In the beginning, there was an idea that blossomed in the mind of the then-Ugandan High Commissioner to South Africa, Prof. E. B. Rugumayo, as he visited South African universities and other institutions of higher learning. He eventually shared the idea with another outstanding son of the soil of the Rwenzori region, Hon. Justice S. T. Manyindo. Justice Manyindo tasked Prof. Rugumayo to put it down in form of a concept paper.
That concept paper was released to the public on New Year’s Day 2001, and subsequently discussed in various community meetings. Elders who participated in those meetings coined the name of the university-to-be: Mountains of the Moon University, a university governed by and for the diverse communities of the Rwenzori region (now 7 districts: Kasese, Kamwenge, Kabarole, Ntoroko, Bundibugyo, Kyenjojo and Kyegegwa).
Prof. Rugumayo and Justice Manyindo happened to have their work place within the same building in Kampala at that time. From there, they gathered the nine founders-to-be into a planning committee that met every Tuesday for the better part of 4 years.
On 28th June 2002, Mountains of the Moon University was registered as company ltd. by guarantee under No. 64222 by the Ugandan Registrar of Companies.
Parallel, they mobilised support from national and international sources. Fr. A. Byaruhanga, through his unique network spanning across faith-based, political and international communities, was the most gifted fund-raiser. It was through his network that the university-to-be won its first international partners from Austria, from the Netherlands, and through the latter from one of the most committed partners MMU has had over its first 10 years: The Ireland-based Volunteer Missionary Movement (VMM).
Still parallel, the planning committee had been vetting almost any possible location in Fort Portal that could be the birth-home of the new university. Ultimately, they signed the contract for rent of the building block that has since become known as MMU Kabundaire Campus.
In early 2005, the tireless preparations paid off: MMU was granted a provisional licence No. Ui.PL.004 by National Council of Higher Education on 29th March 2005, to operate as a university with 4 schools (faculties): Agriculture, Business & Management, Education, and Health Sciences.
Creative start-up spirit for steep growth
With a team of unique minds and experiences and of unwavering commitment, MMU chose the fast-lane to develop:
Between 2006 and 2011, 1st-year-enrollment of MMU grew on average by 47% year-to-year.
This was ‘oiled’ by the development of new study courses; its number grew from 14 in 2005 to 23 in 2011.
MMU surpassed a total student population of 500 already in its 3rd academic year, 2007/08.
The founders, now board members, of MMU convinced His Excellency President Museveni to channel support from Government of Uganda (GoU) to the freshly started university. Three times, in the financial years 2005/6, 2006/7 and 2007/8, GoU contributed UGX 500m to building up physical infrastructure as well as running the operations of MMU.
In September 2008, MMU held its first graduation ceremony; bachelor degrees, diplomas and academic certificates were awarded to 103 students.
Since 2007 MMU has had a staff development policy. By mobilising external funding, among others from Belgian Technical Cooperation (BTC), MMU began to support staff members for further studies. By 2011, 12 MMU staff had attained PhDs, masters, bachelor degrees or diplomas.
In particular through the faithful support of Irish philantropist Martin Hawkes, MMU was able to complete its main campus building in 2009 and to open Saaka Main Campus ‘for business’.
In the academic year 2009/10, MMU introduced for the first time 4 postgraduate courses. In the following year, triggered by the new community bursaries for bachelor students, MMU total student population surpassed 1,000.