All universities and other tertiary institutions across the country must have their programmes accredited by the National Council for Higher Edu- cation (NCHE), which regulates the sector. According to the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act,as sector regulator, the NCHE is the custodian of course content, guiding and assessing institutions’ability to teach a given programme.
Among the NCHE’s guidelines is a stipulation that academic institutions falling under its purview must review accredited programmes every five years for undergraduate study and roughly every ten years for the graduate level.
The review process can be expensive, time-consuming and complicated, taking about three months for proactive institutions and up to a year for those with a slower pace, as indicated in findings by education experts from NCHE and universities.
Dr Vincent Ssembatya, the director for Quality Assurance at NCHE, said that at the Institutions’ level, managers initiate the review process by convening depart- ment meetings led by curricula experts. He explained that review experts engage with stakeholders, including industry professionals and alumni, to gather feedback on the desired qualities of graduates in the job market – which pointers partly inform evaluation of existing courses.
The Vice Chancellor of Kampala International University, Prof Mouhamad Mpezamihigo told Daily Monitor yesterday that KIU employs special task committees at college,faculty and schools levels who head academic programme reviews.
According to him, these committees collaborate with professional bodies to address specific industry needs. They also gather input from alumni and current students to understand post-graduation experiences and student needs. After incorporating feedback from stakeholders, experts at the institutional level make necessary adjustments to course units within specific departments.
Once programmes have been reviewed internally at a given academic institution (going through heads of schools and colleges and quality assurance departments) before final submission to the university’s Senate. The highest decision-making bodies within universities, known as University Councils,also play a role in reviewing the curriculum before it is finally presented to NCHE for approval and accreditation/ re-accreditation.
At NCHE, Dr Ssembatya explained that the review process consists of two main procedures. First, a team of experts is hired to assess what was submitted by institutions to ensure they meet minimum
standards. Second, facility verification is conducted through on-site visits, primarily for science programmes that require specialised infrastructure like laboratories nd adequate teaching facilities (hospitals for those offering human medicine education).
Dr Ssembatya explained that for most of the humanities and social sciences programme site verification is not absolutely required,with the exception being made for Law, Journalism, and Education programmes which will need visits to establish institutional adequacy.
If the Council establishes that the submitted programmes are not to their satisfaction, they issue referrals, advising an institution to tie up the loose ends. Where site visits are not deemed necessary, Dr Ssembatya said a programme can be checked and accredited by NCHE within only two weeks. Other programmes can take two to three months before they are cleared, he said.