By Jimmy Siyasa
At the end of 2021, the Uganda Christian University (UCU) Council sat and carefully contemplated a way to fortify the UCU aspects of Research, Partnerships, Innovation, Postgraduate studies. Among the results of the meeting was the evolution of what was once the School of Research and Postgraduate Studies, headed by the Assoc. Prof Elizabeth Kukunda Bacwayo, as Dean.
The School has since evolved into two Directorates; one for Postgraduate Studies and the other for Research, Partnerships and Innovation. The former is headed by the Assoc. Prof Bacwayo and the latter by Assoc. Prof. Elizabeth Balyejusa Kizito, both serving as Directors.
This evolution centralizes the two entities to their forte, in accordance with the University’s Strategic Plan 2019/2023. The Directorate of Research, Partnerships and Innovations (DPRI) will now henceforth- as its nomenclature suggests- focus strictly on grants, partnerships and innovation aspects of the University.
Recently it rolled out a strategic plan on research with a commitment to “promote rigorous, focused research that leads to improved understanding as well as innovations to solve specific challenges in Uganda and abroad,” according to the document, as presented by the Director, Assoc. Prof. Kizito.
She notes that research is integral for university ranking world over, and therefore ought to be a prime focus area for investment. “Higher institutions are increasingly subject to comparisons and rankings, and those deemed to be the best in these rankings of research universities will continue to be considered the best in the world,” she noted.
In her presentation, she further argues that for universities to maintain and improve their global competitiveness, “there is need among others to build a niche focus, internalization, apply innovative teaching and research systems and a well-formulated and strategic plan.”
A committee was instituted by Senate in October 2020 to assess UCU’s research and innovation environment and productivity and to make recommendations to enable the creation of a more robust research infrastructure and environment.
Several aspects of the institution’s day-to-day operations were scrutinized by the committee, including “policies and plans, structure and management of research and innovation, funding for research and grants management, research outputs and dissemination, quality assurance and ethics, M&E and partnerships,” according to the DPRI director’s presentation.
Upon evaluation of the status, the committee made many recommendations which were captured in the Vice-Chancellor, Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi’s report on Research, Partnership and Innovations. The recommendations included:
Defining of structures and responsibilities to faculty and department level
Consultations on developing an inclusive and mission-aligned University research agenda
Identify our niche, building of school/ faculty research teams
Mapping of specialties of academic staff to align with new RPI strategy
Building the capacity of research managers and teams
Mobilizing resources for appropriate infrastructure, and more.
Just this year alone, the institution has signed Memoranda of Understanding and sealed agreements with at least three institutions, notably Tokyo Christian University, Hanze University in the Netherlands, and Ankrah Foundation Limited.
Therefore, it is not uneasy to see the UCU vision- A Centre for excellence in the heart of Africa- manifest sooner than, otherwise expected.