The freshly structured University of Rwanda now has a new administration that comprises highly educated and experienced men and women bringing optimism to higher education in the country.
The President Tuesday appointed eminent individuals whom together bring a rich blend of local and international knowledge that is expected to raise the standards and boost the quality of university education in Rwanda.
Public universities in the country have for long been bogged down by complex challenges, including poorly-run faculties, standards, inadequate resources and static curricula. Upon completion, graduates from public universities would either find it difficult to find jobs or the lucky few who do, would underperform consequently, disappointing employers and bringing into question the quality of awards their institutions offer.
The new team, of course, has an uphill task to create the desired change in tertiary education, but one thing for sure, they do enjoy the highest possible support they might need to make the University of Rwanda the dream its architects have envisioned.
Over the last two decades, Rwanda has progressed remarkably, recording an 8 per cent economic growth. Looking at the existing development plans such as the EDPRS 2 and the country’s Vision 2020, there is no doubt that the targets are higher than ever before.
Achieving an 11 per cent growth rate as stipulated in the growth plans will require resources, key among them, skills. Number wise, the universities have done an excellent job of producing graduates. However, their quality has been found wanting. Their relevance to the development needs of the country have also not matched the expectations.
Weighing the scenarios
When government opted to create the University of Rwanda by merging the seven existing public universities, the objective was and still remains to have a more efficient university education system with quality standards.
When the universities operated independently, they overlapped each other and missed out on utilising the existing resources optimally. They often pursued misguided interests and desires to impress by operating under a capitalist scope.
Take, for example, Computer Science. Kigali Institute of Science and Technology and the National University of Rwanda both conferred degrees in Computer Science. However, employers would prefer graduates from one institution over the other because the skills of the graduates varied remarkably.
Ideally, graduates from top universities tend to complete with similar skills and competences but in this case the difference was evident. This might have been a result of who has better instructors, equipment or even the programme itself. This is just one example where merging will help elevate the standards.
Of course, there are other priority areas, including research and raising funds to run the university. The government at the moment largely finances public universities; however, this cannot go on forever.
Among the areas Rwanda will benefit from by having an administration with experience in running universities or faculties in various parts of the world is how the University of Rwanda can be less reliant on direct government funding.
What Rwanda needs is an education system in sync with its development goals, one that feeds well into the country’s vision. There is no doubt that the new team is more than competent to transform the public university system and make it more relevant to the needs of the country.
And, with support from all stakeholders, especially the merging institutions, the process benefit of having the University of Rwanda will be realised sooner than later.