Government steps in to help private Catholic university

The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has acquired the Université Catholique de Bukavu (UCB) or the Catholic University of Bukavu, a move that will see the state covering all its expenses to fulfil its tasks.

The acquisition comes after the Catholic University of Bukavu repeatedly failed to execute some core managerial activities, such as paying academic and administration staff and sourcing the necessary equipment.

It has raised questions about the state of the private higher education sector, in particular since some church-owned institutions appear to be struggling. The private higher education sector is substantial. Of an estimated 600 higher education institutions in the DRC – 70% of them are private.

Negotiations between the government and the university started in March 2022 and the process has been ongoing, according to officials. The official announcement was made in September but, according to reports, the government has been covering the university’s costs since July this year.

The Catholic University of Bukavu, which opened in 1989, is one of the biggest private universities in the country with more than 10,000 students, according to figures from the institution.

It offers bachelor degrees in agriculture, law, medicine, economy and management, architecture, and social sciences, among others.

Government’s help welcomed

According to Kanigula Mubagwa, the rector of the Catholic University of Bukavu, the government’s acquisition will make the institution more stable and capable of fulfilling its mission of offering quality courses and conducting research which is impacting the communities.

“The acquisition is a positive move and will likely bring about positive changes and help us improve the way we offer services. We have been facing difficulties and failed to pay staff, which affected the quality of education,” he said.

“With the support from the government, the university will be able to run its business smoothly and take care of the staff; we expect that the quality will improve,” he added.

It is expected that arrears that have accumulated in the past will be covered and the tuition fees will be revised, according to the university management.

The collaboration agreement signed between the Minister of Higher and University Education, Muhindo Nzangi, and Archbishop François-Xavier Maroy, the chairman of the UCB board of directors, indicates that UCB would remain a private institution of a denominational nature, benefiting from state subsidies.

The government, according to the agreement, will offer a grant that is expected to help the university run its business.

According to the agreement, the government will have the responsibility to appoint the management committee of the Catholic University of Bukavu as well as its board of directors.