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I salute you all from the Vice-Chancellor’s Office. The semester has now begun in earnest and a number of festivities to welcome our first year students have come to a close. The students are now settling in and set for the all-important task ahead. You should be in agreement with me that a considerable improvement in student intake has been realised for the academic year 2019/2020, thanks to all the proactive role players, particularly Governing Council and the ad hoc marketing Committee for their guidance and tireless efforts.

Student centeredness as one of the pillars on which we are prepared to build MRU remains the guiding principle and central component of our strategic planning. Developing a conducive learning atmosphere, buttressed by e-learning is our preoccupation currently. Consolidating our position in the Uganda Higher Education landscape, as a 4th Industrial Revolution University, focusing on ICT driven learning is a transformation cycle we have to undergo. A paradigm shift from ‘chalk and talk’ is integral to this process. The successful establishment of a Writing Centre at MRU has been a skills transfer innovation that should give our students the much-needed report writing competitive edge in the job market.

Acquisition of a University Charter is, as described by Professor Opuda Asibo, “a grant of authority, the full and highest of a right to exercise the responsibility of running a university”. MRU has made remarkable strides in this direction, as borne out by the recent visit by National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) on 8th and 9th July 2019. The recommendation by NCHE that we should assemble and submit documentation for a Charter after a rigorous onsite assessment – which we did on 15th August 2019 demonstrates quite clearly that MRU has now come of age. Having gone past this critical stage of the Charter acquisition process, all indications are that this ideal will be realised sooner than later. I take this opportunity to thank all the colleagues who played an active part and burned the midnight oil to generate and assemble the requisite documentation.

Building of the research and engagement pillar, as a key component of the MRU Strategic Plan, is an ideal that will enable MRU to become both a teaching and research Centre of Excellence. The lack of a postgraduate component has over the years translated into a hemorrhage from MRU of students with great potential. This has also had a knock-on effect on research endeavors at MRU. The recent establishment of a vibrant MRU Research and Graduate Centre (RGC) is an important step, which has imbued staff morale along the research trajectory. Research Seminar Series are now a consistent monthly feature at the RGC. Moreover, the development of Ad personam promotion, Masters and PhD policies will also ensure postgraduate student retention and nurturing of a new research-based income stream at MRU. This has further been buttressed by the establishment of a Research Grants Office, which will be on the lookout for research grant calls. It will also initiate and coordinate research grant proposals and applications. Approval and impending accreditation of postgraduate programmes should serve to support and sustain the research agenda.

There has been no better time for us to ride on the crest of the wave of our uniqueness, as the only Royal University in the country and entire East African Region. This sets us apart from other institutions of higher learning. However, elevating MRU to its rightful position will entail, among other things, living the core values of the university, namely; integrity, respect for diversity, accountability and competency. Added to that is the adoption of the Mandela (and essentially the African) philosophy of “Ubuntu”. This should augment social cohesion among us, as MRU family. The failure to stay true to these values will persistently hinder the development of a harmonious working environment in any institution. As a consequence, facets of the institution’s core business will suffer and stagnate.

We at MRU are a small family, aspiring to grow bigger. Indeed, bigger we shall grow. However, we need to develop cohesion at this stage, which will permit us to grow to another level. We have to rise above any petty shenanigans and situations that could plague a few members of this family and foment a deviation from core values and the added value of “Ubuntu”. We need to focus only on what should take MRU to another level. Retreats and team building exercises are, in part, mechanisms by means of which we shall seek healing from afflictions that could have had a persistent plaguing effect on our institution over the past couple of years. Change of mindset and attitude is pertinent now, without which growing MRU into the ’boutique’ University of our hearts’ desire will remain elusive.