University of Malawi delinking finally accomplished

The delinking of Malawi’s oldest institution of higher learning, the University of Malawi, into three separate universities has been accomplished, 11 years after former president Bingu wa Mutharika mooted the idea to the university council in 2009.

Mutharika only managed to delink or unbundle Bunda College in 2011 to create Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) before his death in 2012 and his successor, president Joyce Banda, shelved the process.

But another past-president, Peter Mutharika, who succeeded Banda, rekindled the idea, which the current administration, under President Lazarus Chakwera, has now concluded.

The Malawi Ministry of Education has gazetted 4 May 2021 to be the commencement date for Acts of Parliament Nos 18, 19 and 20 of 2019, that established the three new universities, namely: a reconstituted University of Malawi (UNIMA), the Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences, and Kamuzu University of Health Sciences, respectively, through Government Notice Nos 27, 28, and 29 of 2021 published in the Malawi Gazette Supplement dated 26 April 2021.

Transition unit set up

Ahead of the creation of the three de-linked universities, the ministry of education has established a transition unit headed by LUANAR’s Professor Emmanuel Kaunda.

Other members include LUANAR Registrar Dr Phillip Kaonda, LUANAR’s Dr Tasokwa Kakota-Chibowa, UNIMA’s Associate Professor Asiyati Lorraine Chiweza, former College of Medicine principal Dr MacPhail Magwira, who headed the first UNIMA delinking committee set up by Mutharika, and the government’s Director of Higher Education Dr Levis Keliyasi Eneya.

The transition unit also has a secretariat composed of UNIMA staff with UNIMA Registrar Dr Benedicto Wokomaatani Malunga as the coordinator.

The Malawi Ministry of Education’s Acting Secretary for Education, Raphael Agabu, said the unit started its work on 15 April 2021 and has since met with management teams from all the four UNIMA colleges, the UNIMA council, staff unions, student unions from all the UNIMA colleges, the Parents Association for UNIMA Students, the National Council for Higher Education, and the Higher Education Students Loans and Grants Board.

“From 4 May to 31 December 2021, the transition unit will be working with the ministry of education and councils of the three universities to ensure that all requirements for an optimal transition takes place as outlined in the 2018 report by the task force on delinking of UNIMA constituent colleges,” explained Agabu.

The 2021-22 admission for the three universities has since commenced separately by the three universities with their new codes for courses under the Malawi Polytechnic, the College of Medicine and Kamuzu College of Nursing harmonised by the National Council for Higher Education.

Maintain standards

Meanwhile, the last graduation ceremony for UNIMA with its four constituent colleges was held on April 28 at the university’s Great Hall in Zomba.

President Lazarus Chakwera, who presided over the ceremony as UNIMA’s chancellor, warned the created three universities on the need to maintain high standards.

“Although it has been the subject of debate lately, I am happy to hear that it has finally been scheduled to commence next Tuesday [4 May],”he said.

“But we should not get carried away by the euphoria this causes, because making the three new universities operate at the highest standards of education will require sacrifice from all stakeholders.

“It is one thing to desire being a university of your own, but it is quite another to be a university whose degrees are worth more than the paper they are printed on. The ball is in your court,” said the Malawi leader.