By Innocent Anguyo and Conan Businge
Gulu University, Busitema University, and Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) have jointly admitted over 6,000 post graduate and undergraduate students under the private sponsorship scheme.
This represents an increment of 1,000 from last year. In the 2013/2014 academic year, the three public universities jointly admitted about 5,000 students on private sponsorship.
Why more students are opting for upcountry universities?
Some experts have attributed the sharp rise in admission by Gulu, Busitema and MUST to the budding number of Ugandans seeking university education, while others see it a manifestation of the increasing competition for slots at Makerere University that is compelling many students to look elsewhere for admission.
Denis Karatambi, an education consultant in Kampala attributed the increment to the fairly lower cost of living in the three public universities.
“When you look at Makerere and Kyambogo Universities, studying there is hard because the cost of living is high. The accommodation fees, upkeep requirements and tuition fees are higher than for universities in the country side such as Gulu and Busitema,” noted Karatambi.
“Since most of the people in Uganda are poor, they prefer to send their children to study in cheaper public universities and that is where Gulu, Mbarara and Busitema come handy.”
Following the recent increment of fees by the Makerere University Council, the institution’s supreme governing body, “the Ivory Tower” is now the most expensive public university in Uganda.
Bachelor of Medicine at Makerere has tuition fees of sh1, 478,000, while that at Gulu is sh1, 344,000. The same course is tagged to tuition of sh1, 300,000 at Busitema University. MUST charges tuition of sh1, 344,000 for Medicine.
Moses Ahimbazwe, a lawyer in the city attributed the increment to alternatives offered in Gulu, Mbarara and Gulu universities for some courses that initially existed in Makerere only.
“Just a few years ago, Makerere was the only university that offered Medicine and Surgery and all students from across the country who wanted to do the course had to fight for the few slots. Today, children can go to Mbarara, Gulu and Busitema for the same course,” reiterated Ahimbazwe.
Sarah Irumba, a lecturer says the increment in intake at Gulu, MUST and Busitema universities is informed by the growing demand for higher education in their communities.
“Most people now think that it is easier to study in universities that are closer to their communities because of the low transport costs associated,” said Irumba.
More than half of the students admitted to Gulu university hail from northern Uganda. Over 50% of the total student population in MUST hails from Western Uganda. The same is true of Busitema.
Public Universities admit 65% of students
The private admissions by Gulu, Busitema and MUST takes the total number of students admitted to public universities under the private sponsorship scheme in the 2014/2015 academic year to about 36,000.
Other public universities-Makerere, Kyambogo and Muni admitted 21,000, 11,000 and 200 students respectively on private sponsorship.
When the 36,000 students admitted under the private sponsorship scheme are added to the 4,000 students admitted under the government sponsorship scheme, public universities have admitted 40,000 students for the 2014/2015 academic year.
This represents 65% of students who qualified to join university this year. A total of 61,479 candidates (53.8%) who sat their final A’ level exams last year qualified for university admission.
The remaining 35% of the students could be admitted by private universities. Uganda has 31 accredited private universities.
However, experts noted that not all students admitted to public universities would report because scores could prefer to study courses offered to them at private institutions.
“If a student was offered Agriculture in Gulu and Medicine in Kampala International University, there is a higher chance that he may enroll on the latter. In reality, a third of the students admitted to public universities don’t turn up at the beginning of the semester because, often, they are not given their preferred courses,” said Suzan Amongin.
According to Mahmood Khalid, the spokesman of Gulu University, more than a third of the students they admitted last year did not report to school.
Nevertheless, public universities still remain of priority to Ugandan students despite the mushrooming of private institutions of higher learning.
Three thirds of all students who sat A’ level exams last year applied for programmes offered by public universities.
Gulu University has admitted about 2, 500 post graduate and undergraduate students under the private sponsorship scheme. Issuance of admission letters is ongoing at the university.
The university opens for the 2014/2015 academic year on August 09.
The most competitive courses at Gulu University were Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery and Bachelor of Law.
Busitema University has admitted about 2,000 students on private sponsorship this year. The 2,000 covers all the 15 courses offered at the university under the private sponsorship scheme.
Those admitted will study at Busitema University’s five campuses of Mbale, Arapai, Busitema, Namassagali and Nagongera.
The most competitive of the courses at Busitema was Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, offered at the Mbale Campus. The course has only 17 places on private sponsorship.
Also competitive at Busitema were Agricultural Mechanization and Irrigation Engineering; Computer Engineering; Education, Textile Engineering; Water Resources Engineering; Agro-Processing Engineering; Mining Engineering; Natural Resource Economics; and Animal Production & Management.
Elisa Obella, the Busitema University Academic Registrar said issuance of admission letters is ongoing at the institution.
Orientation of freshmen at Busitema University is scheduled for Monday August 11. The incoming students are expected to report on August 09.
MUST has admitted about 1,500 students under the private sponsorship scheme for the 2014/2015 academic year.
According to Dennis Lukaaya, the MUST spokesman, admitted students will start picking admission letters on Friday.
Kyambogo issues admission
Meanwhile, Kyambogo University has started issuing admission letters to the over 12,000 students it has admitted under the private sponsorship scheme for the 2014/2015 academic year.
Prof Eli Katunguka, the Kyambogo University Vice Chancellor told New Vision that issuance of admission letters to incoming students would start yesterday.
Of the 12, 000 privately sponsored students set to join Kyambogo University in the 2014/2015; Katunguka said 11,000 will enroll on degree programmes, while 1,000 of their colleagues will study Diploma courses.
Incoming Kyambogo University students report for the new academic year on August 9.
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Gulu, Busitema and Mbarara admit 6,000