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Change management of public universities

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Added 17th November 2016 01:20 PM

The greatest irritant staff experience in their dealings with public universities is the arrogance of the bureaucracy.

Jacoboyugi 703x422

The greatest irritant staff experience in their dealings with public universities is the arrogance of the bureaucracy.

The Need for change in the Management of Public Universities in Uganda:  From  the “Arrogance of Bureaucracy” to Entrepreneurialism.

By Jacob L Oyugi

Public universities in Uganda operate under a dual system – the “public sector” and the “private sector”.  By public sector of the public university I refer to the government sponsored students  who qualify for government scholarships under different schemes.  The students in this sector are entitled to access the university facilities including: lecture halls, halls of residence, dinning, libraries and medical on government funding. 

On the other hand the private sector of the public university consists of self-sponsored students, or private students as commonly referred to, who can only be allowed to access the university facilities on proof of payments of all relevant dues in the semester.  Statistics show that the government sponsored students number are far below that of the self-sponsored students in any one of the public universities. 

This implies that, by number, the private sector of the public university generates more revenues than the public sector of the public university.  This has some implications on the management of the public universities especially the wage bill for the academic and non-academic staff.  Despite this, public universities continue to accumulate debts to the extent of failing to pay their own staff. This is very irritating when the thinkers and the doers in generating the income remain the staff.

The greatest irritant staff experience in their dealings with public universities is the arrogance of the bureaucracy.  The recent closure of Makerere University by the government is a clear indication of the arrogance and bureaucracy evidenced in the management of public universities.  This is clearly reflected in the article, Makerere financial transaction suspended, which appeared in the New Vision of November 7, 2016, part of which runs – he sounded sceptical about paying lecturers and other non-academic staff...”we are waiting for the Government’s guidance on this”.  

This statement confirms one of the traditional managerial models – the political model- of managing public universities.  This model takes the university as a political system in which interests groups wield their own benefit.  One good example is the process of drafting a university budget which frequently results in the greatest levels of financing going to those with the greatest power and not the most relevant in terms of size or even reputation.  The political model or bureaucratic management of public universities hinder the universities’ capacity to meet demands of the staff and society.

Given the fact that public universities depend on internally generated funds, a new model of university management which I call “entrepreneurial model” should be adapted. 

In the current market reality, the university can be considered as a “company” providing educational services to its clients, students and employers.   Similar to other companies and institutions, it should also be natural for universities to change their ongoing processes and activities, and implement a new institutional model reflecting the provision of educational services within the new social and economic environment. 

Consequently, at the very core of universities is a need to be companies of knowledge, developing teaching, research and outreach activities without losing sight of the entrepreneurship vision contained within its administrative structure.  The entrepreneurship vision focuses on competitiveness, opportunity, generation of revenues, reduction of costs, and customer-driven. 

The pressure encountered by public universities, driving them to become more competitive, efficient, effective and better adapted to the needs of their stakeholders all call for new ways of managing the universities.  The entrepreneurial model seeks to build a well-educated society hence universities using this model should be more concerned with results than processes. 

Entrepreneurialism features a reduction in government procedural controls, greater competence in allocation of resources, increased autonomy in decision making, and fostering a vision of university managers as business leaders of a new venture copying not only the practices, but also the values of private businesses.

The writer is a senior lecturer at the School of Management and Entrepreneurship, Kyambogo University

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