Nov. 1, 2021


Mário Pinto de Andrade

Angola

Mário Pinto de Andrade

Rector, Universidade Lusiada de Angola (ULA)

“We now have bachelor’s degrees in law, economics, psychology, business management, international relations, architecture, and engineering.”

BIO

Mário Pinto de Andrade is Rector of Universidade Lusiada de Angola (ULA).


Established in 1999, ULA was the first private higher-education institution in Luanda. How has the university evolved since its foundation?

This institution was established in Luanda in 1999, but it was in 2001 when the project was strengthened, and we trained more than 7,000 students. We now have bachelor's degrees in law, economics, psychology, business management, international relations, architecture, and engineering. The latter include technical, electro technical, and computer science. We also have master's degrees in economic law, civil law, economics, political science, international relations, human resources, and accounting and finance. In 2012, some sections of the university became independent, or no longer dependent on the university. Due to the crisis in those years, there were only 8,000 students in Luanda, and we distributed them across other campuses, achieving an average of 6,000 students. Because of COVID-19, the number of students dropped, which was a problem for all institutions. The latest project we are developing is a plan to start a PhD in international finance.

Besides those expansion plans, ULA has already developed international projects in order to expand beyond local boundaries. What is the importance of international agreements and student exchange programs?

In addition to a cooperation academic agreement with Universidade de Paraiba in Brazil, we are conducting master's programs in which students from other universities in Portugal and Brazil are participating, mainly from the faculty of law and the higher school of economics of the University of Lisbon; however, we are determined to internationalize this project by collaborating with European and American universities.

How have the changes brought about by COVID-19 been managed in terms of both universities and students?

We have suffered heavily as a result of the pandemic. From March to September 2020, we had to conduct online classes. Students who graduated in 2019 are celebrating their graduation ceremonies two years later. From that year, 471 students graduated from the university. We started doing everything online and we were holding video conferences to teach classes; however, now we conduct classes in person while maintaining safety measures. Everything is fairly back to normal now.

A study conducted by the University of Angola based on the latest UNESCO data showed that only 3% of Angolans citizens over the age of 25 continue on to higher education. What are the reasons behind this?

During the Portuguese dominion period, the first university was established, although it offered only one course in economics, engineering, and medicine. The civil war brought about several phases. There were only 14,500 students in the whole of Angola at that time. However, this increased with the reform by the ministry that promised to allow private universities and modified public universities. In addition, there were promises to set up a university in every province. This was a key improvement, since the state had few resources. This led to an expansion in higher education, with 300,000 students and more than 20,000 foreign graduates. In primary and secondary education, we had 1 million students in 2002, rising to 2 million the following year. This can be considered a major expansion. For this reason, we must place greater emphasis on the quality of teachers in primary education. Due to the wars we have suffered, many teachers left to teach in other areas or were lowly paid by the state. After 2002, the state remedied this situation and allocated EUR1 million to pay its teachers.

One of the objectives set by the government is Angola2050. What can the Angolan education system can achieve by 2050, in relation to its number of university graduates?

The government's strategy is to strengthen the educational terms in Angola as much as possible in less than 25 years. However, this is a significant challenge, since the system is outdated. Angola, therefore, has developed a medium- and long-term strategy. The government has come to an agreement with universities, civil security, and business education stakeholders. It is developing a system that is more formalized to educate students, among which are engineering, various sciences, and technology. For example, before teachers in primary education did not need to have specific training; anyone could do so. In contrast, in university studies, professors needed to have specific training in order to be able to give classes. Today, the situation is extremely different. We hope the government will continue to focus on this strategy; we cannot be left behind.

What are the university's objectives for 2022?

The university's plans for the year are to secure new degrees in line with the government's plans. We also plan to develop new master's degrees in psychology, engineering, architecture, and design. This will strengthen our offerings. We will try to maintain the tradition of being the best trainers and be the leaders in the market.