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Activists back University of Malawi splitting

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Some education rights activists in the country have put their weight behind plans to unbundle the University of Malawi (Unima) so that its four constituent colleges should be completely autonomous from the central Unima Office.

The unbundling plans are facing some resistance from some officials within the rank and file of Unima who argue that if it materialises, the arrangement will be costly as each of the four colleges will need its own Vice-Chancellor and council, among other things.

But those who support the unbundling argue that such plans will ensure efficiency in the running of the colleges and that access to tertiary education will be increased.

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They also argue that nothing will really change because it is simply the colleges’ respective managements which will be upgraded to ‘university offices’.

In an interview yesterday, Executive Director of the Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec), Benedicto Kondowe, said unbundling Unima is the “best way to go”.

He said the plans may address several concerns including funding to Unima constituent colleges which will become separate universities if the plans materialise and that suspicions of politicising Unima Central Office might be dealt with.

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“I think in terms of looking forward, our considered opinion has always been that if we are to increase access to tertiary education, we need to have a long-term plan which should aim at expanding the already existing structures.

“That would mean upgrading the University of Malawi’s constituent colleges to fully fledged universities. If we do that, then we will do away with the Central University Office because as it stands now, it consumes a lot of resources,” Kondowe said.

He substantiated his argument by stating that there have been concerns, for instance, that Chancellor College (Chanco) or The Polytechnic is suffering financially at a time the university office has funds to run its daily activities.

“The question is: where do we need to invest more: the colleges or the university office?” Kondowe queried.

On the other hand, the education rights activist had conceded that there was merit in the initial set-up of Unima but that emerging developments require some serious revamping of the university.

“Over the years, it has become apparent that we can do away with the Unima Central Office and have constituent colleges upgraded into full universities without necessarily compromising on quality of tertiary education,” Kondowe said.

We did not manage to get a comment from Unima Registrar, Benedicto Malunga, on the latest developments regarding the unbundling plans.

However, reports indicate that Unima senate last month ratified the unbundling plans with almost everyone who attended a meeting to discuss the matter agreeing that the university should let go of its constituent colleges.

President Peter Mutharika publicly talked about the issue three years ago when Unima commemorated its 50th anniversary where he promised that he would not frustrate views of those seeking that their constituent colleges should break away from Unima.

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