Gulu university launches new MSc in Renewable Energy and Energy Access

by Nomanesi Makhonco, 17th October 

Gulu University, in partnership with the TEA-LP, introduces its ground-breaking MSc in Renewable Energy and Energy Access. This innovative two-year journey blends coursework and research, with a primary focus on off-grid clean energy technologies, aiming to create a skilled workforce of renewable energy professionals who can drive energy access in Uganda’s off-grid sector. With Dr. Collins Okello as Project Lead and Gulu’s Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment at the helm, this one-of-a-kind programme offers students a holistic approach that integrates technical engineering, research, business development, project management, and policy formulation in a comprehensive degree programme.

Dr. Emmanuel Menya, the programme’s coordinator, emphasised the collaborative approach adopted in the development of the MSc, which involved extensive stakeholder engagement.

We began designing this curriculum in 2019 with training support from TEA-LP, where we had a workshop in Nairobi, and a workshop in Ethiopia. All these aimed at building our capacity to design a curriculum that is relevant to the energy access sector. So, it’s a well-thought-out programme which involved stakeholder engagement and validation.

The programme has great potential to contribute to achieving universal access to energy in Uganda. The country has low electrification levels, with just 28% of the population having electricity, which drops to around 7% in rural areas. There is also a scarcity of adequately skilled personnel, caused by the dominant focus on engineering skills at most universities, which overlooks job-ready competencies such as project and business management.  Gulu University’s programme aims to bridge this gap, offering a comprehensive approach that combines technical proficiency with essential soft skills crucial for success in the energy sector.

Gulu’s new MSc Programme blends coursework with practical experience. In the first year, students build their foundational knowledge through instructed courses. Towards the end of the first year, they will work with energy access enterprises as part of their experiential learning journey. This hands-on experience not only equips them with valuable skills for the workplace, but also guides their research direction for the final-year dissertation, enabling them to address real-world issues effectively. Dr Menya further underscores the student-centred nature of the programme, emphasizing experiential learning, practical work placements, and active community involvement. As Dr. Menya pointed out:

We did this because many graduates were not meeting the demands of prospective employers.

Consequently, Gulu University’s programme was meticulously designed to seamlessly blend both technical expertise and the practical, job-ready skills required by the energy access sector.

The collaboration with TEA-LP partner universities, including Mekelle University, Moi University, and the University of Port Harcourt, played a pivotal role in designing the curriculum. Gulu University plans to further engage with TEA-LP partner universities through webinars, guest lectures, and knowledge-sharing to enhance the programme’s quality and effectiveness.

Launched in August 2023, the programme welcomed its inaugural cohort of eight students, a promising start for this innovative initiative. Dr. Menya expressed satisfaction with the number, stating that attracting eight students for a new programme was commendable, but as the programme gains traction, Gulu is hoping for a steady increase in numbers. To support the delivery of this new programme, Gulu University hosted a three-day Training of Trainers (ToT) workshop ahead of the launch.

Meet the pioneering cohort, from left:  Jacob Wokorach, John Bosco Oribaki, Moris Ogwal, Ismail Kisakye, Ronald Ocira, Jacob Odong and Emmanuel Ocayooto (Photo credit: Dr. Menya)

Gulu University’s MSc programme represents a vital step towards a brighter, more sustainable energy future for Uganda and serves as an inspiring model for similar initiatives worldwide.

To learn more about Gulu’s MSc in Renewable Energy and Energy Access, click here.