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Soroti University sets conditions for opening of campus



Monday, 30th May 2016

Soroti University, the ninth public university cannot open this year until all facilities are properly done, says the institution's taskforce.

A statement Watchdog has seen says the university was due to open this academic year but construction of lecture halls and recruitment of staff among other things have not taken place.

University secretary Rose Achimo says it will not be appropriate to rush the opening of the university when the facilities to make Soroti an enviable campus for the university community.

However, this website understand, the outgoing minister of education Jessica Alupo is pushing for the opening of the unready university, something that would frustrate both students, staff and parents.

The taskforce has therefore asked for a year to put all facilities in the right place.

Below is the statement from Soroti University:

....

Soroti University, the 9th Public University which was approved by the Parliament of Uganda and was gazetted on 16th July 2015 under statutory instrument 2015 No 34, was due to open this academic year.

However, we regret to say, it will not be the case as the Task Force needs more time to deliver a world class university as was envisioned by President Museveni when he was initiating this noble project.

Soroti University is established to train human resources in Medicine and Allied Health Sciences, Engineering and Science Teacher Education.

The first student intake was planned to be in July 2016 for Science and engineering students, as per previous work plans, however, due to unforeseen challenges, the dates for opening will not be August this year (2016) as other public universities.

The Task Force strongly believes that due to unavoidable circumstances, the university is still in project mode in order to allow the administration put together key features of the University. We need to complete construction, procure teaching materials, deal with external works, set up support services and recruit staff next financial year; then the university can open. The university council upon assessing our readiness which may include receiving certificate of occupancy of the facilities will determine the date to launching the university programmes and other activities.

Soroti University's academic programmes have been reviewed by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) as they await accreditation. Currently, the Taskforce is the managing arm of governance as the University Council is being formed.

This project is envisaged to be carried out to start and increase the country's capacity to train the human resources in critical areas of development such industry, infrastructure development, oil and gas exploration and processing and allied services.

The vision and mission are of Soroti University are respectively: "To be a renowned Centre of Academic Excellence that nurtures Visionaries and Innovations for building healthier and prosperous societies" and "To be a Fountain of knowledge and innovation that supports

That is why the University aimed at building world class infrastructure by June 2016. These infrastructures include laboratories for both medicine and engineering, lecture halls and theatres and administrative spaces or offices that are designed to accommodate 3000 students.

The expansion of higher education is in line with the government's Strategic Vision 2040 of transforming Uganda into a middle income economy which is supported by skilled labor force.

Government is therefore investing heavily in science and technology as anchors of economic transformation.  

Work still in progress

The Government of Uganda in 2013 charged the Soroti University Task Force with building a science based university with Medicine and Engineering as the starting programmes. The Task Force has developed the programmes and are in process of being accredited by National Council for Higher Education (NCHE).

The budgetary provisions by Uganda government in the past two financial years have enabled the Task Force to construct a number of academic facilities which include Lecture Rooms, Laboratory/Workshop Space and Office Space. Based on government pronouncements, the university is planned to open in 2016/17 Financial Year.

 At the recent Budget meetings of Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Sports (MoESTS) held at the end of November 2015 and beginning of December 2015 Soroti University presented the 2016/17 proposals for funding to the MoESTS sector budget committee, but due to competing demands, funds earmarked for Soroti University for 2016/17 will not be adequate to cater for the basic academic space such as academic laboratories and engineering workshops for the fields assigned to university to start. Furthermore these disciplines will need equipment and staff to support in the teaching. There is equally a need for basic support services such as cafeteria, visiting staff accommodation and health facility.  

What is being done?

Uganda government has taken decisive steps to set up a public university in Soroti as follows:

i)       The President of the Republic of Uganda made on the 11th December 2011 a historic decision to grant the starting of a public University in north eastern Uganda and specifically at Teso sub region. In March 2012 he reiterated his wish that a Taskforce to start this University be appointed. In the same letter he decided that this University concentrates on Medical sciences and Engineering.

ii)     A proposal to this effect was tabled before Ugandan Parliament and  funds for setting up Task Force made available for planning purposes in 2012/13 Fiscal year.

iii)    In September 2012, the Minister of Education and Sports inaugurated the Taskforce at Soroti University grounds. By appointing a Task Force charged with the task of establishing the institution to be known as Soroti University the stage had been set for this project to start.

iv)   In December 2012, the Task Force carried out needs assessment in 16 districts surrounding Teso Sub Region.

Results of the assessment revealed similar results from those of his Excellency the President i.e. Medicine, Engineering but new areas i.e. Nursing, Agriculture (Value Addition) and Science Education emerged. Across the board the need for Medicine and Engineering disciplines topped the list since there is an acute shortage of skills in those areas as a result of many factors including brain drain. Also Uganda has charted its development path through investing in the health of its people whose population growth rate is 3.2 percent annually. Government also engaged in expanding her health infrastructure through building of health Centres nearer communities. Acute shortage of skilled human resources in those areas of was seen as bottleneck to development.

Soroti University became a full-fledged University in July 2015. The Act attesting to this is placed in the Uganda Gazette No. 34 of 2015. Following the approval by Parliament and the gazetting of Soroti University, the Task force is in the process of setting up the University Council based on the provisions in article 38 of the Universities and other tertiary institutions Act (UOTIA) 2001. The University Council and other key Organs of the University will be in place before 1st July 2016.

On appointment of the Task force, key features of a university have been put in place. The task force has accomplishments the following:

  •        The Vision and Mission for the university was made and has guided in the strategic plan.
  •       Land with a title for the university was secured and zoning plan as prelude for Master Plan has been done. 
  •    Access roads to and from the university site have been opened up to murrum level.
  •     Needs Assessment that guided in Programmes development and facility design were carried out. Academic Programmes have been developed, submitted to NCHE) for review and accreditation.
  •   Construction of multipurpose academic buildings commenced and they are in the final stages of completion. The funding from Government of Uganda for the construction of the first multipurpose building was received.
  •    Benchmarking with sister institution and experience from them have been used in planning the University.
  •   Cooperation with National Forest Authority was initiated and 10,000 seedlings for greening the campus were planted
  •  Collaboration with Africa Institute for Strategic Animal Resource Services (AFRISA) was initiated for Livestock development and poverty reduction in the region.
  •   Kyambogo University  and National Library of Uganda donated over 1000 books in various science fields to the University 
  •   University Statutes and ordinances to guide in governance have been developed.
  •  Water from National Water and Sewage Corporation (NWSC) and electricity from the main grid has been connected to the University site.
  • The Parliament of Uganda approved in July 2015 the establishment Soroti  University and it has now been gazetted
  •  Plan for setting up the following academic units have been drawn in order of priority
  •   School of Medicine and Health Sciences
  • School of Engineering and Applied Science
  • School of Business Sciences and Education

Infrastructure and educational facilities:

Constructions of multipurpose academic buildings are in the final stages of completion up to 70 % and being fully funded by the Government of Uganda. This building complex constitutes 9889 m2 of built space for education purposes and when complete will provide a state-of-the-art, modern learning environment for over 2000 students per session and 100 staff office space.

However the support services are needed before the university opens this support services include the following :

i)          Central library

ii)         University guest house and conference centre

iii)        Sports complex

iv)        Cafeteria

v)         Key officials' residences

vi)        Students hostel

vii)       Road network of 36km

viii)     Waste management facilities

Challenges to be overcome before the university opens

Lack of support services at the university site: Catering services, health unit, accommodation for staff and students. We intend to pursue a policy of Public Private Partnership (PPP) on this area. Already Webstudent international based in Norway has shown interest in partnering with us at low interest rate. Our proposals are in the ministry of Finance for consideration. 

i.              Staff Recruitment: we don't have any staff right now apart from the project staff. We intend to attract, recruit, develop, support, and retain diverse, qualified and talented employees who are the key to Soroti university's development, reputation and success. Some funds have been allocated for staff emoluments so that we can recruit key staff in 2016/17 financial year.

 ii.            Need for additional laboratory and engineering workshops: The current in infrastructure will not be adequate to mount the medicine and engineering Programmes. Webstudent international based in Norway has shown interest in partnering in solving this problem. Our proposals are in the ministry of Finance for consideration

Opening Date

According to our previous work plan, we had assumed that the first in-take to the university should commence in 2016/17 academic year.  However, due to the challenges highlighted above, the dates for opening will not be August this year (2016) as other public universities. It is our assessment that we are still in project mode to put together key features of the University. We need to complete construction, procure teaching materials, deal with external works, set up support services and recruit staff next financial year; then the university can open. The university council upon assessing our readiness which may include receiving certificate of occupancy of the facilities will determine the date to launching the university programmes and other activities.