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NCHE Controversy: KIU’s Medical Student Admissions Under Scrutiny

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Controversy Surrounds KIU Medical Student Enrollment - To train medical students effectively, institutions must meet specific guidelines set by the NCHE, including adequate staffing, a proper lecturer-to-student ratio, and essential training equipment, such as laboratories and hospital facilities.
Controversy Surrounds KIU Medical Student Enrollment
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A dispute has emerged within the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) regarding the enrollment of medical students at Kampala International University (KIU). The disagreement centers on allegations of procedural irregularities and conflicting enrollment figures.

In March, a technical committee led by Dr. Katumba Ssentongo, the registrar of the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council, conducted inspections of the nine KIU clinical teaching hospitals. Their objective was to assess the available facilities and resources required for medical program instruction.

The conflict at NCHE began after a meeting held on August 21 in Ntinda, Kampala, during which some NCHE members raised concerns about the apparent change in KIU’s annual enrollment figures for the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) program. These figures reportedly shifted from 600 students to 250 students.

Prof. Mary Jossy Nakhanda Okwakol, the NCHE executive director, cited an error in KIU’s enrollment numbers despite the March 2023 NCHE Physical Verification Report, which approved an enrollment of 600 students.

Dr. Abas Agaba, an NCHE member representing the public, expressed skepticism about the decision to reduce KIU’s enrollment numbers without the prior approval of a six-member physical verification committee. He questioned the basis for the adjustment, which had not been adequately explained.

In March of the same year, the NCHE technical committee, led by Dr. Katumba Ssentongo, visited all nine KIU clinical teaching hospitals and assessed the available facilities and resources. Their report recommended an enrollment capacity of up to 600 students per year, consistent with the approvals by the East African Community (EAC) medical councils.

However, Prof. Okwakol informed NCHE members that the Quality Assurance and Accreditation Committee was not satisfied with the technical committee’s recommendation and decided to maintain KIU’s enrollment at 250 students per year.

Dr. Agaba and other members contended that it had been customary for NCHE committees to rely on the recommendations of inspection technical committees, making the decision to reject the verification committee’s report without a scientific basis a significant departure from established practice.

Furthermore, they raised questions about why only KIU had experienced an error in its enrollment numbers when other universities had received accreditation for their programs without similar issues.

Dr. Vincent Ssembatya, the director of the Quality Assurance and Accreditation Committee, declined to comment on the matter and stated that a final decision on the enrollment numbers would be made during an NCHE meeting scheduled for October 13.

Bribery allegations were briefly mentioned during an NCHE meeting on August 21. However, the allegations were not substantiated in the report, leading to further questions from Dr. Agaba and other members regarding their validity.

When contacted for clarification, Prof. Okwakol declined to provide details and suggested that the matter would be resolved after the upcoming NCHE meeting.

The National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) was established to regulate higher education in Uganda, 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 indicated that he was reviewing it before presenting it to the council for consideration. He also noted that the August 21 meeting was chaired by his deputy.

Notably, KIU has been admitting more than 500 medical students since 2015, and the UMDPC and NCHE teams have consistently recommended similar enrollment numbers.

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 laboratory equipment, understaffing, limited laboratory space, and an insufficient number of patients at training hospitals. The institution was given six months to rectify these issues before admitting more students.

Subsequent inspections in 2016 and 2023 revealed improvements at KIU, with recommendations aligned with those of the earlier regional medical board.

Prof. Mouhammad Mpezamihigo, the Vice Chancellor of KIU, emphasized the university’s commitment to compliance with standards and continuous improvement. He noted that KIU had expanded its medical program capacity over the years and consistently produced top-tier medical professionals who excelled during internships.

To train medical students effectively, institutions must meet specific guidelines set by the NCHE, including adequate staffing, a proper lecturer-to-student ratio, and essential training equipment, such as laboratories and hospital facilities.

The ongoing debate over KIU’s medical student enrollment will be addressed during the upcoming NCHE meeting on October 13.