Would you give us an overview of Universidade Politécnica's history and offerings?
NARCISO MATOS Universidade Politécnica is a hybrid institution with 6,000 university students, around 1,000 secondary school students, and 500 students doing middle-level vocational training. We have five campuses in Mozambique, one each in Maputo, Matola, Quelimane, Tete, and Nampula. Universidade Politécnica was founded in 1996, when Mozambique had only three universities. As the first private university in Mozambique, Universidade Politécnica spearheaded the country's path toward liberalization, marking the private sector's growing role in education. Today, there are 36 universities in Mozambique, and Politécnica is proud to be one of the best private universities in the country. We have a major focus on engineering and technology disciplines, though we also offer programs in high demand, such as law, public administration, and business. We also count on a solid body of professors and lecturers. They bring the latest needs and developments in business to the classroom. All these components make us the ideal gateway between university formation and the job market.
What has been UEM's response to the pandemic?
ORLANDO ANTÓNIO QUILAMBO Due to COVID-19, the educational sector has temporarily shut down and transitioned to virtual platforms. UEM was quick to set up a comprehensive COVID-19 masterplan, putting in place all the preventive measures recommended by the government. The master plan includes all sanitary preventive material, social distancing staff rotation on a 15-day basis, and reduction in the number of students living on campus. We have also been working on our plan for online sources, but it has been challenging due to the lack of adequate infrastructure. Nonetheless, we have trained our lecturers to keep students engaged using virtual interactions, following up with weekly assignments, and sending out the university's state of affairs on a weekly basis. In general, we have been reflecting on how UEM, as the leading high education and research institution in the country, can contribute during this pandemic. For example, our departments of biotechnology and biology are carrying out testing. On the other hand, the faculty of engineering has been working on producing prototypes for ventilators and oximeters, whereas the faculty of medicine is working with hospitals and the government on the transition from asymptomatic to symptomatic cases, collecting and analyzing blood samples. Finally, the faculty of social science is looking at the psychological impact of COVID-19 and how to help society. We are also looking for valuable partners to support the research on all fronts. Given the physical limitations of our labs, our scope of action is limited, so it is essential to partner up.
What is your strategy to attract more students?
NM Unlike public universities, we still do not receive a sufficient number of applicants to reach the desired level of growth. To maximize the number of student applicants, we try to offer the programs that are most in demand without compromising on quality. Every four years, we review our programs to ensure they still respond to the needs of the country and the private sector. We started the last major review in 2019. Given the hype around the oil and gas sector, we have been trying to offer more courses in engineering and technical areas. Another strategy has been to build partnerships with employers who want to train and support potential future employees. In this regard, we have been working for years with Vale and Mozal, two of the largest multinationals operating in Mozambique. As part of our technical vocational training school, we offer internships that expose students to the marketplace. We aim to be more active on the front of partnerships as well.
What is UEM doing to help students enter the job market?
OAQ On a regular basis, we organize meetings with the private sector and employers to gather feedback on the results of our educational efforts and discuss ideas on how we can better shape our curriculum and train our graduates. We make sure to implement these inputs and develop our students' soft skills, thus ensuring that our students are ready to enter the job market after graduation. We have implemented a series of entrepreneurship initiatives, whereby we show what the university's capacity is and how the private sector can get involved. For example, we have a clinic on campus, and we want to get private players involved to help the clinic become more profitable, while setting a career path for some students. We also have a center for forestry, and are planning to establish a data center.