Rebuttal: The University of Rwanda we want

The University of Rwanda (UR) Management feels obliged to respond to the article in The New Times in which the university was accused of not practising what it preaches.

The University of Rwanda (UR) Management feels obliged to respond to the article in The New Times in which the university was accused of not practising what it preaches.

The author articulated very well the rationale of why UR was created, what it aspires to be and even appeared to be well informed about the institution’s strategy of increasing the proportion of its staff with doctoral qualifications.

Unfortunately, he took the unfortunate experiences of the young academics who, rightly wanted to contribute to the country’s development by joining UR, as the institutional norm, and hence create the misconception that UR is its own worst enemy.

The negative and discouraging reception given to the aspiring young academics by the referred to university officials is not only regrettable, but also contrary to the ethos of what UR wants to build. The attitude of these officials was more of an exception than the rule and it is very regrettable that whole of UR has been painted by their shades of behaviour and attitude.

Since its inception, UR has embarked on a programme of capacity building, supported by the Government of Rwanda, donor agencies and partner universities in Europe and USA. We believe that having a core of appropriately qualified staff is key to UR’s capacity to deliver on its mandate.

Currently, out of a total of 1484 academic staff employed by the University, a number of academic staff are already registered in various universities for their doctoral studies. It is expected that by 2017, a total of 333 academics would have completed their doctoral qualifications. In addition, between now and 2017, about 650 academics are expected to register for their doctoral studies.

A doctoral degree is going to be mandatory for any academic wishing to remain at UR and contribute effectively to its objectives. Apart from the development of its academics, UR is committed to enhancing its existing capacity by recruiting academics with doctoral qualifications. This is demonstrated by regular adverts and interviews conducted by the constituent Colleges of UR.

For example, since January 2014, a total of 11 staff with doctoral qualifications have been recruited. This is in addition to a total of 14 staff who have rejoined the University after having completed their doctoral studies.

Furthermore, UR is committed to retaining staff by creating conducive research and teaching environments. Recently, it completed its first academic promotions exercise, in which a total of 18 staff received professorial promotions (i.e. 11 to Associate Professor and 7 to Full Professor). Two of the promoted Associate Professors are female.

Compared to where we would want UR to be, we are starting from a low base in terms of proportion of staff with doctoral degrees (19.6%); per capita research output (0.1 paper/staff) and proportion of postgraduate students (2%). For UR to be a reputable research-led university, with national, regional and global impact, the above figures need to increase to at least 60%, 1 and 20%, respectively.

We believe that these set targets are achievable through good planning and management; appropriate policies and procedures; determination and support. UR Management is appreciative of the support received from the Government, donor agencies, partner universities, members of the communities and other stakeholders both in the country and outside, as well as aspiring academics, who are determined to give back to the country through UR, like the ones mentioned in the article referred to.

UR Management is committed to building a reputable institution that is locally relevant and globally competitive through quality driven performance in research, teaching and learning as well as in community engagement initiatives.

UR Management will, however, not tolerate among its ranks, leaders who are neither accountable nor committed to providing quality service to neither our clients nor those who are not committed to contributing positively to the ethos and objectives of the institution.

The UR WE WANT is an institution that will attract, nurture and develop young academics; that is responsive to community needs; that will contribute to national social-economic agenda; that will give Rwanda a competitive edge in the global knowledge economy.