Interview: When National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) closed Busoga University in 2017, it was running 70 programs at various levels including degrees, diplomas, certificates and post-graduate programs. President Yoweri Museveni directed the Ministry of Education and Sports to kick-start the process of turning the hitherto church-owned institution into a public university. The Minister of Education Janet Museveni constituted a working committee of six people headed by environmentalist, Prof John Stephen Tabuti, to spearhead this process and their term will end in June this year. Our reporter Daniel Saire caught up with Prof. Tabuti and below are the excerpts.
What has the committee so far done?
The committee has fulfilled about 90% of its mandate. This include coming up with programs that the university will mount soon. The good thing is that our committee has been building on a foundation that was laid by the former Busoga University. So, we are not starting from scratch. We sat at the Civil Service
College in Jinja with about 60 eminent academicians and other stakeholders and reviewed the academic courses that Busoga University used to offer and 25 out of 70 were found excellent. Five new courses have been added to the number and the committee is set to submit them to NCHE by end of April for accreditation.
The committee has designed a niche around which the courses that will be offered by the new Busoga University are being selected. The selection is based on the National Development Program (NDP III) and the NRM manifesto. We decided that the university offers science courses based on the niche of Technological
Innovations and Value Chain Management. Our decision was informed by President Museveni’s emphasis on teaching science courses at university plus the global trends in science and technology.
Among the degree courses that the university is set to offer include Mechanical Engineering with mining option, Forensics and Information Technology, Agriculture, Forestry, Theology, Entrepreneurship and Supply Chain Management, Public Health, Nursing and Social Sciences. Most of the liberal arts
courses have been limited.
When is the university starting?
The university will commence soon. We have done the ground work that includes drafting about 20 policies and these will have to be approved by the relevant organs of government.
How about the issue of staff recruitment?
It is not within our mandate to recruit staff but what I can assure you is that priority will be given to staff of the former university whose names appear in the Auditor General’s report that was punished after a verification exercise. However, only those with requisite qualifications will be appointed by the Ministry of Public Service through a due diligence process. But the university has continued to operate even after closure.
What is the fate of the students who have continued to study despite the closure?
We learnt that some students got admitted to the university after the revocation of its license in 2017. Such students were admitted to a non-existing institution since NCHE, the regulatory body of universities did not recognize Busoga University after that date. NCHE advertised the revocation in the national gazette. If it changes its position, it will again have to gazette it again, that is the law.
There are students who completed studies but have never been graduated. How do you plan to help such students?
There are plans to graduate students who completed their studies before 2017. The first committee that was established and headed by State Minister for Higher Education Dr, JC Muyingo, recommended that that category of students be helped to graduate. As a result, the committee I head has written to the owners of the former university, Busoga University Limited, asking for the names of such students with their complete marks and minutes of Senate and Faculty Boards that passed them. When we get the lists, we shall make an appropriate decision.
What needs to be done?
Before the new university starts, the university buildings at Buwoya village in CMS, Bugiri, Jinja and Kamuli should be renovated. Whereas those in CMS require painting, the ones in Bugiri need roofing after a storm blew off the roofs.
Are there any challenges stalling the process?
The biggest drawback for the new university to begin has been a delay by Busoga University Limited to transfer land titles to Busoga Diocese that in turn should surrender them to government. It has been established that the delay is due to the fact that the titles are being held by Bank of Baroda which extended loans to the former university. However, negotiations between government and the bank are ongoing to have an agreeable loan repayment schedule which will lead to the release of the land titles.
Any last word to our esteemed readers?
The university is set to begin. I commend President Museveni for deciding to start a public university in Busoga sub-region. The university will boost not only education standards of the people but even their socio-economic well being. I advise residents, especially those with capacity, to invest in services that both staff and students will consume when it finally starts.