Kampala — Uganda has got the first virtual university launched on Friday in a low key event. The university, where all courses will be taught online, is also the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The State Minister for Higher Education, Mr John Chrysostom Muyingo, presided over the ceremony held at the university's administration offices in Muyenga, a Kampala upscale suburb. He said: "This is a radical move away from the blended learning approach used in many distance learning programmes offered by Uganda's universities."
The university was officially launched by Prof. Michel Lejeune, chairman of the Board of Trustees, who later installed its first chancellor, Lady Justice Anglin Flavia Ssenoga. The chancellor then installed the vice chancellor, Dr Deirdre Carabine.
Virtual University of Uganda will offer its courses solely over the internet. Dr Carbine promised that they will do this "in a creative and challenging way to provide first-class education that can rival, and even surpass, the traditional full-time programme where one teacher stands in a classroom teaching one class, for one timetable hour."
Mr Muyingo, while noting that the university's teaching system is a Godsend for busy people who might not be able to attend physical classes, said a number of challenges have to be met if the model is to succeed in Uganda.
"It's novel in Uganda," he said, "and not properly understood or appreciated even by those who have regular access to the internet. The onus is not only on the university but the government as well to continue sensitising the public as well as ensuring high quality standards to soothe naysayers."
Dr Patrick Mangheni, who was installed as the chairman of the university's council, said a few years ago, a virtual university was unthinkable of in Uganda. But "in today's Uganda, the use of a USB dongle internet access and smart phones has made it possible for many of us to access a world of knowledge that was impossible in the past." However, previous initiatives to start such institutions have stalled due to unclear circumstances.
Virtual University of Uganda is operating on a provisional licence granted by the National Council for Higher Education in September, and will open on January 2. It will start with two postgraduate programmes; postgraduate diplomas in Public Health and International Development, which are upgradable to a masters degree upon submission of a dissertation.