By Ann M. Koenig, AACRAO International Education Services
A reorganization of the Rwandan public higher education landscape is underway, with the goals of strengthening academic standards, maximizing resources and improving operating efficiency. The public higher education institutes in Rwanda - Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), Kigali Institute of Health (KIH), Kigali Institute of Education (KIE), Higher Institute of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry (ISAE), School of Finance and Banking (SFB), “Umutara Polytechnic” Higher Institute, and Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) - have been merged with the former National University of Rwanda (NUR) to form a new university with a new structure and a new name, University of Rwanda (UR).
The new University of Rwanda (UR) was established by a law passed last September and published in the Official Gazette No. 38 of September 23, 2013, pages 32ff. The law repealed the legal existence of the former National University of Rwanda and the public higher education institutes that existed prior to the reorganization. It created the University of Rwanda, made up of six Colleges formed on the basis of the former institutes: College of Arts and Sciences (CASS), College of Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences (CAVM), College of Business and Economics (CBE), College of Medicine and Health Sciences (CMHS), College of Education (CE), and College of Science and Technology (CST).
The merger was planned to extend over a two-year transition period, academic years 2013-14 and 2014-15. According to the education minister in an interview last year, students who were already enrolled in existing programs when the law was passed, both at the former NUR and the former institutes, will complete the programs they started on the campuses where they were enrolled. The cohort entering first-year studies at the new UR this year, academic year 2014-15, is the first group admitted under the reorganized university structure. They will complete their programs according to the academic regulations in effect for the program to which they were admitted. If there have been changes to a program due to the merger, these students will complete the new program.
The new first-year cohort was also subject to a new admissions process. Under the former system, admissions to the higher education institutions were managed by the Rwanda Education Board (REB), which oversees the national school examinations. University admission was based on the results of the examinations for the Advanced General Certificate of Secondary Education (AGCSE), the school-leaving examination given in Rwanda since 2011. Under the new UR regulations, the UR manages its own admissions process and set its own additional admission requirements.
The Higher Education Council (HEC) of Rwanda manages quality assurance for higher education institutions in Rwanda. While all public institutions are “accredited” based on their establishment by government charter, private higher education institutions must first seek HEC approval to operate, be granted a “license”, and then follow a quality assurance process overseen by the HEC leading to “accreditation” by the HEC. The HEC’s Web sites includes lists of Public Higher Learning Institutions and Private Institutions.
Advice to US Admissions Staff and Transcript Evaluators
AACRAO International Education Services recommends that only public higher education institutions in Rwanda and private institutions that are “accredited” should be considered comparable in status to a regionally-accredited higher education institution in the United States. Private institutions in Rwanda that have a “license” are not yet accredited and should not be treated as comparable to regionally-accredited US institutions.
Admissions staff and transcript evaluators should also note that the language of instruction at the new University of Rwanda (UR) is English, and documentation issued by the UR is in English only. The new UR transcript format has been in use since September 2013. Thus graduates or former students of the former National University of Rwanda (NUR) who request official transcripts now will receive transcripts in the new UR format, regardless of the dates of their studies or graduation. If the student’s original NUR record was in French, the new UR transcript will be an official English translation done by the UR. In addition, all correspondence and documentation from the UR is issued in English and written on letterhead of the new UR.