‘At 45, being entrusted with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor role was a huge success’ – UP alumni

Posted on May 15, 2023

Meet the first Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic Affairs of Makerere University and a University of Pretoria (UP) alumni, Professor Umar Kakumba. Prof. Kakumba obtained his PhD at UP’s Faculty of Economic Management Sciences’ School of Public Management and Administration (SPMA).

His PhD thesis focused on “External Control Systems in Enhancing Accountability in Local government. “I used Uganda as a case study to analyse the external institutional capacity, regulatory framework and civil society mechanisms established to facilitate efficient and effective management of public resources at local governments. The study informed quite a great deal of subsequent policy and institutional capacity interventions in Uganda. The reforms ranged from addressing the core of human resources deficiencies, control system malfeasance and accountability practices in government,” he said.

When it comes to his typical day as a DVC (Academic Affairs and Research), his usual day is quite involving, starting as early as 7am. He first reads online newspapers, attends to emails and reviews the day’s full programme. “We have only two DVCs and mine is overstretching, from teaching & learning (for 35,000 students’ population), research, innovations to dealing with institutional collaborative programmes and partnerships. We are in a process of restructuring and requesting government to add on a third Deputy Vice-Chancellor to take on the research and innovation. My role includes overseeing research, graduate training, teaching and learning, quality assurance, directorate for academic business, library services, e-learning and a number of the university’s programmes, it gets overwhelming at times.”

Prof Kakumba says his current position is a highlight of his career thus far.

“At the age of 45, I was entrusted with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor role and a Chief Executive for the Eastern and Central Africa’s premier and 101-year-old regional University, which is such a huge honour for me.”

“The most important lesson that one needs in all aspects for career success is having strong work ethic and building trust and networks. You have to win the people’s trust, and once that is accomplished, then you can achieve a lot because people will trust you with small and big responsibilities and follow you as a leader. Even when you make mistakes it will be easy for them to understand and bear with you,” he says. Prof Kakumba says alumni play a significant role in putting their alma mater on the map. “Alumni should assist in resource mobilisation to promote research and scholarships, as well as promote the good reputation of their alma mater. Alumni are the living ambassadors of their alma mater.”

He says European and American universities, in comparison with African higher institutions, have alumni bodies that are far well resourced with endowments than African universities’ annual budgets revenue.  

“Most international universities such as the University Cambridge, where, I am an alumnus as well, are able to offer scholarships and opportunities for talented students who cannot afford tuition and research. These Universities’ have alumna projects that support impactful research and knowledge translation to support their local communities, and that is what African universities should strive for.”  

However, Prof Kakumba adds, nothing can beat his experience as a UP student.

“I lived in Hatfield and vividly remember the jacaranda trees around campus, occasionally going to the Menlyn and Brooklyn malls, as well going to gym at UP’s high performance centre  at the Hillcrest Campus; the markets in Sunnyside and Pretoria West … those are some of the fondest moments I have about UP.”

- Author Xolani Mathibela

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