HIGHER EDUCATION |
All public universities in the country will gradually reduce the number of Senior Six students' admission who want to do undergraduate degrees, should the Cabinet approve a recommendation from its experts.
Government experts, in a White Paper, which they have already submitted to the First Lady and education minister Mrs. Janet Museveni; to be tabled before Cabinet, they say, "Public Universities should progressively reduce numbers of undergraduate students, and increase that of graduate students and postgraduate students."
A White Paper is a document from a government team of experts. It is the final document, used in policy implementation. This comes at a time that the Government is drafting a policy for higher education, which will be tabled before Cabinet soon.
The state minister for higher education Dr. John Chrysostom Muyingo, when contacted by New Vision to explain what this implies, he said, "Should the Cabinet approve this recommendation, which is still in a draft Government recommendation to Cabinet, fewer students will be admitted in public universities."
He added, "But, in case the Cabinet approves this recommendation, this will be done in a gradual process."
But, he says there should be no cause for worry, since there are other private universities in the country, and there is also a mooted proposal to have a joint admissions process for all public and private universities. He says some public universities, will also have a higher number of undergraduates than others, even when this policy is cleared for implementation.
The Government's experts, in their report, say, "Government should also adopt centralized admissions for all undergraduate programmes, to both public and private higher education institutions; as opposed to the current individualized control of admissions."
In the new policy recommendation, Government experts say, the capacity of every university in the country will be checked, and that there will be entry exams for all university courses, as a way of ensuring that there is quality education. This will almost be like the secondary schools' selection process; which is centrally coordinated by a team from the Government.
The White Paper, by a team of personalities of high public repute, headed by Prof. Fredrick Kayanja adds that this will also help Government to be able to regulate the number of students who enter the system, as well as the number of graduates who enter the labour market.
"This will help manage the human resource imbalances in the country," Government experts say; whereby some sectors have so many unemployed graduates and yet other sectors are in a critical need of personnel.
This is not the first time that the matter is coming up, in the policy formulation process. Much as at first, this policy move was only meant for Makerere, the Government experts now propose, it is rolled out in all universities.
The McGregor Visitation Committee had earlier recommended that Government gradually reduces the entry of Senior six leavers, who intend to pursue most of the humanities programmes (courses) in public universities, that annually, and increase the admissions of those doing sciences to at least 40%.
They had also proposed the introduction of the pre-entry examinations for all courses in universities, as it in the School of Law, to strengthen the quality of higher education in the country. This recommendation has come up again in the final report to Cabinet.
What experts, students say
Makerere University has already decided to gradually reduce the number of undergraduate students starting with the next academic year.
The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe says this will help the university focus more on research and innovation, from graduate students. The plan is also to step up the graduates' admissions.
The university plans to have a 10% annual cut on the number of undergraduates admitted on the private admissions scheme.
Makerere University usually admits 14,000 private undergraduate students each academic year; out of about 16,000 applications that are received annually.
More so, the former director for higher education, Elizabeth Gabona, says this proposal has been in the pipeline for so many years, and finally, "It is good that it is now coming up. It is not a bad idea at all. It will allow some public universities, to strongly focus on research and innovation."
She adds, "As a country, it is good that we are conscious of what is happening in other countries around the world. This is the direction they have taken." She, however, cautions, "We must make sure that we know the areas where we need more undergraduates and make sure that they are supported to keep in public universities admissions."
"This new policy move, if okayed," the former Vice-Chancellor of Makerere University Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba says, "Apart from increasing entry in priority courses, will reduce students who annually graduate and remain unemployed."
He notes that it will also increase students going to technical, vocational, and business courses; which are becoming the most critical and lucrative careers for graduates around the world.
Rose Naigaga, a Senior six students who intend to do Social Sciences at Makerere University says this move is good for the sake of the country, "But the Government should be careful not to just relegate us to private universities."
She adds, "Most of the private universities cannot match the quality of public universities especially in the human resource and infrastructural capacity, on top of also being very expensive."