TCU is a regulatory and NOT a nurturing commission

Thursday August 8 2019



Professor Zulfiqarali Premji

Professor Zulfiqarali Premji 

This is a sincere supplication, to leave Tanzania Commission of Universities (TCU) as a regulatory commission. There is no need to politicise the role of TCU and transform it to a professional association.

Nurturing any institution is specifically the role of professional associations but a regulatory commission should remain with the primary role to ensure that laid down qualities, decrees and rules are followed, short of this there will be a mockery of our higher education agenda.

Now that higher education is expanding at almost exponential rate with so many stakeholders it is mandatory that it be regulated or else as the English say, if nobody weeds the garden, it gets to be a big mess, and we should avoid this at all cost.

I give credit to former President Benjamin Mkapa for his visionary faculty to establish TCU in 2005, but TCU has never really played its required role as per its vision and mission and I have in the past in this column written about this topic. So the discussion should be to bring the derailed Commission back to its primary mandate and not advocate a protective or a nurturing role.

It’s a known fact that TCU was not doing its mandated job. They were totally immersed with new student admissions till President John Magufuli directed them to leave admissions to specific universities.

Only last week TCU was sitting on the same table with three medical universities to prepare a common undergraduate medical and nursing curriculum. Later on TCU will have to approve the same curriculum, if this is not a mockery of being a regulator than what is it?

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TCU has an advisory and supportive function but these do not surpass its primary function as a regulatory commission.

Why should TCU not close down a private or even a public university if there are sound and concrete reasons, being sympathetic, being protective and fostering will eventually only bring mediocrity.

I am a firm supporter of public-private partnership and the role of private sector in education is remarkable but there are glaring deficiencies and in institutions of higher learning TCU has to ensure that such deficiencies are addressed.

Whether it is a private or public university, TCU should treat both equally and in its assessment there should not be any partiality, bias or favouritism.

Furthermore, the goal should not be to close down universities at the slightest pretext but to provide support and improve on the noted deficiencies. We need TCU to regulate and not strangulate any university.

The TCU management should strive to ensure there is no needless red tape and that regulations are not unnecessarily voluminous and that compliance is not inordinately costly.

We do not want higher education to be unduly expensive. While government regulation can confer significant benefits and protections, the costs associated with heavy-handed and poorly designed regulations can be enormous.

Closing down should be the last resort when the management of the university is obstinate, inflexible and may pose harm.

TCU should be consulting, coordinating, cooperating, listening, learning and leading all universities to highest academic accolades.

Specifically my experience is in the medical field and some private medical universities have been quite resistant to change according to the requirements and thus TCU has to take action.

I can provide many examples for irregularities in the private medical universities and this is indeed dangerous.

The first big step universities should take is true self-regulation and I do not mean accreditation by foreign agency, which is another mockery and should not be allowed. Every university should have an academic quality assurance program and this should be under the office of the Chancellor or board of trustee.

If there is no such a unit TCU should provide assistance to such universities to start a quality assurance unit.

The next step is when the regulatory aspects are embedded in legislation; it becomes an entirely new ball game. This is what TCU is and it has a very specific goal articulated in its vision and mission statements.

TCU should avoid to towline what the politicians dictate because some of it is not in public interest.

When the University of Dar es Salaam was created President Nyerere was its first Chancellor but this has changed today and it appears that former heads of state are now appointed Chancellors of public universities.

I think times have now changed, education systems are also changing and we need professional overseers. This is an open debate but perhaps not within the scope of this article.

Nonetheless, the government expects the public interest to take precedence in making decisions related to regulatory functions.

Failure to do so will cause havoc in our universities, standards will be compromised, students will suffer and the national targets of skilled human resources will be missed.

Compromising university education is to invite poverty in the long term.

Zulfiqarali Premji is a retired MUHAS professor. His career spans over 40 years in academia, research and public health