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UGANDA
Up to 88 Makerere staff face degree forgery prosecution

Up to 88 people at Makerere University, one of Africa’s most prestigious universities, have been apprehended for possible prosecution over the alteration of student marks in an investigation that is expected to see the withdrawal of some of the university’s law degrees dating back to 2011.

A preliminary report, not yet available to the public, compiled by an investigation committee, has raised the possibility of marks being altered at senate level – after submissions by lecturers and college or school registrars.

In a letter dated 7 September from Makerere University’s Academic Registrar Alfred Masikye to the university’s Chief Security Officer, Johnson Macunguzi, the registrar requests the apprehension for prosecution, in liaison with the director for legal affairs, of those involved in the alteration of marks on the Results Management System.

“You are requested to make progressive reports on the action taken on each of the listed people within a period of one month,” said Masikye in the letter seen by University World News.

The development comes days after Makerere University announced that it will recall law degrees awarded irregularly to students over the past decade amid claims of forged and altered results.

Audit

The university is in the process of undertaking a comprehensive audit of the marks of students who graduated from 2011 with a view to recalling those degrees illegally awarded.

Makerere University Vice-Chancellor Barnabas Nawangwe told University World News that the university is investigating the people suspected to have changed the results.

“There are some people who have been identified to be responsible for tampering with the results system and they are being pursued for investigation and the students’ degrees have been withheld,” said Nawangwe.

“The suspected staff have already been suspended and security measures are now in place to ensure that this does not occur again.”

An audit committee began its work last November after the Senate, the institution’s highest academic body, discovered that forgery of results was a “widespread problem”.

Back to 2011

The senate ordered an investigation in all colleges and schools to verify the marks of all students who had graduated since 2011 to ascertain the authenticity of their results and class of degrees awarded.

The investigation committee is led by Dr Damalie Naggitta-Musoke, the former dean of the university’s School of Law.

“The audit will compare questionable degrees with students' result papers and exam results submitted by lecturers and colleges to their deans from 2011. It will also look at the academic registrar's records,” said Nawangwe.

The process will include the cross-checking of the academic registrar’s entries against scores on examination scripts, the marks sent by lecturers to the school or college examination board and the published semester-by-semester results of each student.

It is unclear how long the exercise will take, but Nawangwe said the aim is to ensure sanity at the university and to restore the integrity of the academic awards of the country’s largest and oldest public university.

“Forgery is a widespread problem. Nobody will graduate with forged results,” said Nawangwe.

Nawangwe, who took office this month as the university’s new vice-chancellor, vowed in an interview with University World News a few months ago to position the Ugandan university as the leading institution for academic excellence and innovation in Africa.

He has also vowed to deal with any staff involved in asking for sex in exchange for marks.

Preliminary report

A preliminary report by the investigation committee that is not yet available to the public found a mismatch between results submitted by colleges and schools and final scores released by the academic registrar, which prompted the university to stretch the investigation to cover the past years.

The preliminary report also raised the possibility of marks being altered at senate level – after submissions by lecturers and college or school registrars.

For other colleges like the School of Law, results awarded even a decade ago are being reviewed.

Repeated complaints

Complaints of altered marks at Makerere University have emerged over the past decade, especially at graduation time.

About 600 students from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences were removed from the graduation list in 2014 after it became clear that their marks were lower than the pass mark for their courses.

In February last year up to 50 graduands were removed from the graduation booklet. The university also withheld transcripts of thousands more out of the 14,000 who graduated, pending verification of their results. This led to the suspension of six staff in the office of the academic registrar. The six are still under police investigation.

In March this year the university was forced to close the online marks system used to record students' examinations scores, and suspended the issuance of academic transcripts.

Foreign students

The current audit is likely to affect foreign students from neighbouring countries, including Kenya.

Last year, the Kenya Council of Legal Education stopped the admission of law students from East Africa, mostly from Makerere University, to the Kenya School of Law after a procedural error in the admission of foreigners to the school was discovered.

Following the new developments, the Kenya Council of Legal Education, through its chief executive, W Kulundu-Bitonye, has directed law graduates from Makerere University due to sit for their November bar examinations to have their documents certified by Makerere to enable them to sit the exam.

“The students have until September 29 to submit certified documents,” said Kulundu-Bitonye in a public notice issued on 13 September.

“The graduates must furnish the council with copies of degree certificates and transcripts, certified or verified by Makerere University as genuine, failing which the candidates will be considered ineligible to take the bar examination.”

Makerere University is one of the oldest and largest universities in Africa, founded in 1922. It accounts for 60% of all university enrolments in Uganda, 90% of graduate training and 80% of professional degree enrolment. It is the largest research institution in Uganda and accounts for 90% of research publications.

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