University unbundling to create four institutions

President Peter Mutharika has approved the splitting of the University of Malawi’s four constituent colleges into separate institutions – a move first mooted more than a decade ago.

The unbundling will see the four colleges – Chancellor College, College of Medicine, the Polytechnic, and Kamuzu College of Nursing – operate as stand-alone entities. The move follows a prolonged strike by lecturers at Chancellor College earlier this year over what they alleged were pay discrepancies between themselves and staff at other constituent colleges. The strike closed the institution for months.

It is not yet clear if four or three separate universities will emerge from the unbundling. Some local media reports suggest that the College of Medicine and the Kamuzu College of Nursing may yet be merged into one university.

In a press statement, University of Malawi Council Chairman Dr James Maida said an independent task force is being constituted to oversee the unbundling process.

He said until the process is finalised, the university would continue working as one entity.

“The Council of the University of Malawi in exercise of powers as provided in section 10 of the University of Malawi Act has resolved that the College of Medicine, Kamuzu College of Nursing and the Polytechnic be delinked from the University of Malawi,” said Maida.

This was revealed during an extraordinary meeting held on 10 July 2017. In a statement, the council states that its resolution has been endorsed by the Chancellor of the University of Malawi, His Excellency the President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika.

In 2012, another college that was part of the University of Malawi, Bunda College, became independent of the university and was turned into the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Professor George Kanyama Phiri, vice-chancellor of the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, was quoted in Malawian newspapers as saying the process to unbundle may take 10 years.

He said this was based on the example of Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources – formerly Bunda College of Agriculture – which delinked from the university and merged with Natural Resources College.

Phiri said if the University of Malawi is successfully unbundled, it would make the constituent colleges more efficient and less bureaucratic than is now the case.

He said Chancellor College should remain as the major campus of the University of Malawi.

“A degree of autonomy will allow colleges to make independent decisions faster than is the case now,” he said.

Phiri said all the University of Malawi colleges already have a critical mass of professors.

Critics of the unbundling argue it will mean the colleges will be spending more money as there will be more vice-chancellorships and other positions to fill.