Heads of several departments and colleges at Makerere University are proposing to adopt the pre-entry exams system to determine the competence levels of students pursuing courses at the university.
Dr Vincent Ssembatya, the Director for Quality Assurance at Makerere says that the university management has already received proposals from some schools, colleges, and departments which are still subject to discussion by the university council.
Dr Ssembatya notes that the pre-entry exams are mooted basing on the fact that the university is challenged by the selection of students as the available slots are fewer compared to applicants.
Some of the departments that are aggressively pushing for the proposal include; the department of journalism and communication, college of health sciences, and school of engineering.
Dr William Tayeebwa, the Head of the Department of Journalism and Communication stresses that as a department they are interested in the pre-entry.
Dr Tayeebwa notes that they receive many applications but are only able to admit only 10 per cent. He notes that the existing system tends to be favour best performers in the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) exams who at times lack several basic aspects.
He argues that the pre-exams could level the ground and give every applicant an opportunity and also ensure that all the admitted students have an interest in the programme they have applied for.
Dr Ssembatya also adds that UNEB’s assessment system is not updated and cannot be used as a basis on who should be admitted in several programmes. He argues that the UNEB’s assessment doesn’t meet the specific competencies required by individual universities for specific programmes.
He further adds that although pre-entry exams are not common in public universities in Uganda, it is common practice internationally for universities to ensure that the admitted student is fit for the programme.
The pre-entry exams are no strange at Makerere given the fact that all students who have been admitted for the Bachelors of Law programme have been sitting for the examinations for over the last ten years.
The pre-entry exams cover competence areas including but not limited to reading and comprehension skills, language skills, numerical skills and logic, general knowledge and analytical writing skills.
However, it has been greatly criticized by a section of academicians and policymakers asking its essence given the fact that universities already have cut off points and other admission mechanisms to determine who should join a given programme according to their performance at lower levels of education.
Last year, the parliament committee on education asked the ministry of education to abolish pre-entry exams to law students in various universities, but the Ministry and National Council for Higher Education clarified that the Universities and other Tertiaries Act, give universities a right to determine their admission criteria.
Additional reporting by the independent