What students should look out for when choosing a university

photo

Having left high school last year, former Senior Six (S6) students are now preparing to join college this September. However, following the recent decision made by the Ministry of Education to suspend some tertiary institutions and college courses in some cases for ‘missing’ requirements, a good number of students are wondering how to choose the right institution to enroll in so that they don’t fall victim to unqualified service providers.

According to experts, since students and parents are most affected when such situations happen, they need to be on the lookout for which institutions are credited and if they have what is required.

What to look out for

 Since certain universities and courses were suspended because they did not meet the requirements needed by Higher Education Council (HEC), Faustin Mutabazi, the chief executive officer at Educational Consultancy Bureau, an organisation that supports education and curriculum activities in Rwanda, says it’s advisable for both parents and students to carry out research on what is exactly needed to avoid further inconveniences.

“For instance, the Ministry of Education outlined some of the requirements that are vital that these institutions were missing. Students should be able to find out what exactly is needed. They should compare this information to other universities that are not affected.

“If they find out that some of them don’t meet the requirements, that should be reason for them to not send applications to the institutions, even if they are operating,” he says.

Mutambazi observes that this is the right time and opportunity for students and parents to follow the guidelines from the Ministry, and identify the right universities to go to, by choosing those that are able to fulfill the entire requirements.

“In most cases, parents, and even students, were not aware of which institution is credited by the HEC, but with the new directives from the Ministry, there shouldn’t be more confusion,” he adds.

Professor Danson Musyoka, Vice Counselor at University of Kigali, believes that for university education, parents, sponsors and guardians should look for quality, which translates to a graduate that is able to fit in the market.

 “Universities should make sure the graduates are able to compete, interpret and be productive in the market, so that they also offer what they trained in,” he says.

He notes that employing competent staff, complying with the HEC requirements, and being able to get feedback from the market about the graduates are some of the strategies to ensure that such institutions don’t have problems with the HEC.

“Constant feedback from the market is what should drive any institution to strive for the best always,” he adds.

On the other hand, Musyoka notes that a good institution should also focus on students and lectures.

“For instance, the students should also be engaged constantly in counseling concerning their careers, values and the market demands,” he says.

Keeping in touch with HEC for updates on the requirements and see if there are any changes that can be adopted is also ideal.

14925521462
High school students during a seminar. Career choices start before children join university.

Universities should also be in position to elect an admission committee to scrutinise the students’ certificates, and what they achieved in high school. Basing on that, the committee can offer advice on the programmes that are offered by such universities.

Claudine Nzitabakuze, the head of Teacher Education Management and Professionalisation Department at Rwanda Educational Board (REB), says parents should go for the accredited institutions.

“For example, some parents may choose certain universities depending on their capacity in terms of finance. This should be the last thing they think about, because at the end of the day when such universities are closed, it’s them and their children who will be affected most,” he says.

She notes that it might even be costly to start all over again, looking for other institutions that meet all the requirements.

Nzitabakuze adds that parents should be on the lookout for the courses their children were pursuing, especially those from the affected institutions that want to transfer their children to other universities that were not affected.

“They should be able to go for the accredited ones but, at the same time, choose colleges that offer the same courses as the suspended universities, so that they don’t interfere with their children’s work,” he adds.

Stanley Mukasa, a parent and also a tutor at Akilah Institute of Women, Kibagabaga, thinks that what most parents should find out is how long a certain institution has stayed with the charter given by HEC.

“This is what should drive parents into making decisions on enrolling their children at certain universities. The reason being that, the longer an institution’s existence, the less likely it is to be shut down,” Mukasa says.

He notes that this is because it’s likely that such institutions have met all the requirements all those years.

Mukasa also says that parents should be able to let their children make a choice of what course and university they want to go for first. Then, it’s the parents’ responsibility to find out the credibility of that particular institution, the number of students they have, and even where the alumni of such universities are, if necessary that is to find out if a good number of them are working or not.

14925522211
Students of University of Kigali during a pre-graduation ceremony briefing. (File)

How to search for good universities

According to HEC website, institutions with the university/specialist institute title must be able to maintain the reputation of Rwandan Higher Education Institutions, and be able to demonstrate that the quality of their awards will be of international standards in line with the Rwandan National Qualifications Framework for Higher Education.

Each and every higher institution of learning should be able to fully meet the requirements of the Code of Practice. University/specialist institute status carries with it a responsibility for and a commitment to high standards and quality. 

It also says that for an institution to use university in its name, they should be able to deliver education across a broad range of subjects including science and technology, both at undergraduate and postgraduate level, including research degrees.

On the other hand, the website notes that if it is a private provider, then it should have been awarded a definitive ‘Operating Agreement’ and degree awarding powers, as well as being in a position to demonstrate that at least 15 per cent of its staff are engaged in research as defined in the Glossary/Key Concepts.

 In order for an institution to use the specialist institute title, it should be in position to deliver education in a limited number of subjects in a specialist area, whereas if it’s a private provider, at least 15 per cent of its staff should be engaged in research as defined in the Glossary/Key Concepts.

Additionally, it must reflect the specialist nature of the institution. For instance, Institute of Technology, Institute of Education, Medical Institute, Institute of Business and Legal Studies, or Institute for the Performing Arts.

Officials have their say

14925524181
Dr Uworwabayeho

Dr Alphonse Uworwabayeho, Lecturer - University of Rwanda

I think regular inspection is needed at every higher learning institution by the authorities. The Higher Education Council should make the inspection frequently, say, every three months, rather than waiting for a whole year or so before doing inspections.

***************************************************

14925524722
Munyakazi

Isaac Munyakazi, State Minister for Primary and Secondary Education

Inspection should start right away internally by the responsible department. They should do this to ensure that all the requirements and qualities required by Higher Education Council are met to avoid suspension.

***************************************************

14925525293
Diana Nawatti

Diana Nawatti, Head teacher

Some universities, especially private ones, have a habit of admitting a large number of students. Because of this, there should be close inspection by officials, especially during the time of admissions. Also, there should be a follow-up on how the institutions are faring, even by parents.

***************************************************

14925525884
Mutabazi

Faustin Mutabazi, Chief Executive Officer - Educational Consultancy Bureau

Apart from inquiries from Higher Education Council, students should be at the forefront to identify any gap in the system. They should not be driven by certificates only, but also raise issues that they think could ruin their academics in general. For instance, lack of enough teachers or training equipment.