Gollis University (GU) is responding to educational challenges faced by a region recovering from over a decade of strife. GU is a private, English-language university located in Hargeisa, Somali land. It has a self-declared mission to provide quality education in order to ensure a viable future for the country’s inhabitants. GU’s engineering departments and its associated Gollis University Renewable Energy Institute (GUREI) constitute some of the major tools used effectively by GU to address this daunting, but rewarding educational project. This is not a new project for GU.
The Faculty of Engineering has been producing qualified engineers for over a decade and GU has currently graduated over 1050 students in the fields of Civil Engineering, Telecommunications/ICT and Computer Engineering.
Because of their education, GU graduates, fluent in English and engineering disciplines, possess the distinctive capabilities and expertise required to address local, regional, and national engineering needs, to include major infrastructure projects, housing and urban development, telephony and internet connectivity and water resources management.
Graduates from the Civil Engineering Faculty have grasped core engineering fundamentals, to include the areas of geotechnical, structural and water resources. Similarly, Telecommunication Faculty graduates maintain expertise in multiple disciplines, to include analog and digital communications, antenna and propagation, and mobile and satellite communications. GU’s Computer and ICT Engineering program focuses on producing graduates schooled in digital electronics and digital system design, as well as design development analysis, information and communication technologies, and the application of hardware and software for computing systems.
Hargeisa: Competitive and Growing
GU was founded in 2004 and was one of Hargeisa’s first private institutions of higher education. Both GU and Hargeisa were much smaller one decade ago and it is a testament to the stability of Somali land that both have grown in tandem. Hargeisa is now a bustling city of over 1 million inhabitants. Competitive, local businesses vie for a growing market share and the sense of security fostered by successive governments has translated into the presence of multiple international organizations and businesses. Hargeisa is a vibrant and rather cosmopolitan city with visitors and businesspeople from China, Kenya, the UK, Ethiopia, Turkey and the Gulf.
Stiff competition amongst businesses means the same for universities in Somaliland. GU is by no means the only university in Hargeisa and the competitive environment has had a cathartic and positive effect on GU and its strategy of pursuing academic excellence, attracting foreign or highly-trained Somali faculty members, and procuring funding and grants from international organizations and successful, regional businesses such as SomTel, NationLink and SomCable resulted in the significant expansion of GU’s engineering facilities and the number of faculty members and therefore vastly improved GU’s ability to educate qualified engineers in the latest innovations in the field. It has also resulted in an increase in the number of engineering students by over 700 since 2012, to a total of 1016.
As part of GU’s efforts to attract staff and educate a larger number of students, it recently completed a state-of-the-art, three million US dollar telecommunications lab in partnership with Nationlink-Somaliland, a major telecommunication firm in the region. This lab is the only one of its kind in this region and aims to provide practical training to students which they can utilize professionally within Somali land and the region upon graduation. By participating in the four-year degree program at the Department of Telecommunications, students necessarily learn and gain an understanding of the engineering fields of analog and digital communications, antenna and propagation, mobile and satellite communications, telephony, information theory, data communications, electromagnetic waves and optical communications. In addition, engineering studies in electronics, circuit and signal analysis, microprocessor interfacing, computer system, multimedia technology, control theory, programing and power system are also provided to GU students, as is substantial training in engineering mathematics.Coverage in the key subjects of management, economics, accounting and law are also emphasized at GU in order to graduate students who can fully function in the marketplace and find gainful, long-term employment.
Civil Engineers are in high demand not only in Somali land, but throughout the region on account of large and small-scale infrastructure projects and the booming growth of businesses and need for homes and other structures. Graduates from GU are expected to demonstrate multiple civil engineering skills as well as possessing a firm grasp of the English language. These skills include an ability to apply broad knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering, technical communication, computer methods, and social sciences. The ability to design a system and conduct experiments to meet local and national needs. And, importantly for a dry country like Somali land, the ability to function in multi-disciplinary teams in geotechnical, hydraulic, structural, materials, and water resource engineering projects. Importantly, civil engineering students are taught ethics and also primed with the ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for the building of low cost housing.
This is extremely important for the future of Somaliland, which is still recovering from the civil strife that still plagues parts of the Somali territories to the south. As part of this effort, GU instituted the Low Cost Housing Construction Program, which provides the training of low cost, affordable, building construction techniques that ensure high productivity, low cost, short building cycle and good quality. This training is available not only to GU civil engineering students, but also to select groups, e.g. returnees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and vulnerable groups. GU will train tradespeople, such as masons, carpenters and small job contractors, who may spend from one to four months learning improved construction techniques.
GU will also train non-formal education (NFE) students from both the returnees, IDPs, and resident students and will upgrade their literacy and numeracy skills according to Somali land’s National Education Policy (NEP), whereby they will be able to join either the general, secondary education or the technical/vocational sector.In 2014, GU opened a state-of-the-art Civil Engineering testing lab which provides students, staff, NGOs, and businesses with the opportunity to bring soil, concrete and structures for tests which determine if the materials and products meet international standards.
Computer and ICT Engineering
Computer engineers, to include those trained in information and communication technologies (ICT), are not only required in high-tech fields, but also in the healthcare, service, financial, communications, academic and transportation sectors, thus providing viable avenues for employment for GU computer engineering graduates. GU’s Computer Engineering program focuses on digital electronics and digital systems design and the design development analysis and application of hardware and software for computing systems. GU’s Computer and ICT Engineering program currently has 135 computers at its disposal in three different computer labs, has 358 students enrolled in these engineering programs, and has 20 graduates.
GU Renewable Energy Institute
The Gollis University Renewable Energy Institute (GUREI) opened in 2014 with the aim of providing quality education, training and research for GU students,the community to meet the needs and challenges of a rapidly developing region. GUREI building provides classroom facilities together with a renewable energy laboratory and an electronics workshop. These facilities deliver curriculum at different levels within the university. Certificate and Diploma level qualifications are available for GU students and current training is focused on solar energy systems, including Solar Photovoltaic (small scale), Solar water pumping (AC and DC systems), and Solar Thermal (flat plate and evacuated tubes) systems. Training for students and the community in further technologies, to include small-scale wind for energy and water pumping and solar cooking, will be offered as workshop and teaching facilities are developed.
GUREI provides research and monitoring facilities to assess the suitability of different technologies, and help to build customer confidence in renewables through demonstration projects to students and the community. The growing interest in solar projects has created a demand for qualified engineers and technicians who can design and install solar systems to maximize available resources and to meet customer expectations. Experienced technicians are needed to deliver after-sales maintenance and repair throughout the life of the system. GUREI also teaches students entrepreneurship along with technical skills in the anticipation that some will consider starting their own business in the renewable energy sector.
Initially the Somali land Ministry of Education accredited Gollis University. Later on in 2011, the National Commission for Higher Education took over the accreditation processes, and after touring and evaluating the university facilities in 2012. They authorized GU to continue functioning accordingly. The second evaluation took place in the first 10 days of April 2015 when they visited the main campus. GU faced that evaluation with full preparation by all faculties. The up and coming engineering practice in Somali has also seen the blossoming of professional engineering bodies in Somaliland/Somalia similar to the Institution of Engineers of Kenya and the Engineers Board of Kenya. They have the Association of Civil Engineers that they established few years ago.