ISO certification earns UMI International Recognition
UMI continues to benefit from the ripple effects of the certification by International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). For instance, enrolment per intake has increased from 4,000, a few years ago to 6,000 postgraduate this year. UMI is the only higher education institution in Uganda with an ISO certification having got its first accreditation in 2019. Taking this year’s recertification into account, the institute’s profile has globally improved, among employees and employers. Dr. James Nkata, the Director General at UMI says: “For instance, last academic year, we attracted 89,000 applicants to our programmes but could only take up 6,000. The next academic year, we are anticipating about 10,000 to 15,000 applicants in addition to over 3,000 on the waiting list.”
Facts About the ISO Certification
The quality management system that UMI has achieved certification ISO 9001:2015, is based on the plan-do-check act methodology. It offers a process-oriented approach to documenting and reviewing the structure, responsibilities, and procedures necessary to achieve effective quality management in an organisation.
Assoc. Prof. Proscovia Namubiru Ssentamu, the head of UMI’s Quality Assurance Department, where the standard is housed, explains why they chose quality management systems out of all the available ISO standards. “The intent was to align processes, to make them more coherent and avoid duplication. That is while enhancing accountability for processes within their various functions in their entirety,” she says. The ISO certification was also intended to increase the institution’s visibility abroad.
- Beyond the exponential increase in enrolment, the quality of services provided by UMI has improved. This is explicitly in terms of staff, content, programmes, and procedures. “We are now internationally recognized as the most qualitative institution in Uganda”, Dr Nkata says.
- Furthermore, given the robust demanding process the institution underwent to qualify for the ISO certificate, such as quality management systems (QMS), management responsibility, resource management, product realisation, measurement, analysis, and improvement, UMI’s management system has vividly changed.
- Dr Nkata added that teaching methods have changed, service delivery methods attuned and the assessment methods improved towards a research led concept. All these are led by the ISO certification demands. “The philosophy of quality depends on three things; institution quality, programmes/ curriculum quality, and teaching staff quality.
- Getting the ISO certification requires that one complies with the quality frameworks which then raises the need to retrain our people, resulting in a mutual gain for the institution and the students,” he says. All other frameworks are built around the idea that UMI will eventually become a research-led institution, necessitating the re-engineering.
- The process starts with the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) application, according to Prof Namubiru, but only after the prerequisite of capacity building has been met. The foundation for the certification must be laid by training internal auditors to assume the reins as internal quality improvement agents. “We started by getting an external consultant to train us since none of us knew about the ISO certification process,” she says. It is a mixture of administrators, support staff, and academic stuff.
- Additionally, capacity building aims at understanding the system. Department heads where activities such as institute registration, quality assurance, training, and research processes were taking place were tasked with proposing a team to be trained to advance ISO. “These representatives from various functions were taken through how to develop the standard operating procedures for their own processes as they understand them better than any of the external consultants. They excelled at it.” At the end of the training, participants were examined and awarded certificates.
- Having done all the above, in about a year, the application was sent to UNBS. Thereafter, the accreditation body sent the institution a to-do list, then conducted an audit. That was followed by a series of audits after every recommendation implementation. This was primarily to determine whether the institution was complying at each stage. The first time, process lasted about two years, costing the institution more than Shs60m. That was spent on reequipping the library, trainings, among others.
- However for the recertification, the reassessment last only six months.
- This standard gives students access to high-status jobs at the national and international level. “We have organisations that head hunt for employees directly at the institute. That is evidence that the market appreciates the quality of output,” Dr Nkata says.
- With only 21 percent of the total budget coming from the government, the institution is intended to be self-sustaining. It gets money from tuition, consulting fees, shorter courses, research, and projects and the ISO certificate has given these services more value.
- UMI has to deal with a new challenge of keeping its highly desirable staff after certification since attempts to poach them is becoming a big deal. Moreover, given the space limitations of the current Kampala facility.
- The influx of students presents yet another difficulty. “We are looking to build a 15-storey building that will enable us increase the intake,” Dr Nkata says.