A rather narrow view of higher education?

Uganda’s President Criticizes ‘Non-Marketable’ Courses

Inside Higher Ed has a story on the Ugandan president’s view of higher education

Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s president, has been giving speeches around his country calling for students to stop taking courses in “non-marketable” subjects such as literature and conflict resolution, Voice of America reported.

In one recent talk, he said: “The problem is not jobs, the jobs are there. What is crucial are the skills. There has been a course at Makarere [University] called Conflict Resolution. OK, but what will you do when the conflicts are finished? This unemployment you are talking about. Is it unemployment or is it employability? Is it that you are unemployed, or is it that you are not employable because you have got skills which are not needed on the market?” Faculty members and students are split on the president’s campaign, with some praising it and others questioning whether he is defining the purpose of higher education in too narrow a way.

Given that Makarere University defines its mission as being “To provide innovative teaching, learning, research and services responsive to National and Global needs” it rather looks like they are delivering on this. After all, we really aren’t going to get to a position in the very near future where all conflicts have been resolved (as this list of likely international flash points identified by the BBC’s Frank Gardner demonstrates). These graduates should therefore be pretty employable.

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African adventure for Buckingham

More international adventures

An interesting piece in Times Higher Education about what many might see as a surprising international venture for the University of Buckingham:

Buckingham already has similar arrangements with institutions in Singapore and Sarajevo, while other UK universities have foreign campuses in places ranging from Dubai to China, but East Africa represents new ground.

Martin O’Hara, vice-chancellor of Victoria and former vice-rector of the National University of Rwanda, told Times Higher Education that the new private institution would “provide what is needed in the public sector”, namely “high quality at a good price”.

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Victoria is expecting to enrol 200-300 students on undergraduate courses in the coming academic year.

Buckingham will offer BScs in business and management, business and management with information systems, accounting and financial management, and computing, while Victoria is accrediting bachelor’s degrees in nursing and in science in public health.

The Buckingham degrees will normally be priced at US$7,000 (£4,423) a year, although for those enrolling in the first year, Victoria is offering a 50 per cent discount.

Five years from now, Victoria aims to have 4,000 students on its books, Professor O’Hara said, adding that the institution has long-term plans to expand this figure to between 12,000 and 15,000, with additional courses potentially including medicine.

It’s not entirely clear from the piece what the nature of the relationship is. Is it validation, franchise or joint venture? And what is the role of Edulink, the partner organisation which seems to have put up the capital?

Perhaps the most surprising factor here is the Buckingham strategy. Whilst it might be imagined that, with a White paper creating arguably much more favourable environment in England for institutions such as Buckingham, they would be focusing on new domestic opportunities rather than looking for international developments. But, as the piece notes, Buckingham already has other international partnerships in Singapore and Sarajevo so perhaps it isn’t such a novelty.

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It does seem that the proposition does have Ministerial support too (picture is from a signing ceremony in March 2011 involving Buckingham and Edulink).

Will it succeed? Will Buckingham’s reputation be enhanced by the arrangement? We’ll have to wait and see.

Admissions issues

From the Chronicle:

Investigation Uncovers Admissions Scandal at Prestigious University in Uganda, by WACHIRA KIGOTHO

Makerere University, in Uganda, one of the most prestigious universities in Africa, may revoke more than 200 degrees awarded in the past four years after an internal investigation discovered that the students had been enrolled without any evidence that they had met admissions criteria. The scandal, which was described in a report presented last month by an internal committee charged with investigating academic fraud, involved what the university calls “mature” students — those over 25 who do not have high school diplomas. Such applicants are required to pass a proficiency test to enter the university, and the committee found evidence that the results of those tests had been altered to allow test takers with failing scores to be admitted.

So, not great news for the Harvard of Africa. But it seems the blame lies with the administration:

The report blames the registrar’s department, which is responsible for admissions, for lack of internal-control mechanisms to curb serious academic fraud.

It just seems astounding that such a state of affairs could go on for over four years.