2014 PROMISES to be University of Rwanda’s year. On February 25, this paper published a story about the University of Rwanda (UR) signing a partnership memorandum with Canada’s prestigious Canadian University of Ottawa.
The recent changes in Rwanda’s tertiary education system that saw the merger of various public varsities into one University of Rwanda have been commended by various actors.
The changes were meant to bring about efficiency in the management of the university. This is expected to help raise the quality of the graduates. The appointment of best local talent and internationally acclaimed scholars at the helm was a demonstration of the commitment to this cause.
That move was no re-invention of the wheel. It has happened elsewhere before. Just the other year, the American State of Georgia merged Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University into Georgia Regents University. Various analysts in education sector say the University of Rwanda has great opportunities for tremendous growth.
The consolidation does a lot of good in terms of economies of scale. Due to its bigger size, the University of Rwanda will be able not only to save on expenditure but also to attract more funds for academic research.
UR seeks to become an ‘all-rounder’ kind of varsity.
This will greatly benefit its students.
A good doctor or lawyer, apart from learning medicine or law very well, needs to have training in business management in order to manage those under their supervision well or better still to know how to set up and run a clinic (entrepreneurship).
Besides, the campuses that now make constituent colleges of the University of Rwanda were ‘tiny’ outfits that were not economically viable. On average, each had between 1,500 to 3,000 students. This alone shows that the merger makes sense.
Bigger universities tend to attract more funding for programmes they run. Universities are not typically expensive and the more money they can pull, the better off it is for everyone.
That said, the new Chancellor and his team have their work cut out. Consolidation of universities is a new concept in our part of the world. The Chancellor has the task to maximise these merged resources to make the university competitive and develop a passion for excellence.
We have a growing student intake. The demand for education is such that as at now, there are more students in private universities than there are in public universities.
It is natural to presume that the University of Rwanda will grow not only in quality but also in student population. We also expect it to offer new exciting courses. This perhaps is the biggest challenge to the new management.
However, to sustainably improve the education sector, the net must be cast wider. Part of the problem is that, at times, students come to University not prepared enough. Quality control should start from way down. A university with good lecturers and all training equipment can only give so much.
Only a long term, a very long term, vision would help bring long term focus in the face of challenges which will arise along the way.
Sam Kebongo is an entrepreneurship Development Consultant based in Kigali.