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In duping students, Fairland University is not alone

By YAHYA SSEREMBA

The National Council for Higher Education has cancelled the license of Fairland University for operating far below the minimum standard of an institution of higher learning.

The Council said that the institution, on top of lacking lecturers and basic infrastructure, had stubbornly persisted in teaching unaccredited courses, opened up unauthorized study centers and submitted forged audited accounts to the body.  

The Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act (2001) empowers the Council to “certify that an institution of Higher Education has adequate and accessible physical structures and staff” and to “take appropriate action” should the institution fall short of these.

The 12-year-old Jinja-based University ranks number seven on The Campus Journal’s 2010 list of Uganda’s 10 worst universities. It says it has one computer for every 19 of its 600 students, but the ratio could be worse.

Top on the worst universities list is Muteesa I Royal University, which conducts lectures under trees and makeshift tents. Once asked by students why the university had no textbooks, the Vice Chancellor answered that “procurement of the relevant textbooks is a lengthy process.”

Other universities that featured notoriously on the list include Kampala International University, whose certificates are not recognized by the Kenyan government, and Uganda Pentecostal University.

Whereas these and many other institutions of higher learning are universities only in name, it is not clear why the Council singled out Fairland University for action.

The Council turned a blind eye as Makerere University duplicated academic programmes and taught unaccredited courses for many years. For instance, Makerere “poached” course units from the Faculty of Technology and combined them with others from Arts to form an intelligible B.A. Urban Planning.

It is this same fraudulent mechanism that gave birth to B.A. Environment Management, M.A. Refugee Law and Forced Migration, M.A. Peace and Conflict Resolution, among others. For quite long Uganda’s leading university fed thousands of students on such bogus programmes.

Whereas Makerere later regained its senses and phased out these concocted courses, many other universities that had followed its example of forgery have continued to teach the programmes.

The persistence of such practices suggests that the Council has failed in its role of protecting unsuspecting students from exploitation.