UR needs more autonomy, further restructuring

Editor, RE: “UR to shore up funds through Alumni fundraising campaigns” (The New Times, October 29). It’s time UR woke up and interacted directly with Rwandan society for its survival and success and, above all, for the greater good of Rwandans.
University of Rwanda graduates at a past graduation ceremony. (File)
University of Rwanda graduates at a past graduation ceremony. (File)

Editor,

RE:UR to shore up funds through Alumni fundraising campaigns” (The New Times, October 29). It’s time UR woke up and interacted directly with Rwandan society for its survival and success and, above all, for the greater good of Rwandans.

Cuts in government funding means that the government has more important issues to deal with. While it might be true, I still think that UR should occupy the most important place in Rwandan society and I will try to explain my position. 

It’s any university’s fundamental reason for existence to impart information imaginatively, thus connecting knowledge and life. But UR has yet to prove its worth and to understand it’s place in Rwandan society.

I’m no expert, but I will propose a few options:

UR should recruit quality faculty who will be able to impart information imaginatively, at any cost. This will justify the existence of UR and, as a result, UR will become part of Rwandan society as its graduates will be well-equipped to actively take part in national development efforts. Many changes in Rwandan society will happen if UR does its job.

Bringing qualified faculty will not just benefit students, but it will potentially also be a great step towards financial self-reliance. Qualified faculty will not sit idle. They will engage with their students, as they grapple with knowledge in form of imagination. Together, they will help address the country’s most pressing problems through research. The university will sell its solutions (inventions & innovations from research) by either literally selling them as patents or establishing its own businesses based on those innovations; in any case, the university will make money while contributing directly to its community.

Universities get grants from their alumni because the latter are ideally grateful for the education acquired and how it has impacted their lives.

UR should be able to make students their priority not just by bringing them great faculty, but also by building an enviable campus environment. I can’t recall the time I heard a UR graduate or student appreciate their education experience. Most students go to UR because it’s the best choice they’ve got, not because UR is attractive. UR, try to make your students happy and you will be rewarded. When UR’s education becomes enviable, Rwandan children will dream of it. High school students will dream of it. Businesses will be competing for UR products. All this is what UR should set its eyes on. This is what any university should ever want to be.

My last shot, though subtle, is tightly packed: Government of Rwanda should help UR it financially, while it allows it more autonomy.

For many institutions to thrive, they need to be independent in their operations. Universities, just like any institution, fail when subjected to political bureaucracy. Autonomy will allow for fast and informed decisions. A dean at a UR college knows their college’s issues better than the minister for education.

Let the dean do their job and you will be surprised by how policies will be on point in addressing issues at hand. The dean has to be a person of integrity, however, for the college not to die. He/she has to be someone who cares highly about college life and education in general, and I would put him/her in the category of “quality faculty”.

In addition, UR colleges should run as independent units. Each college should have a dean who looks after it and doesn’t have to concern himself/herself with the operations of the other colleges. There should also be no chancellor of all the colleges.

 

Jean-Baptiste Kwizera

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