19 January 2013

Rwanda: The Highs and Lows of Rugege's Reign At Higher Education Council

For many who cherished his 'touch of gold', the thought that he has left the public service is hard to take. But leaving he indeed has - Prof. Geoffrey Rugege is retired.

> Geoffrey Rugege was born in 1940. He studied Linguistics and obtained a Bachelor's degree from Makerere University, Kampala.

> He was the General Manager of Uganda publishing house.

He left Uganda for USA in 1976. Prior to comiHe handed over the office of the Executive Director of National Council for Higher education (NCHE) to his successor, Dr Innocent Mugisha, yesterday.

The Cabinet appointed Prof. Rugege to head the NCHE in 2008, taking over from Prof. Pamela Abbott.

In an exclusive interview with The Saturday Times, Prof. Rugege said his tenure was largely successful, although he admitted there are some areas that still need follow-up.

He said during his term, the council audited both public and private higher learning institutions.

When he assumed the NCHE leadership, there were seven public higher learning institutions in the Rwanda's university system. The council ensured that more than half of these were audited and the reports of their performance publicised.

NCHE also accredited tertiary institutions, with only two of the current 13 private higher learning institutions, still operating without accreditation. This, he said, was because they have not yet completed the cycle of accreditation.

The unaccredited institutions are operating on provisional licence; the definitive licence follows the provisional one after four years, a period for which the institution has to stay afloat to qualify for accreditation. The two institutions are the Catholic University of Rwanda and Kibogora Institute.

Strength of NCHE staff

When Rugege took over the Council, there were only 12 staff members, but today there are 23 staff, including professionals-who form the majority-and administrative office holders.

"The Council is in a stronger position now," A beaming Rugege said, adding that strengthening staff increased NCHE's capacity to monitor and carry out quality assurance.

He said under his term, the Council initiated a project of ranking Rwanda's higher learning institutions both, private and public, to make them as competitive as other universities in the world.

"We were in the process of ranking them to know where we are," Rugege said, adding that it will be followed up.

Two years ago, the government decided to build the University of Rwanda by merging seven public higher learning institutions-the institutions will become colleges, or specialised institutions.

"Establishing this university will improve academic quality and that university will be internationally recognised," he said.

Prof. Rugege advised his successor to dedicate special effort on fast-tracking the national university project so as to rationalise the public university system in the country.

The successor will also have to speed up the project of ranking higher learning institutions to check academic quality.

Prof. Rugege is optimistic that higher education in Rwanda is on course.

"Higher education in Rwanda is going to be recognised as one of the best in the world," he said.

The private higher learning institutions also appreciates Prof. Rugege's work.

The Rector of Institute of Agriculture, Technology and Education of Kibungo, Father Dominique Karekezi, said Rugege's contribution to education is priceless.

"Prof. Rugege strived to visit private higher learning institutions that were not accredited. His visits and advice led to accreditation of the institutions," Karekezi said, adding that Prof. Rugege was always accessible.

"Even if we came to him without appointment, Prof. Rugege would still receive us," the rector said.

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