Vice chancellors and administrators of institutions of higher learning have proposed a raft of university education reforms with special focus on life skills to match job markets and societal needs.
Last year, the Ministry of Education formulated the Education Policy Review Commission to consider the integration of the 21st Century life skills and values in the curriculum and assessment of learners at all levels of education.
Government is pushing an aggressive agenda to promote sciences to propel the country forward and as such, the monthly salaries of scientists in government institutions have been doubled and in some cases tripled or substantially increased, according to a new salary structure issued by the Ministry of Public Service.
Speaking to the Daily Monitor in an interview yesterday, the vice chancellors proposed reforms and emphasised that all the various disciplines contribute equally to national development.
The Vice Chancellor of Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), Prof Celestino Obua, said all courses are needed for the wellbeing of the population.
“Everything is important. The world is what it is because of both Sciences and Arts. The President has a good idea when he argues that countries that have developed prioritised sciences. However, this should not be done at the expense of arts and humanities. Politicians offered arts so let the scientists do their part and the arts also theirs,” Prof Obua suggested.
He advised the government to identify one or two priority areas each public university should handle to utilise the available resources as opposed to having scattered investment.
“We are having a country where universities are offering similar courses and competing for available students. I advise the government to identify one or two areas each public University can offer. For instance, Mbarara University can prioritise technology and Makerere can handles graduate students. We can then leave other Universities to handle undergraduate courses,” Prof Obua said.
Equally, Makerere University Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Prof Umar Kakumba, said the university has started reviewing their curriculum to emphasise life skills in all programmes.
Prof Kakumba said the quality of graduates passed out currently is still wanting because they lack basic skills, ethical values and basic knowledge skills needed for survival.
“As we train in the next few years, we are looking at ensuring that all our students in both sciences and humanities are equipped with life skills so that they are fit for employment,” Prof Kakumba said.
“Universities need equipment for training and production. If we can get the required laboratories and equipment like at our School of Pharmacy, our graduate students can start producing medicine like it is witnessed in other Universities,” he added.
Dr Lawrence Muganga, the vice chancellor Victoria University says mindset change is at the center of ensuring university education matches the global developments. He terms as obsolete and counterproductive, the ides of looking at universities as “ivory towers” exclusive of society
He explained that the mode of delivering knowledge needs to change, from classroom, to more hands-on and practice. To him, the era of a student graduating with only a resume should be long gone in preference of an outline of skills or competencies one has acquired while at university.
Dr Muganga also opined the need to rethink the current curriculum to fit the new era of technology . He also proposed more financing and provision of sources especially by governments and through partnerships.
The Vice Chancellor of Soroti University, Prof Robert Ikooja Odongo said that there is a lot of duplication in most courses offered at various institutions of higher learning that need to be merged.
Professors have also called for digitalisation and E-learning as one of the ways to attract foreign students.
There are a number of universities offering courses online which necessitate learners from other countries to study various programmes online without physically being on the ground.
On the other hand, the Vice Chancellor of Kyambogo University, Prof Eli Katunguka, called for specialisation in courses for each university. He said the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) should start dictating how many courses each university should offer based on their capabilities.
He said some courses such as Development Studies, diplomatic studies, conflict and military studies should be offered as course units in all other programmes.
Prof Katunguka called for the establishment of the universities’ commission to regulate the works in all universities across the country.
He said the National Council for Higher Education, which is the only regulator of Higher Education is overwhelmed because it has to regulate all Universities and other tertiary institutions.
“We need reforms in management of Universities. When we visited Kenya, we established that they have a commission managing only universities. This commission determines the courses each university should offer, human resources and admission in universities. We need the same in Uganda, ”Prof Katunguka suggested.
The Kampala International University (KIU) Vice Chancellor, Prof Mouhamed Mpezamihigo, said reforms in universities should move hand in hand with reforms in lower education starting from primary, secondary to the high institution level.
According to him, the Ministry of Education changed the lower secondary curriculum and plans are underway to change the curriculum for A-Level. He said the same has not been done for primary level.
“When we are looking at reforms, all levels of education should communicate. The government should also review the curriculum at primary level to higher level,” Prof Mpezamihigo said.
He also suggested that science students should be taught course units in humanities and social sciences like entrepreneur and marketing skills, because whereas they might innovate things, they have to market them.
Similarly, he said Arts students should also be taught some courses in technology and innovations.