Kepler College to offer Project Management Degree and other programs at the interface between management and technology

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Last week the cabinet approved the accreditation of Kepler College as a fully-fledged higher education institution in Rwanda.

The New Times’ Alice Kagina sat with Professor Baylie Damtie Yeshita, Vice-Chancellor of Kepler, to discuss what the accreditation means in terms of  new educational opportunities for young people in Rwanda including quality, relevance and accessibility.  


What is Kepler’s status in Rwanda and how does this accreditation fit into  your current status?

 Kepler is a US non-profit that works in Rwanda and Ethiopia (with NGO status in both countries) and will continue providing youth in the region innovative pathways to gainful employment. Currently, we offer degree programming in partnership with Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), upskilling training of TVET graduates in Ethiopia and Rwanda as well as refugee preparatory and support programs in Rwanda. 

With the  accreditation of Kepler College, we will be able to  offer market relevant competency-based degrees that equip students with 21st-century skills and result in very high employment outcomes. Kepler College degree programmes are based on the needs of the labour market in Rwanda and the region. 

How did you design your curriculum that will be implemented through the newly accredited Kepler College ?

We made extensive assessment of the needs of the labour market in Rwanda with primary  focus in our areas of expertise, which is at the interface between management and technology.  Among the list of undergraduate programs we considered, project management was found as a top priority area. The curriculum has been designed to equip students with practical project management skills including project initiation, planning, implementation and closure. Our BA program in project management is a door opener for an exciting management and leadership career with great opportunity for growth in diverse sectors including working as project manager, team leader, coordinator, manager and supervisor. 

Unlike traditional teaching, the foundation of our pedagogy is learning by doing where students are actively engaged through a variety of projects and case studies  and required to demonstrate their learning through measurable competencies before moving to the next level. We are excited to welcome the first cohort of BA degrees in project management  this year.

Over the next five years we plan to launch other exciting and impactful undergraduate programs based on the emerging needs of the labour market. We are currently assessing the needs of the labour market on emerging subjects like business analytics and innovation management. 

What is your current student population and the academic programs you are offering ?

We support  477 students who are  pursuing their undergraduate degrees through our partnership with the Southern New Hampshire University in the US. The programs include management, healthcare management and business management.  Kepler provides critical support for  these students to acquire the core employability skills through its foundation program, contextualized modules and dynamic career services in partnership with our more than 200 employer partners.  

We also offer Kepler’s Graduate Employment Program in partnership with TVET schools in Ethiopia and Rwanda to bridge the employability skills gaps between education and work. This year we plan to train 900 and 1000  TVETs students/graduates in partnership with Rwanda Polytechnic in Rwanda and Tegbared and Nefasilk TVETs in Ethiopia, respectively.    

Some employers express the challenges they face in terms of finding qualified graduates for employment.  How will you address these challenges?  ?

Education is provided for a purpose and it is a means to an end. This means that it needs  a continuous and dynamic feedback loop between employers and education service providers.  Kepler works closely with  our employer partners and takes their feedback seriously and implements them in our programming. We are grateful to our employer partners who are openly communicating the strength and weakness of our graduates and interns. Also, Kepler has vibrant alumni who give us feedback based on their actual experiences at work and share with us the relevance of their education. 

Are you planning to attract international students?

Yes, we welcome international students. Rwanda is a great country to live in and  we expect an increasing  number of international students in the years to come. Also, we expect students of similar institutions outside Rwanda to come to us as exchange students  through our  numerous partnerships.  

Financing of  higher education institutions is a challenge across the continent. What is Kepler’s financial model to ensure that your education is inclusive and is accessible by  those who may not be able to afford it?

Kepler’s  vision is to provide accessible and affordable higher education services that yield high employment outcomes. Our financial sustainability is driven by the quality of our education as measured through our employment outcomes. At Kepler, we work to ensure  that 90% of our graduates get gainful  employment within six months after graduation. 

Kepler provides financial options to our students to cover their educational expenses.  We have an income share agreement for those students who cannot afford to pay their expenses and this option allows students to pay after employment. They will not be required to pay back if they do not get a job. Students can also pay upfront with an incentive of reduced rate. Kepler also provides limited scholarships.