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The struggle to realize SDG 4[1] [to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all] remains a priority globally (Ritchie, Roser, Mispy, Ortiz-Ospina, 2018[2]; United Nations Economic and Social Council (2020)[3]. That is, the aspirations to attain it have attracted financial, technical, and infrastructural commitments from development partners and bilateral agencies. However, in Sub Saharan Africa, particularly in Uganda, the efforts to realize this SDG has since 2016 faced unprecedented challenges. Jointly, these challenges were grouped into: (i) Policy and Practice of Research, (ii) Innovations, and (iii) Management of research by the Africa-EU strategy (2021-2027), the AU-EU-UNICEF trilateral partnership, African Network for Internationalization of Education (ANIE) and OECD – program on Higher Education and Research for Development (IHERD), EU Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) for Sub-Saharan Africa 2021-27, and the EU Commission and Regional Economic Communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically, OECD IHERD report on ‘Governance of higher education, research and innovation in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda,’ observed that, the level of coherence within and among the existing policies, programmes, and institutions remains relatively weak. Policymakers in sub-Saharan Africa (Uganda inclusive) require greater awareness and capacity building to ensure that national Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) policies and programs capture the national development priorities and are internally and externally consistent to promote policy complementarity, coherence, and effectiveness.

COVID-19 has escalated the HEIs sector challenges cited above. For example, university education in Uganda has been devastated to an extent that over 400,000 university students were (and are still) left without physical contact with their facilitators and university administrators, including over 20,000 masters’ students who must undertake a supervised research project. This lack of contact has affected the relevancy of masters’ research, the quality of the supervision process, the quality of students graduating and those yet to graduate in the next over 5 years. Hence, the masters’ research processes (which includes how a masters student identifies a nationally relevant researchable area, how he/she is supervised and assessed, the way viva-voce assessments are organized, and the student’s preparation for this viva), have all greatly deteriorated. Additionally, facilitators’ (university academic & administrative staff) research methods skills and knowledge require refreshing to cope with these devastation effects.

Project Relevancy

The project will strengthen quality and relevance of masters’ students research at Uganda’s HEIs through improved regulative / policy mandate of Uganda’s National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) and integration of ICT usage into managing the students’ research journey. That is, student enrolment into the research project, research idea generation, supervisor allocation, supervision records management, up to post assessment / viva-voce. Additionally, the project emphasizes a need for Green Deal (that is moving towards zero carbon and environmental responsibility)[4]. In this context, the project will contribute to this by using ICT / technology (E-Supervision, Mobile App., and Virtual meetings to reduce carbon dioxide from physical transport movements) to close master’s research quality gaps, which include: (i) student-supervisor interaction records management, (ii) redundancies in supervisor-student skills transfer, (iii) research time redundancy, & (iv) transparency in viva-voce conduct. Of specific interest (see, Specific objectives 2), the project will stimulate and guide masters’ research engagements in neglected yet relevant to Uganda’s – EU Green Deal development priorities which are less researched. Examples of neglected areas include innovations into green transition, climate change and sustainable energy, circular economy, among others. Benchmarking and utilization of our European counterparts (see beneficiaries from this projects) potentially helps in addressing the need to leverage the said neglected areas. Successes can then be replicated in Europe and elsewhere.

[1] SDG 4 aims to provide children and young people with quality and easily accessible education plus other learning opportunities. One of its targets is to achieve universal literacy and numeracy. A major component in acquiring knowledge and valuable skills in the learning environment. Hence, the urgent need to build more educational facilities and upgrade the present ones to provide safe, inclusive, and effective learning environments for all

[2] Ritchie, Roser, Mispy, Ortiz-Ospina. “Measuring progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.”, website (2018).

[3] United Nations Economic and Social Council (2020) Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals Report of the Secretary-General, High-level political forum on sustainable development, convened under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council (E/2020/57), 28 April 2020

[4] ICT-4MRPQ project will be disposing of outdated equipment in accordance with the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) regulations leading to the use of better equipment, which are more energy-efficient. The project also promotes using sustainable technologies like Cloud Computing, which will reduce the impact on the environment and lower maintenance costs. This to reduce adverse environmental and social impacts associated with the implementation of activities. Additionally, increased use of ICT in managing research processes will also contribute to the reduction of paper use, and circulation of people, which will cut down on fossil fuel requirements.