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[LILONGWE] Legislation to establish the first University of Science and Technology in Malawi is expected to be presented to parliament this year, in the hope that the project will start in 2010.

Documents justifying the need for the university, as well as outlining costs and details of the project have been finalised and a draft bill submitted to the cabinet, according to Zachary Mark Kasomekera, chair of the Lilongwe University of Science and Technology (LUSTECH) working committee.

Kasomekera said the work had been done jointly with the Malawi Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

The idea for LUSTECH was proposed by President Bingu wa Mutharika in 2004, in a bid to accelerate his vision of changing Malawi from a consuming and importing economy to a producing and exporting one.

The estimated cost of implementing the LUSTECH project stands at 19.2 billion kwacha (US$136.6 million) over ten years. Whether the institution will be housed on a new campus or on the site of the Bunda College of Agriculture has not been decided yet.

Kasomekera told SciDev.Net that the committee was aware that "starting a new university at an old campus may create risks and problems of identity, which could affect the status and quality of the new university", particularly if Bunda College staff were also part of LUSTECH.

He said that the University of Malawi had offered to facilitate an arrangement by which 30 LUSTECH undergraduates would study at Bunda College for two years, though "it may be necessary to offer the 30 students remedial science and technology courses at the end of the two years".

Another option under consideration is for the LUSTECH working committee to recruit and train potential LUSTECH lecturers at Masters and PhD levels at regional and overseas institutions.

LUSTECH has been allocated 151 million kwacha (US$1 million) for in the 2009/10 financial year, which will cover the costs of recruiting key academic staff and consultants to draw up the university's Infrastructure Master Plan. Scholarships are being solicited to cover training for senior lecturers.

The LUSTECH working committee has also submitted a selection of logos and mottos for the Malawi cabinet to consider and approve.