Innovating university education: A book in honour of Makerere University’s 90 years of excellence 1922–2012
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The thirteen chapters in this book highlight the importance of universities as centres for the generation of knowledge, trainers of skilled workers and creators of the next generation of thinkers. They also emphasise the uniqueness of a university. A university is a multidisciplinary institution that gives space for the search and transmission of all knowledge. Although practical work skills may be delivered in some of its units, a university is not a vocational institute aiming at turning out artisans. A university is concerned with the training of the mind to think, generate ideas, innovate for society and create the next generation of thinkers. To do so effectively, a university needs complete institutional and academic freedom. The history of Makerere since the 1970 Act was enacted has shown that whenever these twin freedoms are impinged on by internal or external forces, the quality of research and teaching suffers. It is important that oppressive residuals of that infamous Act, which were incorporated into the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions’ Act (UOTIA) of 2001, are repealed. This book comes at a point when Makerere must decide whether, as Sicherman (2005) put it, “it is a university of Africa or in Africa”. Is Makerere a foreign university located in Africa, using foreign theoretical conceptions to teach, analyse issues and train the next generation of academics using imported knowledge? Is Makerere, after 90 years of existence, trying to do original home based research and locally training its postgraduate students? Mahmood Mamdani’s chapter (seven) deals with this issue aptly. For him, Makerere can only stand up when it adopts a knowledge production model that uses locally generated knowledge and also trains the next generation of academics at home. He feels that the best option for African universities is to locally generate their own knowledge and locally train the next generation of academics in institutions in “which they will have to work” using the best available technology in knowledge creation and dissemination. He advises that “postgraduate education, research and institution building” should be part of a single coin and abhors “the spread of a corrosive consultancy culture”. This culture makes African academics mere data collectors whose role is to answer questions set by overseas clients who use the same data to get finished knowledge products for re-export to African universities for use in our lecture rooms. African universities must create their knowledge and train their academics if they are to be “of Africa”.