Quality university education comes at a big cost to recipients

I write to respond to some of the concerns and misunderstandings about the annual UCU Sunday that was this year observed on September 30 in all churches in the Province of the Church of Uganda.

The day is a creation of the House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda whose wisdom it was that every last Sunday of September be observed as UCU Sunday for the Church to come together in support of her only provincial university in prayer, increased awareness, accountability and financial support.

The House of Bishops resolved that all the offertory collected on UCU Sunday be given to Uganda Christian University to support her development efforts.

Apparently, this issue has evoked mixed reactions and falsehoods from sections of the society. Some people have asked why UCU that charges tuition should be going to churches asking for money.

At 21 years of existence, some people reasoned that UCU should be giving dividends to the Church, and not the Church to be giving financial support to UCU.

To begin with, to oppose the Church giving financial support to their university is akin to refusing a parent or government to offer financial support to their child or government-founded universities respectively. Secondly, UCU is a private not-for-profit university rendering an essential service to society in the area of human capital and skills development.

As a non-profit-making institution, UCU cannot be expected to give dividends to anyone. All the financial and material resources it gets are used to better the learning environment and her capacity to offer authentic university education, which is a very expensive undertaking.

Unlike government-founded institutions that get financial support, especially in the area of meeting the wage bill, UCU doesn’t benefit from such incentives, leaving it to largely depend on tuition and her founding body - the Church. The truth is that tuition to some of UCU’s academic programmes are charged higher compared to what some other universities charge. But we also have dozens of programmes where we charge less compared to what many other universities charge.

Those who only assess UCU by the levies it makes would do better if they judged us by the quality of our education and graduates, and our contribution to human capital and skills development in society.

UCU produces exceptional graduates who, according to a 2015 graduate employability survey by New Vision newspaper, were ranked second most-preferred university graduates in the country.

Ranked first was a government-founded and funded university. Government pays the wage bill, a major expenditure item for that university. Studies show that the success of universities is measured partly by the success of their graduates and students, and UCU is well-known for this.

Just this year alone, UCU has won major inter-university competitions. At the start of the year, our students defeated dozens of universities and won the Uganda law moot competition that tests a law student’s understanding of principles of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Because of that victory, UCU students represented Uganda in the 2018 Philip C. Jessup International law court moot competition held in Washington DC, where we finished as second best university in Africa and 47th globally out of the 121 universities that participated.

In March 2018, UCU finished overall winners of the annual National Council for Higher Education exposition that assessed innovations made by the universities.

UCU defeated more than 40 Ugandan universities and institutions of higher learning to win the award. In June 2018, our students also won the inter-university quiz on sexual and reproductive health while the UCU Lady Cardinals, our female students football team, won the 2018 Fufa Women’s League tournament among other accolades.

UCU holds seven graduation ceremonies annually across her campuses and constituent colleges and issue transcripts on graduation day to ease the absorption of her graduates on the job market. This ensures that our students graduate as and when they finish their courses.

Our students and their parents or guardians appreciate these and that authentic university education comes at a cost. Our experiences show that most parents and students value quality, studying in credible institutions with certainty of completion, graduation and issuance of transcripts. It is surprising that some people are willing to pay millions of shillings in a kindergarten and expect to pay less at university!

Mr Mubangizi is the manager Communications & Marketing, Uganda Christian University.