Universities that are messing up students by offering unapproved courses must be penalised and stopped. For now, only students enrolled on these bogus courses suffer the consequences of this perennial sickness in our universities. But the universities too must be sanctioned so they stop this dark practice.
First was Kyambogo University in 2014. Then, a report by the Auditor General to Parliament indicted Kyambogo for teaching only 21 recognised degree courses, leaving out a whopping 70 other courses as unaccredited.
Only yesterday, this newspaper again reported that Kampala International University (KIU) is teaching 13 illegal courses. For Busoga, the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) pinned it for lacking qualified staff, undertaking irregular admission of students, teaching unaccredited programmes, and graduating students who did not qualify.
But just how did these universities find themselves in this fix? Yet the accreditation body, NCHE executive director Prof John Opuda-Asibo, is categorical that courses are only fully accredited by NCHE, or not at all. Moreover, these universities are aware of mandatory accreditation visits, status, and period of review as required by NCHE. These disastrous missteps must only mean something is grossly wrong with our universities.
But what is crystal clear is that these repeat lapses are criminal negligence and abuse of public trust because the Universities and Other Tertiary institutions (Amendment) Act, 2006, compels universities to teach only approved or accredited courses by NCHE.
The lapses also imply the universities have no stamp of quality assurance from NCHE, which ensures accreditation as endorsement of quality assurance, and ensures course structure; content, staffing, teaching, learning environment, challenge, and assessment are audited and tested to meet set national benchmarks. These yardsticks would ensure students acquire highest benchmarked standards of education, improve their career prospects and give potential employers confidence.
But these lapses now cast doubts over the quality of oversight over our crumbling education system. They also question the reputation of our universities, the quality of our education and the competitiveness of graduates we offer for the common job market in East Africa and beyond.
For now, the job markets are unsure whether students churned out of our universities actually acquire highest standards of education that are nationally benchmarked.
In sum, the lapses risk rendering academic certificates awarded to our graduates as bogus and not fit for seeking employment or pursuing further studies here and abroad.