Carnegie Mellon to open branch campus in Rwanda

PITTSBURGH (AP) - September 16, 2011

The students who attend the program in Kigali, Rwanda's capital, will get exactly the same diploma as those who attend Carnegie Mellon's Pittsburgh campus, officials told The Associated Press. Credits from the two programs will even be fully transferable.

Rwanda's President, Paul Kagame, will give a speech later Friday in Pittsburgh, announcing details of the program. The first degree offered will be a Master of Science in Information 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 country's 1994 genocide.

"That strikes me as a very significant thing. The odds are very high that that's for the good," Jones said of CMU's plans.

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 women's rights and cracking down on corruption. But activists say the economic gains have not been matched by growing freedoms.

Amnesty International and other groups have voiced concerns about recent human rights trends in Rwanda. Jones agreed there are some problems, but said the positives in the country still far outweigh the negatives.

And Carnegie Mellon isn't alone in seeing potential in Rwanda: the African Development Bank is expected to fund construction of the new campus, the school said. The program aims for about 40 students next year, and up to 150 a few years later.

Experts say Rwanda's government has made extensive efforts to boost business and technology investments in the country over the last decade. According to the United Nations, the country's gross domestic product (GDP) grew at about a 7.5 percent rate between 2004 and 2010 -an exceptional rate.

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