Makerere taps agriculture programs to arrest rankings slide

Oct 26, 2023

Makerere which had been ranked 13th among Africa’s best universities and top most outside South Africa and Egypt, according to Webometrics, dropped to 17th in Africa as of July 2023.

Some of the participants who attended the meeting at Makerere University. (Credit: Agnes Nantambi)

Agnes Nantambi
Journalist @New Vision


Makerere University is seeking accreditation of two of its programs by the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) as one of the ways to regain its ranking.

The programs are a PhD in plant breeding and biotechnology, as well as a master’s degree in plant breeding and seed systems, being implemented by the World Bank and supported by the Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement (MaRCCI).

Makerere which had been ranked 13th among Africa’s best universities and top most outside South Africa and Egypt, according to Webometrics, dropped to 17th in Africa as of July 2023.

The new ranking placed Makerere at 1,086 worldwide based on excellence, openness and impact by Webometrics.

The Webometrics ranking of world universities is an initiative of Cyber Metrics Lab, a research group belonging to the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cleitificas (CSIC) which is the largest public research body in Spain.

According to Dr Cyprian Misinde, the director of quality assurance at Makerere University, the decline is influenced by many factors, ranging from teaching and learning, research, international collaborations, and income from industry among many others.

“In all the rankings, it has shown that there are issues with the teaching and research environment coupled with the ratio of graduate training to undergraduate and also the number of international students to Ugandan students which is quite small requiring improvement in these matrices.

Having centres of excellence like MaRCCI help in bringing in a number of international students as the university continues to develop strategies of internationalisation of its courses to bring in more international students and faculties to help boost the ranking,” he said.

The university, he said, is improving in the processes of graduate training through different strategies like the graduate care system that is going to track students from the time they join the university to the time of completion.

Participants discuss and make presentations during the meeting. (All Photos by Agnes Nantambi)

Participants discuss and make presentations during the meeting. (All Photos by Agnes Nantambi)

“The purpose of this is to help students finish their programs within the stipulated time compared to the old system and we believe this will increase transparency and completion rate which will also improve our graduate training and ranking,” he said.

He explained that sometimes ranking is based on the opinions gathered from people saying that if the people trained can talk well about the university, it will automatically improve the ranking.

This was during the entry meeting regarding the regional accreditation of MaRCCI programs on October 25, 2023. 

Dr Richard Edema the director MaRCCI, said the centre is one of the four centres of excellence having been established with support from the World Bank.

“We have goals of building human capital required to support the agricultural development of this country and the region. Through MaRCCI, we want to get new kind of manpower that can help us to push agricultural research and innovations to a very high level, in order to support increased production of food and raw materials for our industries to enhance agro-industrialisation,” he said.

Under the centre, he said they have invested a lot in building a lot of research capacities through building research lab facilities and are able to produce new varieties that are drought tolerant, high yielding, and disease resistant on top of diagnosing diseases through genetic manipulation.

The centre he said has trained over 200 students at both master's and PhD level

He explained that the two programs requiring accreditation are part of the requirement for a Centre of Excellence to recognise its programs internationally given the fact that it has started attracting many foreign students.

“We have already been accredited by the National Council for Higher Education, now regionally, we have to take it to the Inter-University Council of East Africa to see whether we are fit to train manpower for East Africa to support its agricultural development.

Since we are attracting so many foreign and regional students to our programs, we want to make sure that the region recognises our programs so that we can still use this platform to train manpower for agricultural production,” he said

The two programs once accepted, will be the first to be regionally accredited ever since IUCEA put the East Africa Community to this Protocol forward.

Makerere is trying them out and if succeeds, it’s likely that more programs having quality check will be recognised and will probably lead to higher ranking,” explained Edema.

Julius Kikoma, the deputy director in charge of administration at the directorate of research and graduate training, said that having a proper quality assurance mechanism gives confidence to stakeholders

“We are sure that our centres of excellence especially for crop improvement will be able to get different products from one crop, which will add skills to people to become relevant to the country,” he said.

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