Analysis: How many students does Makerere University have?

Makerere University has for years been recording contradicting students' statistics which has put the institution's integrity on spotlight. 

We have analysed several university reports, both public and confidential, that show varying students' statistics for particular years.

When asked "how many students are enrolled in the University," officials prefered giving estimates rather than precise figures.

The university management failure to precisely state the number of students, for instance, prompted Makerere University Visitation Committee to undertake a head count of students and staff members in January this year.

The late Dr Abel Rwendeire Committee report is yet to be made public.

However, quoting sources privy to the committee's work, NTV months ago reported that whereas the University placed its official figure at 46,000 students, the committee established the number to be slightly above 30,000 students.

It also reported that at least 4,000 students were found not to have identity cards, or that their names were absent from the University's official records, but they were paying money to the University, which money was never included on the central account.

A July report by the Makerere University Revenue Services Unit reveals that at the end of 2016/17 academic year, the university had registered a total of 33,288 students.

The same report indicates that during the 2015/16 academic year, the university had a total of 35,965 students and 38,272 students in the 2014/15 academic year.

The Makerere University Fact book Special Edition: Tracking the Performance of the Makerere University Strategic Plan 2008/09-2015/16 published last year, however, gives a different figure.

For the 2015/16 academic year, the edition indicates that the university had 39,546 registered students. This figure is 3,581 more than the number recorded in the Revenue Services Unit report.

The Fact Book says Makerere had a total of 38,586 registered students during the 2014/15 academic year which reveals an excess of 314 students compared to the Revenue Services Unit report for the same year.

The February 2016 report by the Makerere University Kabasa Committee, instituted by the University Council to review Makerere's financial situation, yet records different students' figures to the publications cited so far.

At the end of the 2014/15 academic year, the report shows that Makerere had 39,377 registered students. This figure is 169 students less than the number recorded in the Fact Book.

The figure recorded in the Kabasa committee report is 1,105 students in excess of Revenue Services Unit report statistics.

Bruce Kabasa, who chaired the Kabasa committee, is also the chairman of Makerere University appointments board.

Bruce Kabasa

The Kabasa Committee report further shows that during the 2013/14 academic year, Makerere had a total of 38,464 registered students but the Fact Book recorded a 42,505 students in the same year.

The Fact Book figure is 4,041 students in excess of the number quoted in the Kabasa committee report.

For the 2012/13 academic year, the two reports also recorded contradicting figures.

The Fact Book put students' population figure at 41,122 yet the Kabasa report shows that the university had a total of 39,589 students in the same academic year.

The Fact Book number is 1,533 students more than the Kabasa figure.

Figures Accurate 


University officials argue that all figures are correct, albeit giving divergent explanations.

Bruce Kabasa said his report focused on students "admitted on regular programmes" while the Fact Book focuses on the "holistic picture of the students of Makerere taking into account students with dead years or those in institutions affiliated to Makerere."

Kabasa said his committee report was concerned with payment of tuition, income and expenditure of the university.

"There should not be any alarm, the two reports are correct," Kabasa said.

The University Fact Book, authored by Makerere University Planning and Development Department, is an annual publication.

Dr Florence Nakayiwa, the university Director of Planning and Development, said both figures are correct arguing that the difference comes when data is extracted from the system at different times.

"If you extract figures from the system for instance on November 30th when students are still registering, it will be different from the figure extracted from the system on December 30th when the semester has ended," she says.

Dr Nakayiwa said the Kabasa committee may have extracted figures from the system when students were still registering.

She says it's difficult to get a constant figure from the system because university officials request for data from the system at different times.

 "For consistence," she said, "for us, we extract figures from the system at the end of the semester on December 30th and then at the end of the next semester on June 30th."

A top Makerere university administrator said "the university should be ashamed of the confusion that their reports create."

"The university management should not hide under the shack of the so-called online system while confusing the public with different students' figures," he said.

The official said the university should not blame technology for their failure.

Most, if not all students' statistics are provided by the Academic Registrar, Alfred Masikye Namoah, who heads the University Senate, and the University Bursar Augustine Tamale who heads the Finance Department.

The academic registrar keeps general students records and his office is in charge of supervision of Academic Records Information System (ARIS).

This is the system from which students figures are extracted.

The university bursar is in charge of Financial Management Information System (FMIS) tracking students' statistics based on tuition payment.

The two officials declined interview requests for explanation on how they track students' statistics.

More reports, more contradictions 

A look at more reports by Planning and Development department further shows discrepancy in the students' statistics records.

For instance whereas the Makerere University Fact Book Special Edition: Tracking the Performance of the Makerere University Strategic Plan 2008/09-2015/16 records show that the university had a total of 38,586 registered students, the Fact Book for 2014-2015 published by the same department put the number at 40,603 students creating a difference of 2,017 students.

The Special Edition Fact Book recorded a total of 42,505 students during the 2013/14 academic year but the Fact Book for the academic year 2014/15 shows that the university had a total of 41,094 in the same academic year.

The University Vice Chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, also said the figures recorded in university reports are correct. However, he admits that "these figures have been "misinterpreted" hence triggering suspicion among lecturers.

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