In Uganda, the NCHE ( national council for higher education )- body is responsible for awarding universities with a charter. The University Charter (s) define the governance of the University: its objects, statutes, ordinances, regulations, officers and powers including those that allow them to award degrees. Below are some of the requirements that make up a charter, a university must have all these in place before it is flagged off as an official chartered university.
Presence of academic, administrative and other supportive services including; an administrative block, lecture halls, seminar rooms, special purpose rooms, library, laboratories, workshops, staff housing and other facilities as per council’s checklist of capacity indicators.
• Having the operation procedures, bylaws and regulations approved by the governing council of the institution.
• Having course programmes, curricular, student assessment procedures, examination regulations for initial and future programmes approved by the institutions’ organs and ratified by the NCHE. All new programmes have to be accredited by the NCHE. • Having the required, qualified, experienced, permanent academic and administrative staff in place.
• Having clear provisions, facilities, equipment, materials and support services for the learning process
• Having students and staff support organs and welfare services for example clinic or dispensary, student’s union, games and sports facilities.
• Willing to be inspected or visited by the NCHE whenever the council deems it is necessary.
Now that we understand what school charters are in Uganda, anyone else feel like these are a bunch of requests that are ‘mandatory’ at the start but with time they are not exactly mandatory!? Imagine a bill that is going to be passed – yeah but there are no exact ways to enforce them. Like we list down what we expect, the requests / requirements but if they are not backed up with how to enforce these little requests then it ceases to be a bill! Now each and every university that is chartered in Uganda has these requirements but are they up to date.
At the start, a university can have all of these structures. But my argument is that how do we gauge a university on just its infrastructures and not the actual provision of the services. A library but with little or no books, a clinic with a part time nurse or no counsellor, lecturers that have a back ground of sexual harassment, curriculums that are only theoratical and not even pratical and many more. I am not saying that infrastructuresare useless – they should be in place but whats the use if the university cannot efficiently offer the service, the need – the education. Like a said little requests. Bodies like NSHE should have to power to dig deeper and not just on the surface. With time, alumnus or students currently enrolled in universities should be part of the charter making.
Let us reflect on the covid – 19 situation, this list of requirements should’ve changed to match up the current situation like inclusion of online classes cause it is happening, a must to have counsellors in the schools etc. I feel like the health policy under these charters would be more emphasised and actually implemented. But to this day if the NCHE is still having these as the requirements with no indication of an update after a year and a half of the wave of the covid – 19 disease then we are going down the drain in the education sector.
University charters should be regularly revised, researched upon. We are now apart of a global village, with students that are to compete in other countries for these same jobs not just in Uganda. University charters should not just cover regulations or disciplinarian policies but should also look into mental health, special needs, proper curriculums that involve practical work imbedded in the school systems. Universities have the biggest resources, events, that should involve students’ full participation. Universities need to be held accountable. Irregular or ‘surprise’ inspections are not enough to hold universities accountable, renewal of the charter with the main board is not enough, what more can be done, what can universities do to ensure that these charters are not just hell-bent on holding students subjective to school policies but that there is smooth running, equal partnership with the lecturers and students, lecturers who are committed to performing and increased numbers of excellence. More so, the world around us is evolving and we should start taking steps to ensure that we have better education and that the systems are favourable.
One way to corner schools that donot follow the charter requirements is to cut off the funding. Funding bodies should exclude them from funding calls. The NCHE should over look the funding and the universities’ programs and should be in the know of the universities capacity to handle them. Get all the stake holders like research funders, the parents, the government to push and enforce these much needed things in the universities. Threaten to withold a few dollars, exchange programs, stop activities if you must to get excellent results. Indeed. Policies are like saying “we “, which should mean “stay tuned, good news are coming”, but then actual results are barely publicised or not reported at all. Commitment gets more real when “shiny” is a systematic feedback from the academic staff, not the promises.
My biggest point is that NCHE shouldn’t just put these requirements and then leave it at that. And then after 5 years, it can change the curriculum then again sit back. NCHE should do so much more to ensure that these higher institutions of learning are up to the standard and are held accountable for not matching up to the set standard.
Welcome to the new education and social work category where I get to break down these issues, define, give practical and meaningful ways to improve our education systems.