PITTSBURGH Carnegie Mellon University plans to open a branch campus in Rwanda next year, making it the first American university to do so in central Africa.
The students who attend the program in Kigali, Rwandas capital, will get exactly the same diploma as those who attend Carnegie Mellons Pittsburgh campus, officials told The Associated Press. Credits from the two programs will even be fully transferable.
Higher education is a key to success in the global economy, said Carnegie Mellon President Jared Cohon.
The first degree offered will be a Master of Science in Information Technology. Rwandas Minister of Education, Pierre Damien Habumuremyi, said the school fits well with the countrys vision of becoming an economy based on information and communications technology.
Branch campuses are common in the oil-rich Persian Gulf, Europe and China, as are student exchange programs. But actually opening a higher education facility in central Africa is an entirely different thing, said Bruce Jones, a professor at New York University and author of Peacekeeping in Rwanda, an analysis of the events that led to the countrys 1994 genocide.
That strikes me as a very significant thing. The odds are very high that thats for the good, Jones said of CMUs plans.
The program will target students from east Africa, and will give preference to Rwandan citizens, the university said. However, students from around the world can apply.
During the genocide, extremist Hutus killed more than 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda.
Almost a generation later, Rwanda has won international praise for a growing economy, promoting womens rights and cracking down on corruption. But activists say the economic gains have not been matched by growing freedoms.
Jones agreed there are some problems, in particular surrounding human rights issues, but said the positives in the country still far outweigh the negatives.
And youre 15 years after one of the most intensive genocides in human history. The idea we would be past human rights issues in Rwanda is absurd, he said. There has to be some historical perspective here.
Erwin van der Borght, Africa Program Director for Amnesty International, said the group does have some important concerns about human rights issues in Rwanda.
Amnesty has an ongoing dialogue with the government. At the same time its a very difficult environment for human rights groups, to operate in a situation where people were scared to speak out, van der Borght said.