Marcopolis presents the Mozambique Report focused on topics such as investments, doing business, economy and regional integration, featuring interviews with Mozambican leaders. The sectors under review in this issue are agriculture, banking, energy, industry, telecom, IT, tourism, logistics and many more.
Lourenço do Rosário is the Dean of Universidade Politécnica, one of the leading universities in Mozambique which has been present in the market for more than 20 years. The institution is based in Maputo, Xai-Xai, Quelimane, Nampula, Nacala and Tete.
Interview with Lourenço do Rosário, Dean of Universidade Politécnica
What is your assessment of the higher education level in Mozambique and what are the biggest challenges in the country?
Concerning university education, the biggest challenges have been to increase the participation of people in higher education and to offer good school curriculums. Up to the year of 1995, we only had one university in Mozambique, and two higher technical institutes, both public. We were also founded in 1995 and there was a great pressure to increase the number of universities, but Mozambique was not ready for that development, neither on a political nor educational level. Nowadays, 20 years later, we finally have 50 universities and grew from 12.000 students to around 150.000 students. Hand in hand with that, there was the need to have better infrastructures, educators, laboratories, methods, libraries, etc., as well as more international covenants with other universities. Taking place at the same time there was the development of other areas in the country.
What are the advantages of Universidade Politécnica in comparison to others around here?
Well, we were the first university of its genre, at that time only public universities existed. Formerly, we mainly offered administration and IT courses or communication sciences, clinical and organizational psychology, etc. Afterwards other universities appeared, similar to our institution, that offered the same type of courses, and we had to improve the curriculums, introducing accounting and audit courses, as well as post-graduations. Before that, if the students wanted to continue their studies they had to go abroad. We quickly developed partnerships with Portugal, Brazil and Sweden, proposing post-grad international exchanges and different school curriculums, which made us more competitive. However, even with all this progress, the offer was still greater than the demand. There was a type of generalization and so we had to create law courses and general trainings, like in public universities, and public universities had to create courses like the ones we had. Moreover, the government began creating vocational colleges, which ruined our competitive advantage, so we had to start offering specific courses to the provinces that were, at the time, developing. However, we would like to point out that a university is not a vocational college.
We quickly developed partnerships with Portugal, Brazil and Sweden, proposing post-grad international exchanges and different school curriculums, which made us more competitive.
What are the cities and provinces in which you are present, with the exception of Maputo, of course?
We are in Xai-Xai, in Gaza ; Quelimane in the province of Zambézia ; Nampula and Nacala in the province of Nampula and Tete in the province of Tete.
Can you please explain, in general terms, what type of institution is Universidade Politécnica and gives us some examples of course curriculums that might be used in other universities?
As we have grown and while trying to reach our niches, we understood that some of the educational curriculums that existed in the country were not at our reach as a private university, many of the government programs aimed only at public universities, so we fought to find a way to surpass this situation and be able to participate in this programs and therefore, two years later, we created an education foundation (FUNDE - Fundação Universitária para Desenvolvimento da Educação) and with it we managed to develop programs/curriculums to render services to communities and big companies. Many companies, for not being familiarized with the culture of the country, create some problems with communities during their operations. For instance, for Anadarko (an oil and gas exploration company) we managed to offer intercultural courses and courses for Mozambicans and international workers that were coming here to work at that company, so they could get to know the culture of Mozambique and the people who live here. That training worked really well. Most of the companies want to avoid misunderstandings between coworkers and communities. There is also the negative situation of Vale in Tete. They mishandled the relocation of the population, trying to perform their mining operations. This happened because Vale only worked with the government, having created living spaces to relocate farmers, fishers and artisans all to the same location and creating many conflicts between the people, the company and the government. Due to this bad experience in Tete, we approached Vale and we are now helping out with the relocation of many families due to the railway construction. We work with communities, making them understand companies’ circumstances and helping them to adapt, and we’ve been working on this for 3-4 years. Developing, as well, informal businesses between banks, managers and small trades.
Those clients are SME’s?
No, they cannot be considered that. They are people with small businesses, many times there’s not even a company yet, just a small space or people who work as freelancers.
What about international exchanges between universities?
We believe that these exchanges make a difference between us and other universities. Those interactions offer more to our students than what we have to offer here in Mozambique. We have many agreements, only a few days ago we reached an understanding with Fundação Dom Cabral in Brazil and with it we are trying to propose to students the possibility of attending management and financing courses. We also have covenants with other Federal Universities in Brazil and Public Universities in Portugal also, mainly ISCTE and Lisbon Technical University.
What can Universidade Politécnica offer to foreign students?
We believe universities should reciprocate services and not be dependent of one-sided relations. We went to Angola, for example, to discuss a covenant but the process didn’t go through, since we don’t see things eye to eye. We want to work with Portuguese-speaking countries. Brazil, for instance, is open to cultural exchanges, since it has been working with Portuguese universities for some time now. In conclusion, this exchange provides quality to our students and teachers, but we want to be able to do the same for other partner countries and universities.
What are the areas you aim to offer to international students?
Due to globalization there is no hi-tech activity we can, at the moment, offer. But in what concerns the social and human studies we can exchange knowledge with international universities, as well as government and politics or culture. Many times we receive research students from universities whose fields of research are well-known to us and we could help out, offering our services and expertise in this areas.
Where do you see the university in 2-3 years?
We just celebrated our 20 years in business and we held a meeting to discuss everything we have done so far and what we still want to accomplish. We got to the conclusion that it is crucial to prepare a handover. The current group of managers will not stay in power for long and university management is a serious business. Many times we mix university management with politics management and this doesn’t help the university setting of the country. Secondly, we think that it is a must to improve teacher’s qualifications and, lastly, to make our university a center of excellence.