Chaos for Universities in Malawi as High Court grants injunction to UNIMA law students

University of Malawi (UNIMA) law students were granted an injunction on September 1 by Zomba High Court restraining the University Council from implementing the establishment of five schools, asking for a judicial review first.

But in an interview, UNIMA Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Samson Sajidu contends that the University of Malawi Act No. 18 of 2019 Section 30, abolished Faculties and provided the establishment of the Schools and that the Council was just implementing this law.

“It should be understood that Faculties no longer exist in the current UNIMA Act,” Sajidu said. “The Council of the University of Malawi approved establishment of the five schools in December 2021.”

UNIMA Vice-Chancellor Prof. Sajidu

The Act established five Schools — of Law, Economics & Governance; of Arts, Communication & Design; of Education; of Humanities & Social Sciences; and of Natural & Applied Sciences — which were supposed to be operationalised on September 1, 2022.

But the students — Khama Maere, Bentry Nyondo, Gari Mula, MacFord Sempulo, Eunice Banda and Ekari Chimera — were not happy with the decision and thus took the UNIMA Council to court applying for judicial review to review the decision to abolish the Faculty of Law and other Faculties.

On what model the decision came about to establish the Schools, Sajidu said the term School or Faculty may be used interchangeably and that it depends on one’s background.

“But as I have already mentioned, our Act no longer recognises the term Faculty. It took the University, close to 3 years debating on formulation of schools and finally agreed that initially — in the delinked status — we should have five Schools reconstituted on the basis of the then Faculties.

He added that the Council was guided by the following:

i. A School should have defined related themes and disciplines;

ii. A School should as much as possible be self-contained in terms development and delivery of its programmes;

iii. A School should have a minimum of 5 Departments but not more than 10 Departments;

iv. A School should demonstrate potential for efficiency and effectiveness in delivering programmes, research and resource mobilisation;

v. International benchmarking in programmes, research and innovation;

vi. A School should be responsive to the national development agenda; and

vii. A School should have a strategic plan.

Asked what were the challenges faced in the system of faculties, Sajidu maintained that University management can choose to use Faculty or School “depending on what they like”.

“We have, of course, improved by making sure that each school adheres to the guidelines stated above for enhanced operationalisation of our mandate of teaching and learning, conducting research, and also providing public services.

“In the new schools we will also be establishing new departments guided by the following:

i. The Department should have a defined theme or academic discipline in line with the School in which it belongs;

ii. The Department should have a minimum of 10 modules worth at least 3 credit hours (12 credits) each per year (except where necessity overrules);

iii. The Department should have at least one postgraduate programme;

iv. The Department should have at least 10 suitably qualified full-time academic staff members in each Department;

v. The Department should have at least 5 members of staff with a doctoral degree in a relevant field or discipline; and

vi. The Department should have at least one (1) Associate Professor, who will give academic leadership in the Department.

The Departments of School of Arts, Communication & Design are Fashion & Design; Fine Arts; Entrepreneurship & Creative Industries; Media & Communication Studies; Academic Skills & Careers; Film & Photography; Drama & Theatre Studies; and Music & Dance.

School of Education has Education Foundations; Mathematics, Science & Technology Education; Language Education; Social Sciences Education; Higher Education Management & Professional Development; and Early Childhood & Primary Education.

School of Humanities & Social Sciences has History, Archaeology & Heritage Studies; Language, Linguistics & Classic Studies; Literary Studies; Psychology & Medical Humanities; Theology & Religious Studies; Philosophy; and Sociology & Population Studies.

School of Law, Economics and Governance has Public Law & Clinical Legal Education; Private Law; Economics; Politics & Government; and Management & Leadership Studies.

School of Natural and Applied Sciences has Human Ecology & Agricultural Sciences; Biological Sciences; Biomedical & Health Sciences; Chemistry & Chemical Engineering; Computing; Geography, Earth Sciences and Environment; Mathematical Sciences; and Physics & Electronics.

“This reform allows us to come up with new departments as indicated above and that we have also lined up a number of market relevant academic programmes which we will soon be rolling out,” Sajidu said, while emphasizing that a degree attained under this reform is neither different or inferior as opposed to the older Faculty system.

“In fact, the new system shall be superior than the older system on the understanding that we have tight restrictions in terms of credits, benchmarking, staff qualifications and numbers and strategic systems in order to offer degrees (certificates and diplomas) of international quality standards.”

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