AKULLO TEOPISTA, MUSISI FRED KAMOGA
In Uganda, limited financial resources often obstruct higher education opportunities, particularly for those with modest incomes. Various financial aid initiatives have been introduced in an attempt to rectify this issue for equitable access. This study aimed to investigate the impact of financial aid initiatives on higher education accessibility, guided by two main research questions: (1) To what extent do financial aid programmes bolster access to higher education? (2) What challenges do students face in accessing financial aid for higher education? Employing a mixed-methods approach, data on enrolment into higher education institutions in Uganda were extracted from a National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) 2020 report for an overview into impacts of financial aid on access to higher education. For contextual and in-depth insight into the impacts of financial aid programmes on access to higher education, secondary data on loan schemes in two public universities and the Kabaka Education Fund in a private university were obtained and analysed using descriptive statistics. To understand the experiences and perspectives of financial aid programme recipients, qualitative interviews were conducted with a sample of 138 beneficiaries, including 12 individual recipients and 13 focus group discussions (FGDs) that involved 126 progressing recipients with about 9–10 persons per group from the three selected universities, whose responses were analysed using thematic content analysis. The results revealed that much as financial aid programmes have improved access to higher education in Ugandan universities, most financial services remain accessible primarily to wealthier individuals owing to barriers including application procedures, expenditure, discriminatory practices, limited information, a negative attitude towards aid and demotivation. The study recommends prioritising strategies that address the needs of a diverse student population to ensure equitable access to higher education, thereby promoting human progress, economic development, and the achievement of sustainable development goals.
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