Last week, the cabinet approved the accreditation of Kepler College as a full-fledged higher education institution in Rwanda.
The new times Alice Kagina talk to Bayile Damtie YeshitaVice-Chancellor of Kepler, to discuss what the new development means in terms of the education system and the quality of learning materials on offer.
What was the previous status of the institution before being accredited in Rwanda and what does it mean now?
We are very happy to have obtained accreditation to become Kepler College.
Prior to this, we had partnered with Southern New Hampshire University using their online modules to earn a degree in the USA, and then we offer our core programs which are designed within the context of the job market in Rwanda to make our employable students here. .
Now, this accreditation will give us the flexibility and a new choice to offer our own degree which will be fully contextualized, guided by the labor market in Rwanda and beyond.
Is the new accreditation likely to see an adjustment to courses, modules, as well as employment focus for learners?
We have consulted key players in the Rwandan labor market on the skills needed and the type of program we need to open as a first starting point.
Thus, the study that we conducted was based on our expertise at the interface between management and technology, and from there, project management has become the first program that we will deploy this year. .
Unlike the traditional teaching style, with our program students will be given case studies and projects to work on, if they solve them it means they have acquired the skill and are moving on. next.
This is not the usual form of taking exams, they will be measured by the level of skill they demonstrate.
We hope that upon graduation, students will be truly needed as entry-level managers, office managers, project managers, and financial managers, etc.
We are also going to offer another program of Business Analytics, which somehow combines STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) with business. On the one hand, the student will be able to learn the main business concepts and models and on the other hand, he will acquire skills in statistics, mathematics and computer programming that he can use to analyze trends. commercial.
We will also open the innovation management which is very necessary in different sectors.
What is the current capacity of students and courses offered?
At present, in Kigali and Kiziba campuses, we have around 500 students pursuing their undergraduate studies, however, we are going to have around 900 students with Rwanda Polytechnic who will be offering graduate employment program starting from May of this year.
In Ethiopia, we also have around 160 students following graduate employment programs in partnership with two TVET schools.
What exists now is an undergraduate program that is offered in partnership with Southern New Hampshire University. They include business management and health care management.
What we do to ensure that our students get this American degree is to train them with the key skills needed in the job market, which we call a foundation program that starts in three levels in addition to the modules provided by the University.
We also provide them with career services by helping them find internships and jobs based on their skills.
We also have a graduate employment program in partnership with Rwanda Polytechnic. They provide them with professional training and we provide them with soft skills in communication, technology and professionalism that help them behave effectively during their internships to increase their chances of turning into employment.
Some employers have indicated that local universities still need to update their courses and curricula to improve the employability of graduates, what is your approach to meeting the challenge?
Education is a dynamic and continuous feedback loop system. Employers and stakeholders should engage with higher education institutions to provide feedback on the quality of graduates.
When institutions send them graduates for internships, they must understand that this shapes the future generation, a nation. They should pay attention to how these trainees are doing and what skills are missing and provide immediate feedback.
Understanding the dynamics of work is very complex, employers are the ones who see the real practice on a daily basis and we at Kepler will invite employers to interact and give specialist talks to our students.
I can’t tell them to sit back and relax that there is a skill based institution established to solve the problem, no they are part of the solution pushing us to the next level.
The quality of higher education institutions is often known to attract international students, will this be the case for Kepler?
At Kepler College we are going to be open to international students and we are increasingly expecting it to be an exciting program.
We have institutions that we partner with in the region, so we will also have student exchanges.
Funding higher education in private institutions is a challenge across the continent, what is Kepler’s model for ensuring education is inclusive with those who cannot afford it out of pocket?
Private institutions have a sustainability challenge that is primarily driven by quality and cost. For Kepler, the primary driver of our success is employment outcomes.
First, the quality of our education is measured primarily by employment outcomes. 90% of our graduates are expected to go on to find employment within six months.
For those who cannot afford the minimum tuition we have, there is an innovative financial inclusion model called “a revenue sharing agreement”. This means that students can sign the agreement to pay tuition fees after getting an installment-based job without disturbing your life, if they don’t get one, we don’t ask them.
We also continue to attract philanthropy to provide scholarships to those who really need them.
What is your vetting approach to making sure they pay tuition once they get a job?
At the moment we have over 620 graduates and we are tracking them as we get their contacts. We have the alumni forum which helps us to be in contact with them and our career service is very dynamic, they dialogue with them regularly.
We are exploring different ways to do this at scale through the system to track employment outcomes.