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NCHE now confirms: UCU nurse courses not okayed

Prof John Opuda-Asibo

‘NCHE awaits the final copy of the curriculum from UCU for forwarding to UNMC (Uganda Nurses and Midwives Council), which will then be followed by the inspection of physical facilities.’ Prof Opuda-Asibo

In a complete turnaround from its earlier position, the National Council for Higher Education has conceded that it has not yet accredited the nursing academic programmes at Uganda Christian University (UCU).

The latest correspondences obtained by The Observer reveal how Prof John Opuda-Asibo, the executive director of NCHE, discloses that the three nursing programmes at UCU are undergoing a review process by NCHE before they are accredited as required by the law. NCHE is the standards watchdog for universities and other tertiary institutions in the country.

Prof Opuda-Asibo’s concession is contained in a September 5 letter to Isaac Ssemakadde of Centre for Legal Aid (CLA). The law firm is representing former and some current students of UCU who are seeking legal redress against the university.

The students accuse UCU of admitting them on an academic programme that was not accredited, and at the time of their admission they did not have the minimum requirements set by the regulator.

“NCHE awaits the final copy of the curriculum from UCU for forwarding to UNMC [Uganda Nurses and Midwives Council], which will then be followed by the inspection of physical facilities,” wrote Prof Opuda-Asibo.

Last month, The Observer broke the story about the refusal by UNMC, the statutory body which regulates nursing and midwifery, to register students from four universities because they had not met the minimum qualifications on admission to the institutions.

An investigation by The Observer found that the students were admitted for bachelor of nursing degrees at the four institutions despite not passing the key principal subjects of chemistry and biology at A-level as required by NCHE standards.
 
SHIFTING POSITIONS

The four universities are UCU, Bishop Stuart University, Kampala International University and International Health Sciences University. During a November 16, 2015 meeting involving NCHE, UNMC and leaders of the affected universities offering BSC nursing programmes, all parties acknowledged that the universities started to admit students on the programme that was not accredited.

However, subsequent discussions between NCHE and UNMC saw a shift from the earlier position. In letters written by John Wakida, the registrar of UNMC on February 23 and June 16, he told NCHE to supply it with proof of accreditation of the nursing programmes in the said universities.

But on July 5, Prof Opuda-Asibo wrote back to UNMC saying that the said universities were accorded blanket accreditation in December 2015. In a letter dated August 30, Centre for Law Aid pressed NCHE to confirm the blanket accreditation position. This prompted NCHE to make another U-turn from its position about blanket accreditation.

In his September 5 letter, Prof Opuda-Asibo wrote that the nursing curriculum at UCU has undergone several reviews.

“The final review was completed in December 2015 and UCU has since received the assessment reports as per attached programmes review status form,” reads the letter.

According to the programme review status form signed by NCHE and seen by The Observer, the nursing programmes offered at UCU require corrections.

“Review each programme and incorporate suggested changes,” says the status form. “The assessment forms have been attached to the proposed programmes to guide you in the review. A summary page for actions taken to improve each programme should be filled on re-submission.”

CORRECTIONS

The status form, which was submitted to UCU in January, further requests UCU to “submit both hard and soft copies after corrections for accreditations.”

Repeated efforts to reach Prof Opuda for a comment on his change of mind were in vain, as our repeated calls went unanswered. Last month, however, when The Observer asked UCU whether its programme is accredited, Ganzi M. Isharaza, the UCU communications and marketing manager, told us that all the university’s programmes were deemed accredited the moment UCU was granted a charter.

“We have subsequently sought [and received] accreditation for courses we have introduced since then,” he said.

When contacted yesterday, the UCU public relations assistant, Ivan Naijuka, told us that they have not received Prof Opuda’s letter.

“How can we comment about a letter we don’t have? But let me consult with deputy vice chancellor in charge of academic affairs,” he said.

By press time, Naijuka had not yet got back to us. Section 119A of the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act stipulates that, “for the avoidance of doubt, no person shall operate a university, other degree-awarding institution or a tertiary institution, without the prior accreditation of its academic and professional programmes by the National Council for Higher Education.”

Under regulation 7 of the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions (Institutional Standards) Regulations, 2005, it is provided that, “every university and every tertiary institution shall ensure that new programmes of instruction are not commenced or new regulations effected without the prior consent of the National Council.”

skakaire@observer.ug

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