Why Makerere University is celebrating its 72nd Graduation on its 100th Anniversary
“Makerere College, in 1949, then became a University offering courses that led to the award of general degrees of the University of London in Arts and Sciences were instituted at the beginning of 1950. In December 1953, the first examinations for these degrees were held and thirteen out of fourteen candidates were successful. This was Makerere’s very first graduation as a University.”
Monday the 23rd of May, 2022 marked the beginning of Makerere’s annual weeklong graduation ceremony. Termed the 72nd Graduation, there seemed to be an unexplained inconsistency in the timeline since the university is also celebrating its centenary celebrations.
It is therefore as a result of this question, asked by the general public and the Makerere student community, on and offline, that we decided to delve a bit into the history of Makerere to get an answer.
An archival document published by the University on its platinum jubilee celebrations in 1997 noted that in 1935, the leadership of Principal D.G. Tomblings at Makerere College, then a technical institute, saw the first cohort of candidates sit for their Cambridge Overseas School examinations which marked the completion of their time at the institution. The qualifications awarded by Makerere then were not Bachelor’s degrees but rather Certificates.
Two years later, a commission chaired by the Earl De La Warr came up with a recommendation that the College should be elevated to a Centre of Higher Education in East Africa placing it on a trajectory to become a University College and finally a University. The commission further recommended that the institution cease to be run by the government and should become an independent College governed by a council with representatives from the entire East Africa.
As a direct consequence of these recommendations, Makerere enrolled women for the first time and had courses in both the Arts and Sciences advanced to a level two years beyond the School certificate standards. Professional schools such as those of Medicine, Agriculture, Veterinary Science and Education advanced their standards and the School of Fine Art was established.
Makerere College, in 1949, then became a University offering courses that led to the award of general degrees of the University of London in Arts and Sciences were instituted at the beginning of 1950. In December 1953, the first examinations for these degrees were held and thirteen out of fourteen candidates were successful. This was Makerere’s very first graduation as a University.
Between this transition and Uganda’s independence in 1962, several professional developments took place at Makerere. The University’s qualification award in Medicine was first recognized in East Africa in 1953, and later by the Medical Council of Great Britain four years later. In 1958, degree courses in Agriculture and a combination of a professional four-year course with a one year graduate course for a diploma in education were instituted and in the same year, Honours degrees and Special degrees were also introduced.
With the establishment of the University of East Africa on the 29th June, 1963, Makerere’s affiliation to the University of London came to an end and the name in which the degrees were conferred changed too in order to match its new identity. In 1963, Sir Bernard de Bunsen who had been the first vice chancellor of the University of East Africa left and was replaced by the former president Mr. Y.K. Lule, an old student of Makerere, a former member of staff and a former chairman of the University Council.
Makerere became a National University on 1st July,1970. and held its 17th graduation in the same year.
The subsequent years corresponded to a single graduation ceremony however, as the numbers grew, possibly due to the introduction of private sponsorship in 1994, the university administration saw fit to have more than one ceremony in a year for different colleges, degrees and cohorts.
The year 2007 remains unique nonetheless as the university held its 54th, 55th, 56th and 57th graduation in one year. Fifteen years later, this week, in 2022, the university is now celebrating its 72nd graduation ceremony.