Universities in Malawi

About universities in Malawi

Malawi, known in official circles as the Republic of Malawi and formerly known as Nyasaland, is a country in southeast Africa, with a total geographic area of 45, 560 square miles.  The landlocked country is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique to the east south and west.  The country is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi.  Malawi has an estimated population of nearly 14 million, and its capital and largest city is Lilongwe.  The name Malawi is derived from the old Maravi, an ancient name of the Nyanja people that continue to occupy the area.  It is also often referred to as the “Warm Heart of Africa.”  There are two official languages in Malawi, Chichewa and English, the former spoken colloquially by the majority of the Malawi people, and the latter used officially in government, commerce, media, and as the language of instruction in Malawi schools and universities.
Higher Education in Malawi:  Overview
Higher education in Malawi is overseen at the national level, particularly by the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture.  The Malawi education system is based on the western 8-4-4 model, representing eight years of primary school, 4 years of secondary school and 4 years of university education.  Instruction is provided in English at most Malawi universities, and English is also the language used in textbooks and other printed school materials.
After decades of colonial oppression, followed by more oppression upon independence under the Banda regime, there is now no longer a negative influence over the higher education system.  However, the system still faces many challenges.  Education at the primary level no longer stresses academic preparation, ultimately leading to access to secondary school and universities.  Instead it stresses fields such as agriculture and practical training, since only a small minority of students seeks education past the primary level, with most choosing to go to work instead.  While secondary and university attendance has been growing somewhat, neither comes close to meeting the educational needs in Malawi for a well-trained workforce.
Higher education in Malawi is not very comprehensive and offers far fewer choices in terms of the academic and professional programs available to students at the tertiary level.  The Policy and Investment Framework (PIF) is a document-based approach which outlines government policy on education, identifies the programs that deserve the most attention and, through the linked Mid-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) creates a budget for these programs within the available resources allocated to school by the national government. 
Higher Education in Malawi:  Types of Institutions and Programs
The Malawi system of higher or tertiary education is provided by 13 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs):  2 state-run and publicly funded universities, 7 publicly-funded polytechnics and specialized colleges, and 4 publicly funded colleges under the accreditation of the two universities.
Universities offer the most comprehensive system of education, but the selection process is very restrictive.  Not only are students chosen for the university based on their secondary school grades, they must also sit for a difficult placement exam prior to admittance.  Students accepted to the university can pursue both undergraduate and graduate degrees in a number of different academic and professional disciplines, leading to Bachelor and Master’s Degrees respectively.  The four publicly funded colleges act as branches or satellite campuses for the university, reaching students in towns who would otherwise be excluded due to distance.
Technical and vocational training are offered in the seven polytechnics and specialty colleges.  These institutions tend to focus on just a few areas of study (often only 1), with the goal of preparing students for various career positions important to the Malawi economy.

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