University of Malawi delinking back on the rails

Vice President Saulos Chilima

The Malawi government has announced that it will proceed to delink the University of Malawi (Unima) into three universities; namely the Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences MUBAS; the Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (KUHES); and the University of Malawi (UNIMA).

Parliament already passed enabling acts to oil the process which were ascented to by former president Peter Mutharika.

Malawi's Vice President Dr. Saulos Chilima met with the Council of the University of Malawi alongside the Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo, the Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe, Director of Higher Education Dr. Levis Enaya and officials from the Department of Statutory Corporations and Public Sector Reforms after which the announcement was made. 

The meeting was a follow up to the one held on 2nd February, 2021 which discussed the resolution made by the Council to review the process of delinking the University of Malawi.

"Prior to delivering its position today, there have been consultations within the government hierarchy to affirm its position to proceed with the delinking process.  

"Moving forward, the Ministry of Education will proceed to gazette the commencement date for the 2019 Acts of Parliament in line with Section 74 of the Constitution; implement a detailed Plan of Action on the delinking; and establish a Transitional Unit to oversee and conclude the process," said Vice President Saulos Chilima.

Government sees the delinking of Unima is a progressive process in increasing access to higher education and improving governance and operational efficiency in public universities in Malawi. 

The development comes after the University Council  had denounced the delinking process recently.

U-Turn Genesis

Unima has four constituent colleges—Chancellor College, The Polytechnic, Kamuzu College of Nursing and the College of Medicine.

But a month ago, its Council suspended a decision to delink constituent colleges of the university.

The decision to delink the colleges was made at an extraordinary meeting of the council held on July 10 2017.

A memo, signed by Ashanie Gawa following the meeting, advised principals of the constituent colleges to inform all members of staff accordingly.

“Following the 117th extraordinary meeting of the council held virtually on 20th January 2021, the council appreciated that the decision to delink the university taken by its 202nd extraordinary meeting held on 10th July 2017 was ultra vires and not in line with powers and functions that these structures (Senate and the council) were mandated to undertake,” the memo reads.

But legal and education experts queried the move.

Malawi Law Society president Burton Mhango told The Nation, the council’s decision to reverse the unbundling process has no legal basis since Parliament ratified an Act to facilitate the delinking process.

“An Act of Parliament is above any decision that the council can make. The decision made by the council cannot have any effect on the decision made by Parliament. The decision to delink the universities was formalised.

“For that decision to be rescinded, it will have to go back to Parliament for a subsequent amendment or repealing the previous legislation [which authorised the delinking process].”

Concurring with Mhango, the Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) in a statement signed by its executive director Benedicto Kondowe and board chairperson Jennipher Mkandawire said the council’s decision was setting a wrong precedent.