Cablegate: Zimbabwean University Profiles

Published: Mon 14 Apr 2003 06:25 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. This cable is the first in a series looking at
issues related to higher education in Zimbabwe.
2. Since independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has invested
heavily in education, improving the quantity and
quality of primary, secondary, and teacher training
schools throughout the country. The result was that
Zimbabwe achieved the highest literacy rate in sub-
Saharan Africa and has produced an abundance of highly
qualified high school graduates. In an attempt to
absorb the growing number of students finishing high
school, the flagship University of Zimbabwe expanded
its incoming class sizes and eight new public and
private universities sprang up in major provincial
cities. At least 35,000 students are now enrolled at
universities within Zimbabwe, almost 3% of the
country's total population of 12 million people.
3. Profiles of the seven most important universities
in Zimbabwe follow.
4. University of Zimbabwe ( Located
on a spacious campus in Harare, the UZ is Zimbabwe's
oldest and largest university. Founded in 1952 as the
University of Rhodesia, it became the University of
Zimbabwe at independence in 1980. About 18,000
students are enrolled at the university's 10
faculties, which include arts, agriculture, commerce,
education, engineering, law, medicine, science, social
studies, and veterinary science. UZ houses the
country's only law and medical schools and most of the
country's accredited graduate programs. Its lecturers
tend to be more senior, better researched, and more
likely to hold a terminal degree than their colleagues
at newer institutions. Annual tuition varies by
discipline but is currently around z$35,000 (US $26)
per year. On-campus housing is available for
approximately 5000 students, but students complain
regularly about the quality and price of the
accommodations. Many are known to "sub-let" their
dorm rooms to additional illegal roommates in order to
save money. Food service at UZ has been privatized
and students are also unhappy with the price and
quality of food. Many students say that they can only
afford to eat a proper meal once per day and that they
survive the rest of the time on tea and "air pies"
(imaginary food). Students and staff are frustrated
by the university's economic woes, as evidenced by the
frequent neglect of routine maintenance on campus and
shortages of supplies. In 2002, for example, a final
exam in chemistry had to be postponed because the lab
could not procure enough test tubes for all students
to complete the examination. The University of
Zimbabwe is supposed to have two terms per year, with
the first term running from March to June and the
second from August to November. At present this cycle
is off. In February 2003, the Ministry of Higher
Education closed UZ indefinitely in response to a
strike by academic staff that began in November 2002.
Faculty members are seeking a 135% wage increase, not
unreasonable given Zimbabwe's inflation rate of 220%.
Final exams from December 2002 are still pending and
classes have not yet resumed as of April 2003. UZ has
traditionally been the most sought after and
prestigious of local tertiary institutions, but many
top students are now choosing to enroll elsewhere, as
they fear that they will never finish a degree at UZ
under current conditions.
( Established in 1991 in Zimbabwe's
second-largest city, Bulawayo, NUST has become one of
the nation's premier educational institutions. Home
to about 2700 students, NUST focuses on the sciences,
engineering, architecture, and technological fields.
The university administration has adopted a philosophy
of growing incrementally and stressing quality over
quantity, both in terms of the number of buildings
erected on its still-in-progress campus or when adding
new subjects. NUST was the first university in
Zimbabwe to require an industrial attachment
(internship) for all of its students in order to
graduate. This was part of a strategy to foster ties
with industry and to prepare students with practical
skills that they will need on the job. Tuition at NUST
is around z$36,000 per year and it operates on the
American academic calendar of two semesters beginning
in August and January. Fewer than 100 students are
able to live on-campus, as most of the planned
residence halls have not yet been built. Because of
Zimbabwe's fuel crisis, students and staff alike have
at times struggled to get to the NUST campus, located
about 5 km outside of the Bulawayo city center. NUST
lecturers also went on strike in November 2002 seeking
a 135% salary increase. Classes were curtailed at the
end of 2002 and final exams postponed, but most of the
academic staff is back at work and classes are meeting
again as of April 2003. The salary issue has yet to
be resolved though, so the threat of another strike
still hangs in the air.
6. Bindura University of Science Education
( Bindura became a university in
2000, but its roots lie in a teacher-training
institute that for many years was supported heavily by
Cuban funding and personnel. Located in a small town
about 100 km north of Harare, Bindura now has about
600 students who pay about z$35,000 per year in
tuition and fees. The school has two terms per year,
with the first running from March to June and the
second from August to December. As its name implies,
Bindura specializes in training teachers in biology,
chemistry, mathematics, physics, and environmental
science. Most Bindura students already have
certificates from teacher training colleges and
several years experience in the classroom and are now
returning for a university degree. Bindura is
hampered by its small campus and lack of physical and
material resources. Its library is tiny, there are
few computers available for student use, and lab
facilities are inadequate. Students in lab science
courses now travel as necessary to Harare and use
University of Zimbabwe lab facilities. Bindura has a
long-term plan to build a new campus nearby, but lack
of funds has so far hindered the start of any
construction. Bindura faculty members have not joined
the strike started by their colleagues at NUST and UZ
and classes are proceeding normally.
7. Midlands State University: Located in Gweru, a
mid-sized town about 300 kilometers southwest of
Harare, Midlands State (MSU) only became a university
in 2000. It has grown quickly and already has 4700
students, second in size only to the University of
Zimbabwe. MSU is following the typical Zimbabwean
academic calendar, opening the school year in March
and beginning a second term in August. Students pay
tuition of approximately z$35,000. Midlands offers a
wide range of subjects, including agriculture,
commerce, and social studies. Facilities are
inadequate for the size of the current student body
and the subjects being offered. MSU has plans to
build its own campus, but no ground has yet been
broken, so classes are held on the grounds of the
former Midlands Teacher Training College. Academics
at MSU tend to be younger and less experienced than
their UZ or NUST counterparts. They have not gone on
strike or threatened to do so, and classes at MSU are
proceeding as scheduled.
8. Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU): ZOU boasts an
enrollment of almost 10,000 and offers a variety of
subjects, perhaps the most popular of which are
business, education, agriculture, and communications.
Tuition varies by subject but the average is about
z$33,000 per year. Most ZOU students are working
adults, many of them teachers in rural areas, seeking
job advancement or a salary increase through a
university degree. ZOU is however better described as
a correspondence school than a full-fledged
university. Instruction takes place through written
self-study modules supplemented by occasional in-
person meetings for tutorials and exams. ZOU's degree
completion rate is quite low and its degrees, though
accredited, are not as well respected as those from
other local universities.
9. Africa University ( Africa
University (AU) is a private school located 15
kilometers west of Mutare, Zimbabwe's third-largest
city. It opened in 1992 and is affiliated with and
financially supported by the American United Methodist
Church. As its name implies, the campus hosts
students from 20 countries across Africa. There are
currently about 1000 students enrolled and about 70
lecturers working in faculties of agriculture,
education, management, and theology. AU has a modern
campus, a first-class library and, on the whole,
greater resources than other universities in Zimbabwe.
AU follows the American academic calendar with
semesters starting in August and January. Tuition and
fees per term for international students are US$2680,
while local residents pay about z$150,000 (US $110).
Africa University is a functional and growing
university with a diverse student body and staff
complement. It is however, financially out of reach
for most Zimbabweans.
10. SOLUSI UNIVERSITY: Solusi University is a
Seventh Day Adventist school with a student body of
1200. It is located in a rural area about 100
kilometers outside of Bulawayo. Students may choose
to study in the faculty of arts and sciences,
business, or theology and religious studies. Solusi
follows the American academic calendar. Tuition and
fees per semester are z$249,00 (US $185) for
Zimbabweans and US$1390 for foreigners. The
Government of Zimbabwe recognized Solusi as an
independent degree-granting entity in 1994. Prior to
that date, Solusi students received degrees from
Andrews University, another Adventist college located
in Michigan. The degree program with Andrews was
phased out by 1998, but a special relationship still
exists between the two schools, which includes
material assistance, staff development, and faculty
Other Institutions
11. The Government of Zimbabwe plans to create two
more fully-fledged universities in the provincial
towns of Masvingo and Chinoyi. In addition, Zimbabwe
has a network of smaller diploma-granting tertiary
institutions across the country, including polytechnic
institutes, nursing colleges, and teacher training
colleges. These schools can best be compared to
community colleges or vocational schools in the United
States, as they cannot grant university degrees but
rather provide practical training and job skills for
particular trades.
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