University of Rwanda brushes off criticism over proposed reforms

Tuesday September 26 2017

The University of Rwanda’s Huye campus. The

The University of Rwanda’s Huye campus. The High Education Council has criticised proposed structural and academic reforms by the institution. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

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The University of Rwanda (UR), says it will press ahead with its structural and academic reforms despite criticism by the Rwanda High Education Council (HEC), which says it was not consulted prior to implementation.

In its defence, the university said the proposed reforms conform to the provisions of the law and were aimed at harmonisation of programmes and cost rationalisation.

Speaking to Rwanda Today, Charles Muligande UR’s deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of institutional advancement said that concerns from HEC were misplaced since the university had not contravened any legal procedure.

“I think there has been some misunderstanding over HEC’s statement; it does not say that the restructuring was not in conformity with the law. What it means is that before full implementation, HEC had to give its opinion,” he said.

New structure

After the announcement of a new structure that merged campuses and revised some academic programmes two weeks ago, HEC wrote a letter telling the university to halt the reforms until the council advices on the way forward.

In the September 14, letter, HEC’s executive director Emmanuel Muvunyi said the proposed reforms had not been submitted to the council for review.

“In line with the above legal provisions, UR is advised to submit their proposed changes to the Higher Education Council for review and decision,” the letter reads in part.

But, this was denied by Dr Muligande who said the new structures conformed to the rules and procedures and that the HEC board had been engaged on more than three occasions over the matter.

“Throughout the rethinking of the structures, HEC was involved and consulted. I can cite specific instances of involvement and we even tabled the restructuring proposals to the inter-ministerial co-ordination committee,” said Dr Muligande.

He however said the university was still required to formally submit the proposals for final approval, which would be done before the start of the next academic year slated for October 9. Reforms in conflict with current laws.

Dismissed suggestions

Dr Muligande also dismissed suggestions that the reforms were in contravention of the current law governing the organisation and functions of the University, which require that changes of names and campuses only happen when the entire law is amended.

He argued that while the current law governing the university was under amendment, the higher education law gave their institution flexibility and room to apply changes before the new law is enacted.
“There is a new higher education law, promulgated in February, which gives the governing body of the university powers to either merge colleges, increase numbers of colleges or  relocate them but not later than February 2019,” said Dr Muligande.

“What is needed now is to amend the current law within two years. I can tell you that the process of amending the same law is ongoing and the draft law is awaiting confirmation by the Cabinet, before it goes to parliament,” he added.

The new restructure, as seen from a notice signed by the University’ vice chancellor Philip Cotton, would see mergers of different schools, programmes and more colleges, effective October 9.

The university is set to have seven campuses under five colleges, which will house schools with similar programmes.

Dr Muligande said the new reforms were necessary and aimed to avoid the duplication of programmes, which had lingered for four years after the first merger of the seven public universities.

“The 2013 merger saw elimination of some duplication, but some remain even today and are leading to wastage of resources, which led the government to undertake second reforms,” he said.

Oscar Bahizi, the head of Rwanda Institute of Co-operative, Entrepreneurship and Microfinance said the proposed restructuring was a disruption on academic staff and students.

“There is a need for stability, because such inconsistent changes affect service delivery at the institution,” said Mr Bahizi.