New Episcopal university to help meet growing HE demand

The Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan University Partnership, or ECSSSUP, is establishing a multi-campus university with a Christian ethos in a move aimed at meeting increasing demand for higher education in the country and improving quality.

To be called The Episcopal University or TEU, the institution will open next year to all students from South Sudan, Sudan, East Africa and beyond, regardless of race, gender or religion.

John Apuruot Akec, vice-chancellor of the University of Juba in South Sudan, told University World News the move was “good news for prospective students”. He said the church was “active in general education and would want to expand into tertiary education”.

"TEU will help meet the increasing demand for higher education in South Sudan and will increase competition and positively impact the quality of higher education," he said.

The ECSSSUP is a charity formed to offer professional guidance and advice in relation to establishing TEU and will assist with fundraising and raising the profile of the project through appropriate networks.

‘Desperate’ need for education

Championing the need for higher education the ECSSUP website states: "The country desperately needs doctors, nurses, trained teachers, engineers, agriculturalists, lawyers and business people who are committed to building a peaceful and prosperous nation."

A March 2016 concept paper for the project argues that a “high quality Church university is essential to closing the gap between demand and access".

The concept paper notes that in 2011 – when South Sudan gained independence from Sudan – "30,000 young people who were qualified for university entrance were not able to access places in South Sudan government universities due to the lack of capacity in existing institutions. Many of them developed anti-social behaviour and were targeted by the warlords for recruits as militia to promote the war."

Also, only three of South Sudan’s five state universities are currently operating and the other two have suspended teaching, owing to the outbreak of civil war in 2013.

Eeva John, chair of ECSSS University Partnership told University World News that the new university will be a multi-campus institution, with its constituent campuses formed from existing higher education colleges of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan.

"Four of the initial eight participating colleges located in Juba, Wau, Maridi and Renk plan to launch the foundation year of diploma and BA programmes within the next 12 months," John said.

"Over time, as the other participating institutions fulfil appropriate criteria and reach the required academic and organisational standards, they will join the university … Some colleges have been prevented from doing so solely because of insecurity issues where they are located."

Safety and security

Safety and security are an ongoing concern in South Sudan, and is also a concern for any new university.

"Naturally the key challenges are the insecurity of the country and the unstable economy," John said. "However, the university is being built from existing institutions with highly motivated staff who are determined to make the new university a reality."

He said the university is seeking seed funding from organisations and institutions as well as private entities.

"In the medium term the goal is to become self-sustaining through students’ fees and investment," John said.

TEU will teach degree programmes designed to increase and equip students with knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes sufficient to enable them to address the social growth and development needs of South Sudan and Sudan.

A five-year plan for the establishment of The Episcopal University includes the launch of the university in the academic year of 2017 and ends in 2022 with an intake of doctoral students. The fifth year also coincides with the final year for professional qualifications as well as the launch of an applied research/consultancy programme.

"If the University of ECSSS is to succeed and become a major contributor to the economic and other aspects of the development in South Sudan, it must develop very high quality teaching and learning standards, and effect the transformations necessary to become an outstanding research-driven institution," the concept paper concludes.