The Rwandan Ministry of Education has temporarily suspended the operations of four universities and courses in six other universities as part of a strategy to deal with sub-standard educational offerings.
The move follows recommendations of an audit report on the quality of education in the higher learning institutions in the country, the findings of which indicated that the institutions in question had either inadequate staff or teaching facilities.
These institutions have been given six months to address the inadequacies and comply with the higher education requirements before they are allowed to resume normal operations.
Rwanda has 35 universities, two of which are public (the University of Rwanda and the Institute of Legal Practice and Development) and 33 of which are private.
A total of 16 universities, including those affected by suspensions, were issued with letters asking them to correct “irregularities” and comply with the ministry’s requirements.
Among those universities which have been told to suspend courses are two international universities: the Open University of Tanzania and the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology of Kenya.
The audit was carried out in all higher education institutions – public and private – in October last year by international external auditors.
The audit report is yet to be made public.
The four suspended universities are Rusizi International University, Sinhgad Technical Education Society-Rwanda, Mahatma Gandhi University and Nile Source Polytechnic of Applied Arts in Huye district.
Suspension of courses
The six other universities which have been told to suspend undergraduate courses include the University of Technology and Arts of Byumba, the Open University of Tanzania, the University of Gitwe, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Institut Catholique de Kabgayi and Institut d’Enseignement Superieur de Ruhengeri.
Some of the suspended courses include medicine and surgery, science in medical laboratory and technology, and nursing.
Rwanda’s Minister of Education Papias Musafiri said in a statement that the suspensions were intended to protect the interests of the public, particularly students.
“We will not compromise quality of education by individual interests at the expense of the students,” said Musafiri.
“Some of the key things the auditors were looking into are the qualifications of the lecturers, their availability to work, the university’s infrastructure, like how well the laboratories are equipped, among others,” said Musafiri.
The external auditors, hired from abroad, designed the audit in conjunction with higher learning institutions. The institutions conducted self-assessments ahead of the external audit.
However, not all institutions are satisfied with the outcome, with some universities protesting the ministry’s decision to suspend courses.
In a letter dated 16 March, Dr Jered Rugengande, vice-chancellor of the University of Gitwe, described the suspension as a “wrong decision” saying his university had fulfilled all requirements set by the ministry.
“In December last year, and again last month, we wrote to the Ministry of Education requesting to carry out an assessment on what we had done after the audit but it never happened and we were surprised by the decision to suspend those courses,” wrote Rugengande.
This is not the first time programmes have been suspended in Rwandan universities. In 2015, the Higher Education Council suspended five academic programmes, all related to health sciences, at Mount Kenya University and closed its Rusizi campus, as well as the University of Kigali’s Musanze campus.
Quality of higher education continues to be of concern in the country.
Last month, Rwandan senators asked the government to audit the country’s higher education system again, particularly with regard to issues such as poor infrastructure, lecturers’ qualifications and students’ welfare.
The senators said the country’s higher education still suffers from poor funding and low monitoring for quality assurance.
The senators recommended an increment of students’ living allowances for those studying on government loans. Lecturers in both public and private universities also need better support to carry out research, they said.
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