Dr James Wilson Muwanga, the co-ordinator for postgraduate programmes at Makerere University’s School of Economics admits that there are persistent challenges occasioned by gaps between course content offered by universities and changing workplace needs.
He says that universities in East Africa have been growing their enrolment numbers, rolling out new courses and collecting more revenues, but employers keep grumbling over the quality of graduates, citing a poor work ethic, poor communication style and limited innovation skills.
Dr Muwanga says most universities in the region have introduced internship requirements for all undergraduate students to solve this problem.
“About 40 students on our academic programme have so far been placed on field attachment in the Ministry of Finance to enable them adjust to workplace needs early. Some technical experts from the ministry are also engaged in seasonal teaching at the university in order to strengthen professional competencies,” he says.
But failure to assess employers’ capacity to absorb all eligible students has triggered serious shortcomings, with some students unable to fulfil this requirement before graduation day.
Large enrolment numbers also mean that there is a quality assurance problem, even for Makerere University, which has a directorate in charge of this area.
“Whereas recent infrastructure investments by Makerere University have somewhat eased the problem of ageing structures, insufficient lecture room space experienced in some colleges and limited access to high quality and reputable international economics journals necessary for the research needed to complete coursework assignments has significantly affected students’ learning ability,” Dr Muwanga says.