14th Annual Distinguished Mortenson Lecture

Ssebuwfu Pancras John M. Ssebuwufu

Managing and Transforming an African University: My Experience as Vice Chancellor of Makerere University (1993-2004)

October 26, 2004

Abstract: Makerere University was established in 1922 as a technical college and in 1970 became the National University of Uganda. The period 1970-1990 was a time of economic crisis, student and staff unrest, high staff turnover, and excessive government control. In the 1990s, in response to excess demand for higher education, Makerere expanded enrollment and instituted academic reforms including evening and distance programs, quality assurance, and gender equity. Financial reform was addressed and privatization and international partners helped transform the university. Priorities in the strategic plan include information and communications technology, library services, research, science-based disciplines, good governance and human rights, and gender mainstreaming. Makerere is now a vibrant institution and has had a profound impact on the educational sector.


Pancras J. M. Ssebuwufu was chief academic and administrative officer of Makerere University, the premier institution of higher education in Uganda and a traditional leader of higher education in East Africa. Throughout the tumultuous years of the Amin and Obote regimes,Ssebuwufu defended the high standards in science and technology he has espoused throughout his academic career.

A native of Kampala, Uganda, Ssebuwufu earned his bachelor of science degree from Makerere University and his doctoral degree at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He worked asa postdoctoral research fellow in physical chemistry in Ireland before returning to Makerere as a lecturer in chemistry in 1979. He was named senior lecturer and department chair in 1985. As department chair, he initiated, reformed and designed new curricula in pure chemistry, industrial chemistry and chemical engineering. He was the vice chancellor from 1993 to 2004.

Ssebuwufu chaired the Uganda Management Institute and the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, and was director of the National Agricultural Research Organization. In 1996, he was named Administrator of the Year by the major daily newspaper, The New Vision.

He has authored or co-authored some 20 scholarly articles and papers, and has served as a consultant to the Ugandan government and several private firms on a wide variety of chemistry-related issues.