Higher Education Minister Professor Nkandu Luo says universities should never be operated as businesses.

And Prof Luo says the ministry has set up a regulatory authority known as Higher Education Authority to ensure that universities that do not conform to specified standards are either closed or down graded.

Last week, former University of Zambia (UNZA) vice-chancellor Prof Geoffrey Lungwangwa said the learning institution needed to create income generating ventures in order to sustain their operations, adding that it was government’s responsibility to fund public universities.

Prof Lungwangwa who is also former education minister under MMD government, commended UNZA’s initiative to lease land to East Park Mall developers, saying that and many similar initiatives would help the university to survive.

Lungwangwa’s comment came in the wake of a compliant from UNZA vice-chancellor Prof Luke Mumba who said his management was relying on bank overdrafts to pay lecturers salaries.

But Prof Luo yesterday said it was wrong to run universities as businesses.

“People in Zambia have decided to make running of the university a business. Universities are never a business. Universities are a group of men and women who are intellectuals, who guide government even on certain matters. When we had army worms here you know who should have been on top of things, being heard all over the country? The university. The university lecturer and professors should be the ones before the camera telling the whole nation where the army worms have come from. Why we have army worms and what interventions do we need [in order] to deal with the army worms. It shouldn’t be the other way round. And I did make a statement that I’m surprised that I have not heard from the universities,” she said.

And Prof Luo said the ministry has set up a regulatory authority to monitor the performance of universities in the country.

“We have belittled education in this country. And this is why this ministry has set up a regulatory authority known as Higher Education Authority. The Higher Education Authority’s mandate is to ensure that those institutions that do not qualify should either be closed or down graded. For an institution to be called a university, they must have a proportion of professors. The deans should be professors. Nobody less than a professor should be a dean of any school. The heads of departments must be at the level of a senior lecturer and they must have a PHD. And a certain proportion of lecturers in that institution must have PHD. Masters degree should be assistant lecturers and anybody who has just a first degree must be a demonstrator. Those will be the requirements and we are going to put them by law so that we regulate the private institutions,” she said.

“So the Higher Education Authority was given a bigger budget this year so that they employ inspectors and they will be going institution by institution with a check list. How many professors do you have. And not professors who just woke up the next day ‘because professor Luo made a statement, I’m professor’. They will have to show how they became a professor. Because a professor must be a first author of so many publications and there is a minimum number. You must have contributed to books. If not writing a whole book, chapters in a book.”