Rwanda's public higher learning education would count no more than one multi-campus university soon if the ongoing project to merge all public higher learning institutions gets processed fast.
The Minister of Education Dr Vincent Biruta recently told lawmakers that the project to merge seven higher-learning institutions into University of Rwanda (UR) would be implemented starting with the next academic year of 2013/14 if the bill gets passed in time.
Biruta explained that the idea behind it is to ensure better quality of education and proper management of human and capital resources.
"It's to transform the country's higher education by increasing assets, promoting equity, ensuring quality of education and building infrastructure of high quality," the Minister told university students last Tuesday while officiating the graduation ceremony at the National University of Rwanda (NUR).
The merger of the institutions would follow several government departments that have also been merged in the recent past to form stronger bodies such as the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) and the Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) among others.
UR would be made of the fusion of seven higher learning institutions - NUR, KIST, KIE, ISAE, SFB, Umutara Polytechnic and KHI - including other schools affiliated to these institutions. Together, they host about 32,000 students; an average that the minister says is normal at big universities across the world. This population makes an average of 25 students per lecturer though accommodation remains insufficient.
Currently, some institutions such as NUR offer a diversity of courses in different specializations and the same courses can be found in other institutions; this will no longer be the same case with the new setting.
According to the project, the current institutions would be turned into six specialized colleges that will be operating under the single university. "If we talk of colleges, we mean specialized colleges: say a college of medicine, agriculture... not geographical colleges," the Minister explained.
The UR will get another chancellor rather than the minister of education as it is provided in the current setting. Though the chancellor will be the overall leader, the actual management will be held by the vice chancellor who will be assisted by three deputies.
The project provides that the headquarter will be based in Kigali, but this will only be an administrative office rather than being on a campus as usual. Therefore, principals will be heading the colleges.
The colleges will be comprised of schools and departments whose responsibilities will be held by deans and heads of departments respectively. However, there will not be faculties.
Though the new setting is expected to take Rwanda's tertiary education to another level, some remain skeptical about what it will really bring about. But the education ministry remains optimistic that the merger will facilitate a suitable management.
"One of the advantages of merging higher learning institutions will be the efficient use of the available equipment and human resources," the Minister observed, adding that the single university will help to improve its standing on the global ranking of universities by Unesco.
Stakeholders also say the idea is good. Prof Silas Lwakabamba, the rector of the National University of Rwanda, said it will facilitate better coordination.
"It will ensure better coordination of our programs, human resources, and infrastructure and so on and everyone will stand to benefit," he observed.
If the bill gets passed, Rwanda would be among the first countries to make such a move in the region.