UCU emerges best exhibitor at Uganda universities fair for sixth consecutive year


By Irene Best Nyapendi
For the sixth year in a row, Uganda Christian University (UCU) has emerged as the overall “Best Exhibitor” among both public and private universities in Uganda. This year’s fair, which is the first to be held outside Kampala, attracted more than 100 exhibitors. The exhibition, in its 14th year, took place from March 21-23 at the UCU Mbale University College.  

The first runner-up was the University of Kisubi, followed by Mountains of the Moon University.

The award that UCU received as Best Exhibitor.
The award that UCU received as Best Exhibitor.

Held under the theme “Fostering Graduate Employability and Innovations,” the exhibition was organized by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE), the body mandated to regulate and guide the establishment and management of higher education institutions as well as regulating the quality of higher education, equating qualifications and advising government on higher education matters. 

Among the innovations at the UCU stall was the print version of the Ebenezer, an annual publication of stories for and about UCU. Last year’s Ebenezer was produced as a partnership between the UCU Public Relations office and the Uganda Partners, an NGO based in the USA.

Denis Omvia, the chief judge at the exhibition, outlined the criteria for selecting winners, emphasizing alignment of stalls with the exhibition’s theme, level of innovation, participation, knowledge, articulation, number of stalls and stall presentation.

Prof. Eli Katunguka Rwakishaya, the Chairperson of NCHE, commended UCU for its impeccable facilities and the support the university offered in hosting the exhibition. 

“I thank UCU for the investment you put in to ensure that this event is successful and for hosting us in these fantastic gardens of yours,” Katunguka, also the Vice Chancellor of Kyambogo University in Uganda, said. “This is the first time I come to UCU and I’m impressed.” 

He emphasized that NCHE’s current challenge is how to turn student innovations into viable enterprises, stressing the need for national mechanisms to support innovation.

“Our challenge is helping students scale their innovations into small and medium enterprises, enabling them to profit from their ideas and contribute to national development,” he said.

UCU computing students showcase 'Virtual Tourism' projects.
UCU computing students showcase ‘Virtual Tourism’ projects.

The Guest of Honor, Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of East Africa Community Affairs in Uganda’s Cabinet, lauded the decision to host the exhibition outside Kampala. She emphasized the need for financial support for research and innovation, acknowledging the role of government funding in fostering development.

“Having gone through the stalls, I have seen a lot of innovation but they need money to research and help them improve their products and protect their innovations,” Kadaga said. 

Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, the Vice Chancellor of UCU, expressed pleasure at the opportunity to host the exhibition in Mbale.

“It is a joy for us to be able to host NCHE on our grounds,” Mushengyezi said. “I thank NCHE for giving us the honor to be the hosts of the first regional exhibition.” 

Mushengyezi seized the opportunity to urge the government to extend research grants to private universities. He highlighted the need for equitable opportunities in research funding, regardless of institutional status. Currently, in Uganda, only public universities are considered for government research grants.

“We request the government to include private universities in the competition for research grants,” Mushengyezi said. “Because we have much to contribute to the country’s development.”

Children engage in Virtual Reality Adventures at the UCU computing stall
Children engage in Virtual Reality Adventures at the UCU computing stall

David Mugawe, the UCU Deputy Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration, urged participants to ensure that the exhibition’s outcomes translate into tangible actions.

“We thank you NCHE for trusting us and we are glad that you are pleased with what we have been able to do,” Mugawe said. 

The Executive Director of NCHE, Prof. Mary Okwakol, elaborated on the process and the rationale behind selecting UCU as the host venue.

“We sent out a team to different sites in the eastern part of the country, particularly in Mbale, and it happened that UCU was the best site chosen,” Okwakol said.

In line with Prof. Mushengyezi’s earlier appeal, Prof. Okwakol recommended that the government considers establishing a national research and innovation fund that is accessible to all — both public and privately-owned institutions — echoing the need for equitable access to resources.