Last month, Education Minister Dr. Vincent Biruta presented in Parliament a proposal to establish the University of Rwanda (UR) which would combine the nation’s seven public institutions of higher learning into a single school. If the bill passes soon enough, the new measure could be implemented as soon as the 2013/2014 academic year.
Mr. Biruta explained, “It will not only ensure the proper management of human and capital resources, but also our higher learning institution’s quality of education will become more competitive at national, regional and international level.”
There are only seven public higher learning institutes in Rwanda, not counting a state-run rehabilitation center run on an island prison. The total student count of the new university will likely be 32,000 students. The proposal envisions six sub-schools within the university: sciences and technology, agriculture and veterinary sciences, medicine and health sciences, education and e-learning, arts and social sciences, and economics and management sciences.
Many are still unsure of the consequences of such a measure. Could the unification block out potential students who would have earned degrees if they had been able to commute to a regional school?
One of the purported benefits is economic: such an institution would save money and allow efficient sharing of resources. However, this seems to ignore the rising cost of housing and administration. The government has already planned on adding new departments to oversee the larger institution. Additionally, local economies could be put at risk when smaller institutions close their doors.
One article notes that the diversity of course offerings could be harmed by the rising pressures of uniformity and regulation under the larger institution.
Prof. Geoffrey Rugege, the Executive Director of the Higher Education Council, spoke to the advantages of the new university in an interview with the New Times, saying, “The way people see you is very important to the impact you will make in society. So what we want to make is a highly regarded institution than [sic] all the other small institutions individually. That is the sort of principle that says that the sum is greater than the parts. So, if we have this big institution that has over 40.000 students, other people outside Rwanda will regard it as much stronger than the individual universities. If you take KIST (Kigali Institute of Science and Technology) for example that teaches science and technology, and NUR (National University of Rwanda) that teaches sciences too, you are duplicating resources.”
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