Symposium on the Future of African Higher Education Leadership and Management for Development

Dr. Ronald Bisaso and Prof. Seppo HölttäOn 5th February 2016, the College of Education and External Studies hosted a Symposium on the ‘Future of African Higher Education Leadership and Management for Development’ at the Makerere University Main Hall. The Symposium was part of the activities of the Strengthening Institutional Capacity for Higher Education Leadership and Management in sub-Saharan Africa (LMUU II) project. The event was graced by development partners, leaders and managers in higher education, scholars and researchers of higher education leadership and management and policy level actors.

Delivering the keynote address Professor Damtew Teferra challenged the instruments used to measure knowledge creation and dissemination such as rankings and impact factor. “Institutional leaders in the developing world increasingly pay tribute to these regimes regardless of their relevance or appropriateness to their needs or the inherit challenges and contradictions to their contexts and broader interests,” he said

Damtew Teferra who is a Professor of higher education and leader of the Higher Education Training and Development (HETD) at the University of Kwazulu-Natal, noted that academic staff are promoted primarily on their intellectual output as predominately established by external entities such as peers and journals. This external factor, while it empowers academics constrains the reach of institutional managers.

“The increasingly complex higher education environment struggling with anarchy and order, national and international, private and public expansion and a tightening and declining budget calls for an urgent need to strategically build the next generation of institutional leaders as well as enhance the skills of those already in that position,” he argued. Prof. Teferra proposed that Africa may probably need more knowledgeable and skilled leaders and managers than its counterparts elsewhere to navigate the myriad of challenges these institutions experience.

The Honorary Consul, Consulate of Finland in Uganda, Mr Richard Mugera thanked Makerere University for partnering with Finish higher education institutions. He informed delegates that Finland is the highest educated country in the world with 84% of its population being holders of an upper secondary certificate and 40% of its population being holders of a higher education degree.

The Director, Higher, Technical, and Vocational Education in the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Sports Mrs. Elizabeth K.M. Gabona, stated that the 21st Century is the era of the global economy, modernity and emerging challenges that demand continuous rethinking.  For this reason she argued that new leaders and managers must talk IT, environment, human relations, human rights, cultural norms and market forces. And they must continuously brace themselves adequately for the tasks before them, she added.

In his opening remarks, Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof. John Ddumba Ssentamu, noted how timely the symposium was given the challenges faced by Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). “Several factors including higher education expansion, inadequate funding, high unemployment rates, and the impact of globalisation and technology revolution coupled with demands for quality and relevance call for a robust leadership capable of adapting to changing environments in order to ensure continued relevance of higher education,” he said.

The Principal CEES Dr Fred Masagazi Masaazi, said that the symposium was another landmark for CEES to interface with its external publics and strengthen its partnerships. He observed that funding higher education is a major challenge for African governments.

The Director General of Uganda Management Institute and Chair LMUU II project board, Dr James Nkata, said that Africa had lagged behind in developing HEIs due to lack of effective leadership and management capacity.  He informed delegates that the LMUU II project aimed at solving this problem. Adding that functional literacy in managing institutions and equipping institutions in functional literacy to self manage was one of the underpinning principles for the success of any institution alongside management arrangements, structures and practices.

The LMUU II Project leader, University of Tampere, Finland, Professor Seppo Hölttä, mentioned the challenges of higher education at the systematic level. Among these are the need to; contribute to economic and social development based on knowledge and using African innovation systems, deal with the increased marketization of higher education, protect academic freedom and institutional autonomy, and invest in leadership and management capacity building to increase relevance, effectiveness and efficiency.

“To harness research productivity, higher education leaders and managers must establish and inculcate a culture of accountability. They must promote and guide excellence in teaching and research and assist researchers to expand their international networks,” said Head, Human Capital Development Division at the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, Mr Steven Sebbale.

The Deputy Vice Chancellor, Nkumba University Prof. Wilson Muyinda Mande shared his experience as a top manager. He observed the interplay between politics and university leadership. And added organisational politics and bounded rationality as other challenges to achieving the institutions’ vision. He proposed regular trainings on behavioural competencies and emotional intelligence for HEI leaders and managers and recommended that these trainings be incorporated into PhD programmes.

The Dean East African School of Higher Education Studies (EASHESD) Dr Ronald Bisaso, proposed that his school should be represented on the search committees of the University due to their experience and knowledge in leadership and management in higher education institutions.

The LMUU II project is an institutional capacity building project of five partner higher education institutions namely; Makerere University (EASHESD), Uganda Management Institute University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Helsinki and University of Tampere (UTA). The project aims to improve quality and relevance of higher education, enhance management, leadership and governance capacities in higher education institutions and strengthen the role and relevance of the higher education institutions in development.

The project outputs so far are:

·         Post Graduate degree programme on Leadership and Management and a quality assurance system for Uganda Management Institute as well as pathways to Master’s and PhD at Uganda Management Institute

·         Master programme on Higher Education at Makerere University East African School of Higher Education Studies and Development

·         Development of the leadership and management contents of the Master and PhD programmes at University of KwaZulu-Natal

·          The creation of foundations for a Doctoral Programme on Higher Education

·         Strengthening the African Research Network on higher education.