Unilak, AUCA varsities clash over name

KIGALI - THE Kigali based University petitions National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) to block Unilak campus from carrying the word ‘Adventist’. 
UAAC Rector, Dr Jozsef Szilvasi Rector of Unilak Dr. Jean Ndamije
UAAC Rector, Dr Jozsef Szilvasi Rector of Unilak Dr. Jean Ndamije

KIGALI - THE Kigali based Universite Adventiste d’Afrique Centrale (UAAC) has petitioned the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) to block Unilak campus from carrying the word ‘Adventist’ in its name.

“The Adventist University of Central Africa would like to request NCHE to ask Unilak drop the word ‘Adventist’ from its name,” the two- page letter signed by UAAC Rector, Dr Jozsef Szilvasi reads in part.

The letter, dated December 17, 2007 was also copied to the Education Minister, Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, Justice Minister, Tharcisse Karugarama, President of the East and Central Africa Division of Seventh-day Adventists and Rector of Unilak Dr. Jean Ndamije among others.

In the letter addressed to NCHE Executive Director, Prof. Pamela Abbott, UAAC management said the name ‘Adventist’ was, among other things, a registered trademark for Institutions only owned and run by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The ministry of education confirmed that the minister had received the controversial letter last month.

In the letter, Szilvasi complained that the word ‘Adventist’ is only used by the members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and must be listed in their Year-book of its denomination.

According to Dr Szilvasi, Unilak is not on the list.

He said the petition came after consulting the East and Central Africa Division and the Rwanda Union Mission of the Seventh-day Church over the matter.

“Using the word ‘Adventist’, Unilak creates confusion to the public and the authorities who often confound the University with Adventist University of Central Africa,” the letter states. UAAC Rector also accuses Unilak of creating an impression that the campus offers the same programs and education curriculum like the Adventist University of Central Africa.

“By doing this, Unilak is misguiding the public and damaging the reputation of Seventh-day Adventist Education in general and the Adventist University of Central Africa in particular,” Dr Szilvasi complained.

He added that while Unilak’s curriculum may be similar, the quality and the level of service may be far from that offered by a genuine member of the Adventist Education System.

Government set up NCHE as an independent agency to advise the State on the strategic planning of higher education and to make sure that higher education in the country is of high quality and meets international standards.

The NCHE boss said she received the AUCA letter and she was still seeking legal advice before the impasse is resolved.

“Yes, I received the letter recently but the only person who can resolve the standoff is Attorney General,” Dr. Pamela said by phone on Friday.

Unilak Rector described the letter written by Dr Szilvasi as shocking and highly careless. In his rebuttal letter dated December 19 2007 to the NCHE boss, Dr Ndamije demanded that UAAC management withdraws its baseless allegations.

In the letter, Dr. Ndamije told NCHE that the name of Unilak was lawfully acquired by the institution which was recognized by the government in the Convention No. 001 of February 3, 1997.

“Our University has a legal personality registered by the Ministerial Order No. 89/11 of July 2, 2004 which was published in the official Gazette as a non-profit-making organization,” Ndamije’s letter read in part.

He explained that the Institution is not called Adventist University but rather- Universite Liaque Adventiste de Kigali (University of Lay-People of Kigali). Unilak, Ndamije said has never been supported by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

“To our best knowledge, there is no any contention between us and the Seventh-day Adventist Church with regard to the use of the word ‘Adventist’,” Ndamije said, adding that the Rector of AUCA had no legal authority to engage the Church in any legal dispute concerning the matter, whether at national, regional or International levels.
The issue of the trademark, Unilak argues, is specifically a legal matter and should not be addressed to the ministry of education or NCHE.

The eleven year old University also warned AUCA against undermining its capacity to render quality education.

The ministry of education dismissed reports which suggest that some Universities are working underground to undermine Unilak’s bid to acquire accreditation.

Last year, the NCHE warned that Institutions offering higher education but don’t meet minimum standards would be stopped from using the word ‘University’ in their names. In a letter dated September 11, 2007 to the concerned institutions, the NCHE said all institutions of higher learning without degree-awarding accreditation, should use names like “College of higher learning’ or other approved titles but not university.