On Tuesday, October 17, 2023, the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) was in the spotlight for its pivotal role in approving study courses at various academic institutions in the country. This article explores the processes and guidelines involved in obtaining NCHE accreditation.
The NCHE, as the regulatory body overseeing higher education, plays a crucial role in ensuring the quality and relevance of study programs at universities and other tertiary institutions. It is essential for all such institutions to have their programs accredited by NCHE to operate within the regulated sector.
According to the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act, the NCHE is responsible for overseeing course content, assessing institutions’ ability to deliver these programs, and providing guidance. One of the key guidelines set by NCHE is that accredited programs must undergo periodic reviews. These reviews occur approximately every five years for undergraduate programs and every ten years for graduate-level programs.
The review process, as highlighted by education experts from NCHE and universities, can be a time-consuming and complex endeavor, taking up to three months for proactive institutions and up to a year for slower-paced ones.
Dr. Vincent Ssembatya, the Director for Quality Assurance at NCHE, explained that the review process begins at the institutional level. Managers initiate this process by holding department meetings led by curriculum experts. They also engage with various stakeholders, including industry professionals and alumni, to gather feedback on the qualities required by graduates in the job market. This feedback partly informs the evaluation of existing courses.
Institutions, like Kampala International University, employ special task committees at college, faculty, and school levels to lead academic program reviews. These committees collaborate with professional bodies to address industry-specific needs and gather input from alumni and current students to understand post-graduation experiences and student needs.
After incorporating feedback from stakeholders, experts at the institutional level make necessary adjustments to course units within specific departments. The reviewed programs then go through various levels of approval, including heads of schools and colleges and quality assurance departments before being submitted to the university’s Senate.
University Councils, the highest decision-making bodies within universities, also play a role in reviewing the curriculum before it is presented to NCHE for final approval and accreditation/re-accreditation.
The NCHE review process involves two main procedures. First, a team of experts assesses the submissions made by institutions to ensure they meet minimum standards. Second, facility verification is conducted through on-site visits, primarily for science programs that require specialized infrastructure, such as laboratories and teaching facilities, as is the case with human medicine education.
For most humanities and social sciences programs, site verification is not always necessary. Exceptions are made for Law, Journalism, and Education programs, which require visits to establish institutional adequacy.
If the Council determines that the submitted programs do not meet their satisfaction, they issue referrals, advising institutions to make necessary improvements. In cases where site visits are deemed unnecessary, a program can be checked and accredited by NCHE within two weeks, while others may take two to three months before receiving clearance.