OVER 57,000 candidates who sat the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) last year qualify to join public universities, according to the results just released by the Uganda National Examinations Board.
Out of the 89,921 candidates, 65% got two principle passes, and are therefore, eligible for joining university. But the Government would continue sponsoring only 4,000 students at university, according to the education minister Namirembe Bitamazire. The rest of students would join other tertiary institutions as well as private universities. The five public universities are Makerere, Mbarara, Kyambogo, Gulu and Busitema. But existing universities in the country can only absorb 25,000 students.
Up to the mid 1980s, university education was fully state-sponsored in Uganda. But the number of students accessing university education then was too limited. To increase university intake, the Government introduced private sponsorship, established more public universities â€” bringing the number to five currently â€” and allowed the private universities.
Following these government interventions, the number of students in universities has remarkably grown.
However, a lot still needs to be done to enhance accessibility, affordability, relevance and quality of university education. The Government should increase on the scholarships, particularly to enable the brilliant but poor studentsâ€™ access higher education. It should further expedite the implementation of the studentsâ€™ loan scheme.
The Government took the right decision to allow establishment of private universities in the country. But the standards of some of the private universities still leaves a lot to be desired. The education ministry and the National Council for Higher Education should rigorously monitor universities to ensure they meet international standards.
Universities must also be accorded tax concessions. We must avoid a situation where degrees awarded by the countryâ€™s universities are not recognised even by local employers. Uganda must strive to position itself in the region and globally as a centre of academic excellence.