Written by John Musinguzi (The Observer Uganda)

Cavendish University Uganda, the first private university to offer British education in Uganda, is one of the private universities in this country.

For those who may not be in the know, CUU, as it is commonly referred to, is one of the Cavendish University Africa Group network with campuses in Tanzania, Ghana, Zambia and now moving to South Sudan.

But like any other private universities in Uganda, CUU is not prone to accusations relating to quality assurance. John Musinguzi caught up with Dr Frywell M Chirwa, the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Cavendish University Uganda and sounded him out on the university’s seasoned policies and continental plans.

The name Frywell Chirwa does not sound Ugandan, does it?  Who is Dr Chirwa?

Dr Frywell Shaba Chirwa is the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Cavendish University Uganda. I am also the Group Board Secretary of the Cavendish University Africa Group. I hail from Zambia. I am a specialist in higher education quality and an economist by profession with a BA Economics and an MBA. But I also hold a Masters degree in General Management and a PhD in Business Administration.

Cavendish is rather a new name of a university in Uganda. Where is Cavendish University Uganda coming from?

Cavendish University Uganda has its origins in the UK. In 1985, there was founded the London International Education Foundation (LIEF) to spearhead British education and training at higher education level.

It is this institution that created the Cavendish College London (CCL) as its vehicle and franchisor of all the overseas centres. Now it is global with operations in Central London, India, Iran, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Zambia and since 2008, in Uganda as CUU.

Cavendish University Uganda as a centre of Cavendish University Africa Group contributes to the spread of the Cavendish Higher Education brand in the continent while ensuring that its presence in Uganda and East Africa is socially desirable and conducive to the development processes that are man-centred.

In the short term, we are expanding the student body at our satellite centres and we will eventually locate a permanent regional campus in Entebbe, Uganda to spread into the regional markets Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo.

What is CUU’s mission?

Our mission statement is to provide the leading quality higher education and training sensitive to domestic needs of operating environments in all our faculties across the African continent in the most sustainable manner.

Our vision statement is: “To be the Harvard of Africa.” Further, Cavendish University Uganda operates under the slogan: “Delivering British education and training with a local touch.”

In your view, why should students opt for Cavendish University Uganda rather than any other university? 

For a number of reasons, definitely, but first is our mode of service delivery. Our teaching ensures that lectures are handled by two people; that is, the lecturer and tutor. Besides, we emphasize case studies that accompany the lecturers and tutors.

Secondly, our lecture material is given in advance and most of it in PowerPoint. We provide our students with study packs and module websites. Further, we have flexible programmes – day, weekend and evening – and these suit both the working and non-working students.

We have lateral programmes whereby students who are done with their bachelor’s studies can enroll for master’s programmes before their graduation, although this is applicable to only CUU students. I think we are the only university in the country with this kind of flexibility.

We pay great attention to examination quality, whereby lecturers set exams which are modulated at departmental and faculty levels before another modulation is done by Cavendish College London.

Universities in Uganda have been accused of duplicating courses. How is CUU handling this challenge?
I doubt that we have that problem in our university yet. Our policy on course development is guided by researched recognition of courses that are tuned to the market needs.

After that, the proposed courses are sent to the NCHE to be accredited; so, our courses are tailor-made. Also, there is a symbiotic relationship with Cavendish College London, which greatly helps us to sustain quality.

CUU boasts of offering British education with a local touch. How do you develop courses that meet both British and local needs? 

Well, given the background of the CUU family based in London, courses are developed after a thorough market survey and analysis to identify the needs, which can be both local and international.

But also, I must say that there’s a proven system at Cavendish College London, which is working. It is that system that has been localized in response to the findings from the market analysis obtaining on the ground in the various countries. That is where local touch comes in.

However, it is important to note that this is done in consultation with NCHE, the sub-sector regulator.
Above all, I must stress, the local touch is cardinal and crucial to our operations in that whereas initial curricula will be as per generis design from London, the same are contextualize to underscore local situation needs and system of doing things and local needs.

To do the latter, our local staffs are initially trained by Quality Assurance experts from London or regional benchmarking centres into the overall Cavendish methodologies of education and skills development.

Do you have plans to extend your education services to other parts of the country and beyond?

Yes, and for sure. Let me reiterate this: CUU has its eyes and ears on the ground. We are constantly studying and analysing the educational needs of Ugandans. As we speak, the university is putting modalities in place to establish and maintain presence in Kisoro, Soroti and Gulu internally.

But we are also moving to formalise modalities or shall I say we are in final stages of establishing a campus in Juba, South Sudan; Nairobi, in Kenya and Kinshasa in DR Congo.

But as you may be aware, we have a Cavendish University campus at Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Our intention is to create a Cavendish network in the Great Lakes region and Africa in general.

With many universities in Uganda now, how do you find the competition?

Competition is healthy as long as it is done ethically. Competition leads to innovations and better service delivery rather than complacency. But all I can say now is that the NCHE is absolutely right to worry about the numerous admissions done in a year by private universities in Uganda.

They are also right to worry about the quality of material given to students in terms of value for their money. And that’s their mandate; ours is to fit in the competition and derive benefits for the larger society.

As already explained, CUU has quite numerous strong measures in regard to quality assurance as far as delivery of quality education services is concerned. The mere fact that our course modules are very much aligned to the Cavendish College London, an internationally recognized university, is reason enough for our students not to worry about quality.

Secondly, the mere fact that CUU cannot run any course without accreditation by NCHE is evidence that we mind about quality. As far as admissions are concerned, I want to categorically state that CUU is not one of those private universities that do numerous admissions in a calendar year; all our admissions have been structured to run for a purpose.

At CUU, we run only three admissions in a calendar year, the January, April and September intakes. Our January intake is done to mainly target students of the working class. The April intake is to target students from A-level schools while the September intake is run for students who may wish to transfer from one university to another and those completing studies in tertiary or post-secondary education institutions and want to upgrade to degree programmes or even those who may wish do a second diploma.

But it also targets students who may have faced financial problems including those who may have missed admissions in other universities. But, people with financial problems after retirement can also seek advice from Outlook Wealth experts.

What achievements do you have to talk about?

Well, we have already had our first graduation in which 251 graduands were awarded degrees, diplomas and certificates in various disciplines after completing their studies. Mark you; we set a foot on Ugandan soil in April 2008. As a pioneer private university to offer British education with local touch in Uganda, that is a great achievement.

But additional to that, we have been able to establish a network with many countries in the Great Lakes region. This has seen admission of students from Kenya, Rwanda, DRC, Burundi, Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, etc, done by the university.

Another achievement to talk about is the good working relationship with the authorities in Uganda and most especially the government, initiated by the CUU Chancellor, Dr Kenneth Kaunda, the former President of Zambia.  Because of this smooth relationship, the Government of Uganda has been able to offer us 15 acres of land at Entebbe where we are building a permanent home.

You seem to be treading a smooth rather than a bumpy road. Have you been immune to challenges? And where do we hope to see CUU a few years to come?

Well, challenges are always around however much the success. But we have no serious complaints as of now. As already explained, CUU is on the way to its permanent home in Entebbe. Construction is vigorously taking place.

However, I must point out the fact that while our permanent home is going to be at Entebbe, our Kampala campus will continue running as usual.

Secondly, as part of our future plans, I want to say that arrangements are underway to establish a Cavendish University Africa Regional network. This is expected to cut across Africa, from South to North and from East to West Africa.