The National Council for Higher Education (Nche) has lost a case where it denied accreditation to several private universities.
The ruling by the High Court of Malawi, which was based on a technicality of the composition of the Nche Board, followed a court case pursued by Blantyre International University (BIU) students through their union leaders to regain their institution’s accreditation status stripped off in 2016.
In his ruling, High Court judge Jack N’riva noted that the Nche board of directors was not gazetted as argued by the students, in accordance with Section 4(4) of the Act which states that the Minister of Education has to publish in the Gazette members of the council.
Said the judge: “The allegation has not been disputed by the respondents [Nche] that the minister did not publish in the Gazette the members of the council. The publication of the names is not a mere formality. It is a requirement.
“In simple terms, where there is statutory requirement to publish in the Gazette an appointment, failure to publish in the Gazette goes to the core of the appointment itself. Thus, in this matter, there was no council. Therefore, any act that the body might have done would be of no legal consequences.
“If it is true that the body disaccredited a duly accredited university, they acted outside their powers. The respondent lacked legal authority. The act was void at law.”
N’riva said the decision to discredit BIU was made without authority; hence, there was no decision at all.
Based on the ruling, BIU and all other institutions of higher learning that were discredited by Nche have automatically regained their full accreditation status together with some of their discredited programmes on offer.
In an interview, a representative of the BIU students, Osman Kennedy, said they were satisfied with the ruling.
He said: “We are so happy with the ruling. We are happy that the courts have ruled in our favour. The development means that students as well as our institution and other private institutions can now operate without any challenges as has been the case since the issues of accreditation came to light.”
Efforts to seek Nche reaction were futile yesterday as officials were out of reach.
Nche was established in 2011 to regulate higher education in the country.