Public universities should take advantage of innovations by students to generate revenue for running the higher institutions of learning, lawmakers have advised. The legislators say that such resources will go a long way in complementing the seemingly overstretched national resource envelope.
Members were debating the report of the Public Accounts Committee (Central Government) on the Auditor General’s report on public universities for the year ending June 2022. The report was presented by Tororo South County MP Frederick Angura, a member of the committee during plenary sitting on Thursday, October 19.
According to the report, the shortfall in government releases affects implementation of planned activities at vote level and subsequently at national level. “The shortfall in releases was due to failure to fully fund the entities’ budget, citing poor budget performance. In some entities like Kyambogo University, critical activities were affected by budget cuts,” said Angura.
Koboko County MP James Baba, however, said that government should begin to commercialize areas of research that scientists are producing, citing the Kiira electronic vehicle, an innovation by Makerere University. “In software area especially, these young graduates are doing a lot of work. Apart from Kiira electronic vehicle, no other area is taken up for commercialization.”
He gave an example of Japan, where he said that the government has invested in its human resources, thereby enabling the production of vehicles and other world-renowned modern electronics. “We are now beginning to see a lot of high-quality research outputs from many of these universities. My appeal to government is that we must begin to commercialise these areas of research. capitalise on universities to transform this country.”
Kanyum County MP Simon Peter Okwalinga also urged professors in universities to explore the avenues of mobilising funds through proposal writing, making reference to Prof. Patrick Ogwang of Mbarara University of Science and Technology, whose proposal on research on Covid-19 attracted funding. “I am aware that while at Makerere University, I saw a number of departments and individual professors writing proposals to foreign entities and obtaining funding. I am not certain that the report clearly highlights such funding so that it could aggregate on larger funding from government.”
Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa, said that each university should have overhead policies, giving an example of universities in America. “This is a very good point which we should interest ourselves on how project overheads can contribute to the funds of public universities, it is a very good source of funding.”
Butebo district woman MP Agnes Ameede suggested revamping of halls of residence, with the aim of privatizing them so as to generate income. “Halls of residence in other universities are privatised and managed to the standards of hotels, and universities generate money from such halls of residence.”