In September 2023, the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) is facing internal disagreements regarding the enrollment of medical students at Kampala International University (KIU). This dispute revolves around changes in annual enrollment figures for KIU’s Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) program, which have sparked a debate on procedural correctness and decision accuracy.
The issue began following an August 21 meeting in Ntinda, Kampala, where some NCHE members raised concerns about a reduction in KIU’s annual enrollment from 600 to 250 students. The NCHE executive director, Prof Mary Jossy Nakhanda Okwakol, pointed out this change but cited an error in the enrollment number. Interestingly, the March 2023 NCHE Physical Verification Report had previously approved 600 students for KIU.
Dr. Abas Agaba, an NCHE member representing the public, questioned the decision to cut KIU’s enrollment without the approval of a verification committee. The NCHE had previously appointed a technical committee, including experts from the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council (UMDPC), to inspect KIU’s facilities and resources. This committee recommended an annual enrollment of 600 students.
The committee’s March report confirmed KIU’s readiness to admit 600 students annually, based on their infrastructure and staffing capabilities. However, Prof Okwakol mentioned that the Quality Assurance and Accreditation Committee was unsatisfied with this recommendation and decided to maintain the enrollment at 250 students, leading to the ongoing dispute.
NCHE members opposing this decision argue that NCHE committees usually rely on the recommendations of inspection technical committees. Dr. Agaba and others found it unusual for an NCHE committee to reject its own verification committee’s report, especially one that included the National Medical and Dental Practitioners Regulatory Board.
While the Quality Assurance and Accreditation Directorate approved programs for over 20 universities, only KIU faced a discrepancy in enrollment numbers. The director of the Quality Assurance and Accreditation Committee, Dr. Vincent Ssembatya, declined to comment on the matter but mentioned that a final decision would be made on October 13.
Dr. Agaba also raised bribery allegations regarding the Technical Verification Committee but stated that these allegations were disregarded during the council meeting.
Prof Okwakol declined to provide further details, noting that the Council had not yet reached a final decision on the matter. The NCHE, established to regulate higher education, is tasked with guiding the establishment of higher learning institutions and ensuring the delivery of quality education.
Prof Eli Katunguka Rwakishaya, the chairperson of the NCHE board, acknowledged Dr. Agaba’s petition and stated that he was reviewing it. He also noted that the August 21 meeting was chaired by his deputy.
The issue at hand is complex because KIU has been admitting more than 500 students since 2015, with support from UMDPC and NCHE teams. This discrepancy in enrollment figures has raised questions about KIU’s compliance with established standards for medical programs.
In 2015, a joint inspection by the East African Partner States National Medical and Dental Practitioners Regulatory Board identified deficiencies at KIU, including a shortage of equipment, understaffing, and limited space. KIU was directed to address these issues before admitting more students.
Subsequent inspections in 2016 and 2023 found that KIU had made improvements but still faced some recommendations from the previous inspections. The recent NCHE physical verification report noted KIU’s compliance with lecturer-to-student ratios and infrastructure requirements.
KIU’s Vice Chancellor, Prof Mouhammad Mpezamihigo, stated that the university had made significant improvements over the past decade, exceeding minimum standards and collaborating with regulatory agencies worldwide. He emphasized that KIU consistently produced top-tier medical professionals.
Training a doctor requires adherence to standard guidelines, including adequate staffing, proper lecturer-to-student ratios, sufficient training equipment, infrastructure, and library facilities. The NCHE report highlighted KIU’s facilities, which included lecture rooms, lecturers, libraries, and teaching hospitals.
As the dispute continues, the NCHE’s final decision will determine KIU’s medical student enrollment for the upcoming academic year.