|Symposium on Higher Education in Uganda|
|Thursday, 09 April 2015 09:17|
A recent symposium on higher education in Uganda focussed on how to bridge the gap between policy and research. The symposium laid the groundwork for strengthening the relationship between research institutions, particularly universities, and policymakers and influencers. It provided an opportunity for senior delegates from universities and the Ugandan government to reflect on the challenges facing both sectors.
It’s an exciting time in Ugandan education. With the Ministry of Education and Sports incorporating Science and Technology into its domain, there is no shortage of issues that need to be addressed. The symposium was convened by the Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES) and the Uganda National Council on Science and Technology (UNCST), and opened by Professor John Opuda-Asibo, Executive Director for the National Council for Higher Education, who challenged the audience by stating, ‘No nation is better than its education system’. He urged the audience to think about the present state of education in Uganda and the areas that should be addressed in Ugandan higher education.
His comments set the stage for a presentation on the quality of education in Uganda by Dr Vincent Ssembatya, Director of Quality Assurance at Makerere University, in a session chaired by Professor Pamela Mbabazi, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Mbarara University of Science and Technology. Discussants Professor Joseph Oonyu (Makerere University School of Education), and Professor Eriabu Lugujjo (Vice Chancellor, Ndejje University) highlighted the importance of early childhood education. However, as Professor Oonyu noted, all too often, primary and secondary education are thought of as separate from higher education, which is problematic in the education lifecycle.
Research in the Policy Environment
Dr Kedrace Turyagenda, Commissioner for the Directorate of Education Standards at the Ministry of Education and Sport (MOES,) opened the afternoon session with a presentation on ‘Enhancing the Use of Research Evidence in Higher Education Policy-making in Uganda: Concrete Proposals and Recommendations’. Dr Turyagenda reminded participants that traditionally the function of universities has been on teaching and academic research but in today’s modern society they have a broader, developmental and societal role to play. In looking to the future, universities can address these new challenges by providing robust, researched evidence to influence policy.
Barriers to knowledge transmission
Dr Turyagenda provided a situational analysis of the barriers between higher education and government that prevent knowledge transmission, highlighting that formal links between the higher education system and policymakers do exist to coordinate research but need to be stronger. She noted that funding for research is inadequate and that much of the research output in Uganda is either academic in nature or if it is donor-led may not be pertinent, none of which necessarily encourages dialogue to influence policy making.
Dr Turyagenda made some suggestions for consideration by delegates about how to strengthen the formal links between government and universities to strengthen transmission of science and technology for societal benefit. For example she suggested that higher education institutions do more to develop incubation centres to support local innovation, and think tanks to nurture research ideas. She also recommended the development of formalised links between universities and government.
Discussants Mrs Elizabeth Gabona, Director of Higher, Technical, Vocational Training and Education within the MOES, and Professor Lugujjo of Ndejje University emphasised the need for better interfaces between universities and government institutions, noting that universities can make valuable contributions to policy.
Mr Arnold Dhatemwa, the Commissioner on Education Policy and Planning of the MOES, emphasises the most critical recommendations from Dr Turyagenda’s presentation that the Ministry sees as a priority to take forward. These include the creation of a one-stop-centre for research coordination and harmonisation of the quality assurance framework for the entire education system.
Hannah Halder is a Project Coordinator, DRUSSA at the ACU
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