Universities Ordered to Align Programmes with Ongoing Lower-Level Curriculum Reviews

The National Council for Higher Education-NCHE has ordered universities and other tertiary institutions to review all their programmes and align them with the ongoing curriculum reviews at lower education levels.  

The National Curriculum Development Center-NCDC has been examining school curricula over the past few years in an effort to give learners the skills and competencies they need for the twenty-first century and address gaps in the teaching-learning process. 

In 2020, NCDC rolled out the lower secondary curriculum with the upper secondary (A-level) curriculum also currently in the pipeline. Before the two, NCDC had carried out similar reviews on the three primary school curricula.     

Now, Maria Nakachwa Ssemakula, the acting Director of Quality Assurance, and Accreditation at NCHE says that it is critical that universities and other tertiary institutions start developing competency-based curricula so as to complete the cycle with competent students ready for the world of work.    

Nakachwa made the remarks on Monday afternoon during an engagement with the media on the status and performance of higher education in Uganda. She said that to ensure compliance they have already communicated with the institutions that none of their programs will be re-accredited during the routine reviews if it doesn’t sync with the lower-level curriculum.

Nakachwa explained that the council has been engaging NCDC, which has agreed to help in re-evaluating the existing programs in several institutions in line with the changes at a lower level. 

Although universities still have some time as they wait for the A-level curriculum, institutions that take on O’Level levers need to review their course sooner as the pioneers of the lower secondary curriculum will be exiting at that level in 2024.       

URN understands that institutions in the Technical & Vocational Education and Training (TVET) world might not find challenges as they have also been undergoing reforms to adopt competency-based programs.        

Prof. Mary Okwakol, the Executive Director of NCHE says that even before the review in question was set into motion, the council had already started advising institutions to place emphasis on competence-oriented programs and involve pertinent industry experts.        

 Deadline for universities with provisional licenses  

Meanwhile, the council has also extended the deadline for universities currently operating on provision licenses to start the process of acquiring a university charter.     

Prof. Okwakol, says that the council had set March 2023 for all institutions with provisional licenses to get charters or face closure. She, however, says that they engaged the affected universities and discovered that the deadline might not be met owing to the COVID-19-induced interruptions.     

Prof Okwakol adds that although the council has not met to set a new deadline, universities are encouraged to apply for the charter and show a road map that would lead them to tick all the required boxes.    

A university must maintain a provisional license for at least three years before applying for a charter, as per the Universities and other Tertiary Institutions Act (2001). But data shows that several universities have run under a provisional license for more than ten years.    

A charter, which is evidence that the university meets the requirements and standards of academic excellence, is granted to universities that have demonstrated high quality in staffing, teaching, and learning, research output, technology, practical-led learning, infrastructural development, and good governance, among other issues.          

Currently, there are only 11 chartered universities in Uganda with over 32 operating on provisional licenses. While several institutions lack charters, according to Nakachwa, their programs have been accredited after completing the requirements.

Why do Closed institutions continue to operate? 

The council also raised concern about the growing trend of institutions that obstinately refuse to close despite being found to fall short of minimum standards.      

This is one of the main problems the council is now dealing with, according to Prof. Okwakol. She nevertheless attributed it to a gap in the Universities and Other Tertiaries Institution Act that prevented the Council from taking up enforcement duties.       

Ali Kankaka, the NCHE legal officer, says that the council’s efforts are also occasionally thwarted by other government institutions such as courts of law, which issue injunctions against the closure of institutions found to be insufficient as required.            

Kankaka says that the council has begun work on an amendment to the law that would grant NCHE enforcement authority to force institutions that don’t meet the necessary basic criteria to close shop.      

On the NCHE website, there is a list of seven universities whose licenses were revoked including Lugazi university, Fairland university, Stafford University, Busoga University, Namasagali University, Kayiwa International University, and Nsaka University.         

In addition to those mentioned, Kankaka says that there are several institutions operating illegally throughout the country and defrauding students and parents. He urged the general public to check the accreditation status of programs or institutions with NCHE before enrolling.            

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