Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

A 'Revolutionary' Model for Africa

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

A 'Revolutionary' Model for Africa

Article excerpt

Ugandan online university will help students and institutions, says co-founder. Ellie Bothwell reports

The co-founder of sub-Saharan Africa's "first online-only university" has described how she has had to "change mindsets" about Uganda's higher education system.

Deirdre Carabine, director of programmes at the Virtual University of Uganda, said that students at the institution are truly global, coming from countries as far apart as England and the Philippines, but she admitted that when the university launched in 2012 she "had a lot of work to do" around building its reputation because Uganda had a "quite backwards" education sector.

For example, she said that its universities were plagued by "yellow notes syndrome", the practice of students regurgitating notes from lectures in their exams.

She said she hopes that the not-for-profit private institution will now be considered the "premier choice" for prospective postgraduate students from across the region, as it is "standing at the cusp of a very serious revolution in higher education".

The university, which targets young professionals with five years' business experience and is licensed by the Uganda National Council for Higher Education, opened in January 2012, just months before massive open online course (Mooc) providers Coursera, Udacity, edX and FutureLearn launched. The availability of free online education has continued to increase since then, with most higher education institutions offering online learning as part of their degrees.

However, Professor Carabine is not concerned by the competition. She believes that as "pioneers in the field", the Virtual University of Uganda will attract some of the world's top students and academics.

She added that while most universities have incorporated online learning as a small part of their offering, the Virtual University of Uganda, which currently has 72 students, is one of the only universities to have "started online". …

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