If making a University is as simple as fixing a name board, Maldives College of Higher Education (MCHE) would have become University of Maldives on 1 January 2007, the date announced by President Gayoom a year earlier. In fact MCHE is far better justified to make such an upgrade, compared to many other institutions already promoted in that manner.
MCHE has thousands of students enrolled in its 7 faculties, 2 specialized centers and 3 atoll-based campuses. It conducts more than 100 different academic programmes including 13 degree level courses and 16 Advanced Diploma courses. Many of the courses lead to good employment prospects and are very popular among the country’s youth.
So what is holding back the creation of the University? According to MCHE as well as Dr. Mahmood Shaugy, who is currently charged with coordinating the formation of the university, the most important single step that needs to be taken is the passing of legislation required to make the University autonomous. A draft law was compiled in July 2006. Later in December the same year, a draft Presidential Decree was submitted to the President’s Office.
What are the characteristics of a university?
Fixing a name board is not enough to make an institution a University; it has to have certain characteristics. The following information compiled by MCHE sheds light on some of the characteristics:
“The definition of a university given by CEPES, the European Centre for Higher Education, UNESCO, is more specific: ‘an institution of higher learning, participating in the evolution of knowledge which provides facilities for teaching and research, and authorized to hold examinations and grant academic degrees.’ Although the College has the authority to hold examinations and grant degrees, this authority, clearly, does not make for a university. For many people, the key characteristics of a university may be listed as the following:
- A large proportion of university academic staff hold doctorate level qualifications. In many universities almost all the teaching staff have doctorate degrees. For example, at the International Islamic University, non-doctorate holders are not allowed to teach in the undergraduate programmes.
- A variety of degree level programmes is offered. In almost all universities, faculties offer several programmes at undergraduate and graduate level. While an increasing number of universities do offer diploma programmes, certificate and advanced certificate programmes are rarities.
- University divisions (faculty and centres) are engaged in research. In all universities, research forms a major activity of the institution. Staff time is generally shared between teaching and research. Specialized centres for research are part of many universities. Faculties are often evaluated and promoted depending on their research output. Researchers often publish their articles in university or international journals. Subjects on research methodologies are routinely found in the final year of degree courses. At the same time, there is a growing number of universities which do not concentrate on research activities, devoting their time on teaching. Nevertheless, research is a defining characteristic of all good universities.
- The university has resources and facilities to deliver undergraduate programmes. Resources would include libraries and laboratory facilities where they are needed. It is not possible to deliver an undergraduate programme without involving the students in activities that are stipulated by the programme.
- Most universities are managed with some degree of autonomy. The government of universities are characterized by self regulation with committees involved in major policy making. Usually a Council or Board of Governors make key decisions and approves policies. Often the Vice Chancellor or Rector is appointed by the Council. Academic decisions are made by a Senate or Academic Board. In general many universities operate in a climate which is removed from the main political currents of the external environment.
THE BRITISH CRITERIA
Quality Assurance Agency is the UK government body which evaluates submissions for University title by the British educational institutions. It has a published set of criteria to assist in the evaluation process. This criteria has been recently revised (August 2004) but remains essentially the same as before. When an institution aspires to become a university, QAA evaluates the institution’s performance using the criteria. Of all such criteria, the British QAA criteria appears to be the most comprehensive, rational and well-recognized.
When President Gayyoom announced that the Government intends to transform MCHE into University by 1st January 2007, the College set itself the task of developing a plan for the transformation. A guiding document was the more rigorous earlier QAA criteria which were used to evaluate MCHE. Against QAA guidelines, the Deans committee agreed that MCHE presently meets 78% of the criteria at an acceptable level.
In other words, of the 87 QAA criteria, the College needs to strengthen its performance in only 19 areas. Since the March 2006 evaluation, the College has steadily worked to meet the remaining criteria. MCHE now meets most of the QAA criteria. [For details please refer: http://www.mche.edu.mv/assets/images/mche/op_for_unititle.pdf]”