHE before they pay school fees in the name of studying for a programme whose rigour and robustness may fail to meet international minimum standards,” Ms Akongo said.

The Education ministry spokesperson, Mr Dennis Mugimba,  said he could not comment on the matter before Uganda receives formal communication about the contentious issue. Last year, it was reported that a Ugandan student was denied an opportunity to upgrade in one of the universities in the United Kingdom on the ground that he had studied an expired undergraduate course in Uganda.

The issue raised concern, prompting the NCHE to task affected universities to submit to the council all programmes that were due for review not later than November 30 last year.

It was estimated that more than 1,500 study programmes in Uganda’s universities and other tertiary institutions of higher education were expired, a term that was later changed by NCHE to ‘due for review’. In October last year, Dr Vincent Ssembatya, NCHE’s director of quality assurance, confirmed that all institutions had a combined total of 2,395 out of 4,369 accredited degree programmes approved.

He, however, said the majority of the programmes were in the final stages of approval. Makerere University recently launched a probe into claims of fake degree awards.

In a November 9, 2023, statement issued by the university’ s Academic Registrar, Prof Buyinza Mukadasi, the management of Makerere tasked employers to verify  afresh the degrees of employees who are Makerere alumni.

This was triggered by public concern that some people were able to get employed after submitting forged academic documents.

While addressing journalists in December last year, the Vice Chancellor of Kyambogo’ University, Prof Eli Katunguka, admitted that some students acquire degrees in a fraudulent manner,.

“The names of four students who have been involved in an attempt to alter marks were removed from the graduation list and the IT staff who were helping them to change marks were arrested,” Prof Katunguka said.

He also noted that Kyambogo University was concerned about students whose names don’t appear in authentic graduation booklets due to failure to fulfil graduation requirements but fraudulent fix their names in forged booklets that they share with parents.

He said university management has on several occasions been attacked by parents who are given forged booklets containing their children’s names, which are never read out during the graduation ceremony.

Prof Katunguka also warned that the university would revoke degrees of students who obtained them in a fraudulent manner as soon as the facts are availed to management. There are also reports that some Ugandans use genuine academic documents that don’t belong to them.