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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Expedite one varsity bill - minister

The Minister of  Education, Dr. Vincent Biruta has requested parliament to treat the bill that seeks to merge government-run universities as a matter of urgency.

Appearing before the House this week, Biruta said, if the bill is passed quickly, students and staff at the seven public universities will start the new academic year under a new setting.

Under the University of Rwanda, the traditional universities will change to colleges or schools.

The next academic year begins September 2013.

In the proposed structure, the University of Rwanda will be comprised of colleges, schools and departments not faculties as the case currently.

Biruta said the merger intends to ensure activities and attributions of higher institutions of learning are accomplished.

“One average the student population at these universities is 32 000…this is too small…we also need to remove duplication of programmes,” the minister added.

After the new university is created, the education minister shall cease to be the chancellor at the public university as the new institution shall have autonomy to appoint a chancellor of its choice.

Some lawmakers expressed anxiety over the merger saying it is likely to make the created university become like any other government department.

That the proposed law should give the university a good degree of autonomy.

“We merged government departments…what guarantee are you giving that we are not going to have issues like we had with Rwanda Development Board?” Emmanuel Gatera asked without elaborating what problems were encountered at RDB.

Emmanuel Mudidi who served as education minister and rector KIE said;

“What is being done is not new.  We had University of East Africa with colleges in member countries and it was doing very well,” he said.

However, he noted with concern that university teaching staff need to be regulated by a different law not the current public service act.

A university don who preferred not to be named said, “I think our universities are still young and they need time to grow and compete. The merger will not allow this to happen.”

“If we talk of colleges, we mean specialised colleges; say a college of medicine, agriculture…not geographical colleges,” Biruta told The New Times.

He said that specifically, the University of Rwanda will ensure the quality and relevance of undergraduate programmes; accelerate the development of post-graduate studies and achieve financial sustainability.

Public universities depend largely on government grants for their operational and development budget.

Some of the universities to be merged include NUR, Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, School of Finance and Banking, Umutara Polytechnic, the ISAE, Kigali Institute of Education and  Kigali Institute of Health among others.

The New Times

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