The Tanzania Commission for Universities, or TCU, has finally acted against a branch campus of Uganda’s Kampala International University, ordering the Dar es Salaam-based institution to stop offering masters and doctoral courses.
This came after a lengthy outcry against the institution, which had been accused of mediocre administration and academic quality but had enjoyed operational tranquillity rarely experienced by its main campus in Uganda or branch campus in Kenya.
The commission said that the decision had been taken because Kampala International University, or KIU, did not meet the requirements for offering courses at postgraduate level, but it could continue providing recognised undergraduate degree, diploma and other courses.
“The college lacks qualified teachers for the programmes,” said the commission’s Executive Secretary Professor Sifuni Mchome, adding: “Despite the fact that KIU is an institution registered by TCU to offer graduate and diploma programmes in Tanzania, it does not meet the conditions that enable it to offer postgraduate courses.
“We therefore order the institution to stop immediately offering such courses.”
The TCU warned that if the university continued to offer postgraduate programmes, the commission would not accredit the qualifications of graduates.
The commission advised the university to work with students to facilitate their smooth transfer to other institutions so they could continue their studies.
There have been claims of malpractices at KIU for years, with students protesting against lack of qualified teachers and fees charged in US dollars.
Early this year, there were protests involving lecturers after they were allegedly sacked without following due process. The university is facing court action after sacking 40 employees who are members of the Research, Academic and Allied Workers’ Union, its Eastern Zonal Secretary Joseph Sayo told local media last December.
There have also been accusations that the TCU had failed to take appropriate action against the university because the law did not allow it to police universities but simply to advise institutions to adhere to rules and regulations.
One disgruntled lecturer, who did not want to be named, told University World News that KIU was “in a big mess” but its administration was merely licking the wounds, not treating them.
“TCU ordered the institution to amicably sort out the expelled students and sacked lecturers issue, but due to the impunity the institution enjoys here, it did nothing and no action has been taken by TCU. The lecturer claimed that students had been accused of crimes they did not commit, to enable the university to throw them out.
KIU has been operating under a provisional licence, which is why offering of PhD courses had been questioned by education stakeholders.
On its website, the institution boasts of being an international university with modern facilities and academic excellence.
But in Kenya, which is a member of the East African Community, the universities commission recently nullified KIU’s degree certificates, citing its decision to offer PhD courses when it did not have the required capacity and investigations that had found the institution wanting in several spheres.
The National Council for Higher Education of Uganda has also stopped KIU from awarding PhDs until the programmes were verified. New Vision of Uganda reported that the PhD students were about to graduate when the council said the institution did not have the capacity to award the degrees.
According to officials, 30 of the 42 postgraduate degrees to be awarded were for Kenyan students – whose universities commissions also does not recognise the qualifications. Some of the PhD aspirants had been motivated by the Kenya March election; they reportedly wanted to strengthen their CVs as highly qualified election candidates, but this was prevented at the eleventh hour.
The university responds
In an interview with University World News, KIU in Tanzania’s Director of Admissions George Kaningwa, and Director of Marketing Nassara Nzwalla insisted that the allegations against their institution were unjustified or had been misinterpreted by the public.
“Well, they halted the Kampala graduation but all that was just an allegation that never materialised,” Kaningwa said.
Asked about what contribution the institution could make to international education when its credibility in offering postgraduate degrees was being questioned by monitoring institutions in East Africa – and especially in its home country of Uganda – Kaningwa refuted the Kampala KIU hiccups, calling them “misplaced allegations”.
He said he could not comment on the situation in Kenya, as the law governing higher education was different there.
“We are recognised everywhere around the world, my dear friend. Our students can work anywhere, but as to why our degrees were nullified in Nairobi, I have no answers,” Nzwalla, the marketing director, asserted.
Kaningwa admitted that the university had some flaws, but said progress was being made in the transformation process. “Like any other institution in the country, we also have our challenges but we are working on them.”
Efforts to reach the college principal and human resources manager about claims that the university favours foreign over local teaching staff, did not succeed. I was told that the principal had requested that I come “some other day” as she was in a meeting.
These allegations of discontent are pegged on salaries and incentives that are alleged to be a reason for inadequate academic standards.
Criticisms of regulation
Academic experts have argued that the TCU’s policy of non-intervention until matters appear to be spiralling out of control could be a loophole for higher education institutions to operate with impunity.
In November an official delegation, including TCU Executive Secretary Professor Sifuni Mchome, visited the university when it was facing discontent among staff and students.
The delegation ordered KIU to submit a report by the end of December, addressing a number of problematic areas. Local media reported that a report had not been submitted but that a delegation from the university had visited education officials.
Established in 2005 by the Universities Act, the TCU is mandated to conduct periodic evaluations of universities, and their systems and programmes, and oversee quality assurance.
KIU is a chartered private university in Uganda and established a presence in Kenya and Tanzania through its branch campuses. It began as an open and distance learning centre but now offers certificates, diplomas and degrees in the fields of management, education, social sciences, pure sciences and law.
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