Of Malawi education: Publish and publicise, or Perish

The question of the Malawian education system continues to be discussed, especially by prospective, current and graduate academics. It remains a hot topic in most social media forums, and of cause, parents concerned about the future of their children regarding the career paths opted by their children. The discussions are mainly focused on comparing the standards of the education framework locally, regionally and at times internationally. Whether right or wrong, this comparison has rightly put the framework of our institutions in disrepute on social media forums; question; is our education framework matching the standards expected internally and externally?

UNIMA graduates

UNIMA graduates

I would like to focus on the Malawi framework and compare it to the UK framework. The patriotic would ask, “Why compare it to the UK framework?” The answer is simple; the UK degree/award is still recognised internationally and accepted in the “academic world”, and since it is taught and researched in English, the academic community worldwide mainly communicate in the English medium.

At the moment, according to a report published this year (2015) by Pearson/ Economist Intelligence Unit, the UK is in second place among European countries, and sixth overall in a global education league table that determines the quality of academic levels from primary school to university.

In first place is South Korea followed by Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Finland, making the top 5. The table shows a strong link between improving levels of education and training, coupled with economic growth. South Africa, the highest rated African nation is in 124th position due to the research projects and publications being carried out at University of Cape Town, University of Witwatersrand, Stellenbosch University and University of KwaZulu-Natal. Can a university be respected if it does not carry out research and publish its findings? The answer is simple; NO!!

Malawi, academically in the past competed mainly with South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia, regionally, on the deliverance of education. South Africa and Zimbabwe have for decades been the pace setter, and a sizeable number of people currently working in our industry, have qualifications from these nations. However, the need to compare our level of qualification with the UK framework remains important for the development of our overall education framework.

Before we do that I think it is important that we first establish how I am going to do so. As part of my profession based in Cheltenham, UK, I spend time assessing and advising people with international qualifications and compare their LEVEL to the UK framework.

By “level” I mean high/secondary school, post school, undergraduate and post graduate qualifications. When comparing levels, the subject area is considered, but what is important is the level itself. So, my take is based on the Malawi framework compared to the UK framework level, and how our neighbouring countries are faring as well to the UK framework.

Below is a diagram detailing the levels of qualification and their comparability to the UK qualifications framework.


Country Qualification Comparable level in the UK


Bachelor degree Diploma of Higher Education
Malawi Bachelor degree (when studied in the following field(s):



British Bachelor (ordinary) degree standard
Malawi Diploma (university)

When studied at the following institution(s):

Mzuzu University

University of Malawi

Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE) standard




Malawi Master’s degree

When studied at the following institution(s):

Mzuzu University

University of Malawi


British bachelor (honours) degree standard
Malawi Bachelor of education Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) standard
South Africa Bachelor degree British Bachelor (ordinary) degree standard
South Africa Bachelor (Honours) degree British Bachelor (Honours) degree standard
South Africa Professional Bachelor degree British Bachelor (Honours) degree standard
South Africa Master’s degree British Master’s degree standard
South Africa Doctorate British Doctor of Philosophy degree (PhD) standard
Zambia Bachelor degree Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) standard
Zambia Master’s degree British Bachelor (Honours) degree standard
Zambia Postgraduate Diploma British Bachelor (Ordinary) degree standard
Zambia Diploma (from the Medical Council of Zambia) BTEC Level 3 Subsidiary Diploma / 90-Credit Diploma / Diploma
Zimbabwe Higher National Diploma SQA Higher National Diploma (HND) standard
Zimbabwe Bachelor degree (General) British Bachelor (Ordinary) degree standard
Zimbabwe Bachelor degree (Honours) British Bachelor (Honours) degree standard
Zimbabwe Master of Philosophy British Master of Philosophy degree (MPhil) standard


Zimbabwe Master’s degree British Master’s degree standard


A lot of research is done so that levels are assessed according to the applicant’s qualifications. The information above is standard country levels, therefore if a candidate was to present a qualification not yet assessed, the qualification would go into research. The research procedure, according to those researching the qualification, the process can take up to four months. This is because information would be requested from the awarding institution, local education authorities, then after the information is gathered; it is then compared to the UK framework. At times if the two stated above are unable to give the required information, information is therefore sourced from a UK based embassy. The embassy is expected to assist in gathering the information from back home.

It is also important to note that the information is used for enrolling into UK universities and other education institutions, work (employment) and immigration matters.

The Zimbabwean government continues to support their higher learning institutions in areas of furthering the levels of education in that country despite all the political chaos known to all about the country. The Zambian framework, in the past was considered to be below the levels of the Malawian levels but is now looking more or less the same(if not better) as the Malawian framework. The South African education system is Africa’s leading framework, miles ahead of any other nation in Africa.

As an exercise; visit any of our UNIMA websites and compare the information you will access on that site to the information you will access from a University of Zambia website. Visit both sites as a visitor trying to get information on courses, duration, modules, fees and any other information that as a parent or prospective student would want to know about the institution.

Bearing in mind that in modern day academia, information about institutions is readily available online. Feel free to do the same with the University of Zimbabwe and any South African university. If there is one thing one needs to understand is that we are now living in an era where information needs to be readily available online to all stakeholders.

This exercise is simple but explains a lot about where our institutions are and what they need to be doing to catch up with the rest. No doubt that a website would not give a true indication of the quality of lectures offered by the institution; however it gives a clear picture of how the institution is managed.

It’s the same thing as walking into the reception of any organisation, you expect to see a receptionist who will be able to address any queries presented and if need be, onewould be signposted to the correct department or person. No difference with a website; a website is the online receptionist. If our institutions are lacking in the simple aspect of running and managing a website, where else are they lacking?


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21 thoughts on “Of Malawi education: Publish and publicise, or Perish”

  1. Tino Fostino says:

    Dude,,,,mmene Degree yapaMzuni imavutila nde muzikhulupilira zofoilazi..,I bet ts jx som educational captalism of som sense…kumaziona zinazi…!!

  2. Mugonapamhanya says:

    Malawian Lecturers consider it a very big achievement to see their village faces in the print and digital media. And an underqualified journalist considers it a very big achievement to interview a Lecture on a trash subject. The word mediocrity was invented in Malawi.

  3. Andrew says:

    A kenkkk, ever heard of research led or research informed teaching? If not, then google and get enlightened

    1. Kenkkk says:

      There is no need for me to google. I google for things I don’t know or for more information and not for simple things you suggest.

      I am discussing this article objectively while you are doing it from a bootlicking dpp/apm angle.

  4. Inhumane Rights Activist says:

    I am a Malawian academic myself and I have had post-graduate education in the UK. When I read the headline, i was attracted instantly because as you may be well aware, we need to be lecturing, researching, consulting and overall publishing. I have gone through the entire article and nothing linked to the headline has been mentioned. I thought the article relates to the issue that has been in the media domain of late with regards to Mutharika’s statement on Malawian academics and the issue of publishing. Yet all we have been schooled by you is a comparative analysis of UK and Malawian tertiary educational qualifications. Put it another way, what is it about publishing or perishing as you have screamed in the headline that correlates to what is the main body of your article? I find this bewildering because it is well known that all over the world that most advanced economies have educational bodies that vet foreign qualifications and they all differ. In the United States they have some many of such bodies depending on the field you are in such as the FCSA etc. South Africa has SAQA and similarly in the UK there are vetting bodies.This applies also on such issues like drivers’ license. You are Malawian you have such a time only to drive in the UK until you get a UK one. If from the US, you can only drive for so long in the UK This is well known and then you go on and on about websites. But where is the crux of the headline in the article brother?

    I will tell you plain and simple, you need to read a bit of Philosophy. Get yourself these simple books:

    1. Coetzee, P.H. & Roux, A.P.J. (eds). (2004), African Philosophy Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (in this book, concentrate on the Chapter written by late Prof Didier Kaphagawani)
    2. Gray, C.C. (2001). Afrocentric: Thought and Praxis. Trenton, N.J: Africa World Press.
    3. Wa Thion’go, N 1986. Decolonising the Mind. London: James Currey Publishers
    4. Fannon, Frantz. 2008 edition. Black Skin, White Masks. New York, NY: Grove Press.
    In addition, you need to read a SAGE journal of European Social Policy that talks about the “Political Economy of Education” authored by a German: Marius Busemeyer in 2012.

    You can go to your local council library in Cheltenham and they should get them for your. Take your time, read them over Saturdays and Sundays and then reflect on the global picture of comparative educational systems.

    In a nutshell, capitalism takes many forms and one of them is the way education is controlled. Why should one take a GMAT or GRE test when you want to study in the US or Canada for your Masters or PhD? Come to think of it. Yet, the same person goes straight to the University of Oxford and gets a Masters in 9 months without a prior GRE or GMAT.

    Now when you have a mindset that looks at all these rankings and educational structures that have been socially constructed to streamline qualifications attained elsewhere other than in the host country especially in the West and then you say: ahaaah! This is the best, then I am afraid, you are still colonised in the mind.

    The Political Economy of Education in this case is viewed in the sense of one protecting his or her own educational system. By the way, you must know by now that the Silicon Valley is run by Indian trained ICT wizards. Not Americans but Indians. Why then no Indian University is placed among the top league when some students that fail admission to the Indian Institute of Technology are admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This is what we call the the Political Economy of Education.

    George, you might have lived and worked with the British but you need to decolonise your mindset.

  5. Chidongo j says:

    Bravo all have commented on this article you have really shown that you are pour Malawian Brain drain, you have what it makes to be educated. Munaphunziradi kunja eee takunyadirani. zikomo kwambiri kwa olemba nkhani kuti watimasula a Malawi tadziwa pamene tili ndipo tidziwe chochita. Anthu ali amagwira ya u nurse ku u care chonsecho care worker kapena nun choncho pot ndi ntchito.

  6. Kenkkk says:

    It just shows how ignorant some people are. Publishing or publicizing has nothing to do with teaching or how students will be taught. Are students being taught what is published by their lecturers? It is utter stupidity if you keep on mixing issues here.

  7. chingolopiyo says:

    George Kalindawalo, ndinudi mfumu. You have brought a very interesting topic which most people in Malawi are ignorant off. In one of my comment on Danwood article, I explained that Malawi degree is of no value in Europe. You have done well explaining the truth cause we believe and walk shoulder high making noise that we are highly educated, yet our degrees are a Higher Diploma. This is a wake up call to all those who have been against the president when he talked about research in universities. Akalindawalo ndinudi mfumu, mwandikumbutsa nyimbo yakale ya MBC Band. Hear ! hear! hear! hear!.

  8. pulofesa says:

    Good article, never mind how much money is put into research by their governments i.e. UK, SA and compare the same to Malawi, surely they need to have similar output.

  9. Kenkkk says:

    Please don’t confuse things here about what apm said and what Chirwa said. Chirwa answered apm perfectly and his university is one of those doing a lot of research. The title of this article is not right and misleading if you read the article in totality.

    The writer of this article is confused because one minute he is talking about publishing, the next about the standard of education. Clearly the examples he has given about the various academic qualifications show the poor standard of education at our universities and that has nothing to do with publishing. Will publishing improve the degrees offered at our universities? This is about what we teach or syllabus of our education System at university level.

    Most of our academics were educated at universities abroad, so there is something wrong with our education system which they are following. It has nothing to do with research or publishing.

    You are talking about the UK where teachers at all levels are graduates with at least a degree or multiple degrees right from primary to secondary to university.

    What type of teachers do we have in malawi nowadays? You have a form 4 or 2 teacher teaching at secondary school? During kamuzu only graduates were teaching at sec schools. Now the education system in malawi since the liberalization is completely chaotic. During kamuzu era our degrees were respected even in UK but now they are not. Garbage in garbage out.

    1. Chakwera: "Mulakhoism" says:

      Are you really sure you don’t see the relationship between education standards and publishing? I always respect your comments but I must admit that I am disappointed. All universities in the world are measured based on the quality of members of staff in those universities. How can we produce high quality degree if we have poor quality teachers? The only way to measure the quality of teachers is not anything except publishing. Publishing is not simple my brother. Ask those lecturers at Unima. This is why very few I mean very few lecturers do it at Unima while the rest are ……… By the way teaching, is just only 20% of the job description of a lecturer. Research comprises 70% of the duties of a lecturer. The remaining percentages are for these other petty things like seminars, career talks, public talks, etc. When the president knows what he meant when he said to the Unima lecturers, “Do research and publish.” A lecturer minus research and publication = herdsman.

      1. kenkkk says:

        I think others have already answered you. If you can’t see the disjointed nature of this article,then you have a problem my friend.

        The poor standard of education in Malawi is not caused by lack of publishing,it is caused by political chaos and poor planning. Students are taught by following a syllabus not what their teachers or lecturers publish. Then you have stupid quota system,where students are selected not on merit but on where they cone from. Then how can you have good students/education or how can you convince the world that our students are as good when they know very well that they have been to our so called universities not on academic merit but by where they live or come from. This has nothing to do with research or publishing,these are completely different topics altogether.

        Look here I have three degrees,am not an academic but I find this article very misleading indeed,confusing issues.

        1. Chakwera: "Mulakhoism" says:

          Noted my brother. I was just trying to raise the point that there are many variables that affect the quality of education and not only the syllabi. Some of them are the policy issues as you have rightly put it. And another paramount variable is the quality of teachers. Suppose we have high quality syllabi in our universities but poorly delivered to students by half-baked lecturers who fail to reach the worldly accepted standard (research and publish) of a qualified lecturer. Can a good syllabus improve our education standards? In addition to policy, we also need to improve the quality of our lecturers. Mind you, we cannot have a good syllabus if we a half baked lecturers. Why? Because syllabi are not prepared and vetted by herdsmen but by those lecturers. Therefore, half-baked lecturers = poor syllabi = poor delivery = 2half-baked students = zero-baked students. And this is why we are poor as a nation.

          1. Kenkkk says:

            I hear you clearly but all am saying the two issues of publishing or research and what we teach our students are not the same. We can say copy the UK or USA syllabuses and use in our education system but will that help our lecturers publishing? Or will our lecturers fail to teach UK or USA syllabuses, of course not they will teach perfectly but will that help them publishing? Or will their lack of publishing fail them to teach UK or USA syllabuses, again no.

            Also it is a misconception to think that UK or USA lecturers do publish and Malawi ones don’t. Most lecturers in universities abroad actually don’t publish anything, they just teach. Only few are dedicated researchers and publish which is no different to malawi ones. Most research in UK and USA is not done by academics but by industry.

            So we just have to be careful on what we say.

            Lecturers do teach their students research methods / data analysis, etc at both undergraduates and postgraduate levels at our malawi universities as well.

            It is important to be clear on what we are trying to say. Is it education standards we are teaching our students or research/ publishing?

      2. Inhumane Rights Activist says:

        I agree with Kenkkk. The article’s headline does not empty its contents into the main body of the text. If the story was about publishing in the academia then that’s what were expected to be told but this then takes a turn for something different: Comparative educational systems and reasons why we have such. That’s all about the article NOT about what the headline seems to indicate. I am an academic, I have attained multiple qualifications from the land where the author says he is based. I doubt if the author is an academic. He could be a professional in the industry but not on the academia. If he was an academic, he could have articulated his argument to link it to the title. The article in fact lacks coherence because he brings up issues that do not cement his argument. I think the chap is one of those who once they venture into white man’s land, they think that all there is the best. I hope while he is in the UK, he must attempt to meet some of our own Malawian Profs. Jack Mapanje at York or Prof John Lwanda in Scotland, they could decolonise his mindset.

  10. Nzeru says:

    Publish OR Perish is what universities in USA, Canada, Europe use. If you dont publish you lose your job in the university. If you dont bring money in university your contract is terminated. We need this in UNIMA

  11. Funso says:

    A useful and revealing article. It says a great deal.

  12. Chekambewa says:

    Aprofessor chirwa mukupulika? check yourself dont fool us that your a professor when u dont know reaearch work

  13. Yohane says:

    fundo zizikhalako ngati zimenezi osati kumathsmangira kunyoza

  14. mbewe says:

    True we need to be given real issues and resolve. Poor education system affect products. This the reason why many rush to be running organisation that arenot inline with their qaulification confusing masses. Image a carpenter blaming his product. Should we say that our system is okey. Malawi has been producing engineers can any so called come in the and show me what they desgned purely made and desgned by collectively our prooducts to appreciate. Look our lawyers lacking ethics producer blaming his product this shows something is lacking even in our so called academia. Malaw had irrigation engineers failing to design a simple irrigstion that can use tredal pump. Forestry people who Chikangawa the highest waulificatio

  15. Pulofesa Daniwudu Lake Chirwa says:

    Izi ndiye mfundo osati za mkulu uja wa ku kepi tauni univesite ongothamangira kunyoza APM kuti atchuke. Malawi academia, Publish or perish, period!

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