Pay hike for university academics to improve quality

Lecturers at all six public universities in Uganda will have a salary increase of 53% effective from July. The pay hike is an effort by the government to improve higher education quality and skills development. But academics are not impressed.

The government allocated UGX50 billion (US$15 million) in the 2015-16 national budget, which pushed salaries for lecturers in public universities from UGX4.1 million (US$1,250) to UGX6.3 million (US$1,920) per month.

There are six public universities in the country, according to the Uganda National Council of Higher Education – Busitema, Gulu, Kyambogo, Makerere, Muni and Mbarara University of Science and Technology.

Although the universities had asked government to increase their salaries to comparable levels in the region, which would be UGX15 million (US$4,600) per month, this did not happen.

Last year, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni pledged to raise the gross salary of a university professor to UGX15 million a month, starting this financial year.

Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology, Sandy Stevens Tickodri-Togboa, told University World News that the process would be gradual but the full agreed amount would be paid. Universities should focus on their specialisations and avoid duplication of courses.

Dr Vincent Ssembatya, quality assurance manager at Makerere University, said that when the total increase for lecturers was achieved, it would ease expenditures a bit.

“We shall be able to allocate funds to traditional expenditures required for a university, like research,” said Ssembatya. According to university policy, it is supposed to allocate 3% of total resources generated internally to research – but this has not been done for many years.

Not enough to help

Although the salary rise is one way to keep lecturers at home, academics said it was just not enough to make much difference or stop them from moonlighting.

Professor Samson James Opolot, vice-chancellor of Ibanda University, said moonlighting on other jobs would not end because of a small increment in salary alone. “Salary aside, demand for high calibre staff forces many to moonlight because they are few.”

Opolot said that in reality the marginal pay rise might not change the situation much. “What difference do you expect UGX2.2 million (US$676) to really make in one’s life, especially when the prices of essentials also goes up? Maybe none at all.”

He continued: “I think academics only remain in teaching if that is what they want to do, otherwise if more competitive incomes are [offered] outside university some could opt out.”

Vincent Ssembatya also said the increase was below the benchmark for salaries in the East African region. Ugandan lecturers needed a 60% rise to reach Dar-es-Salaam academic pay, a 100% rise to reach Nairobi University standards and even more to get to University of Cape Town salary levels.

He said the pay rise may keep lecturers gravitating around and stop a mass exodus, but salary was just one of the issues influencing lecturers to stay and work at home and not relocate to another country.