The Star (Nairobi)

7 August 2014

Kenya: Employers, Lecturers Decry Quality of University Education

In the last few years, employers have expressed the fact that Kenyan universities are producing low quality graduates.

In a study conducted by the Inter- University Council of East Africa (IUCEA), about 51 per cent of graduates were believed to be unfit for jobs, "employers said most of the graduates lacked self-confidence, could not express themselves properly and lacked the technical mastery required in the jobs they are seeking," said Professor Mayunga Nkunya, secretary to the ICUEA.

Many education experts and analysts have attributed this decline in quality graduates to the fact that most universities have become more commercialised, thus are offering more courses but with little relevant content. Also the government has increased the number of students being admitted in institution of learning, without increasing the facilities available. "The universities sometimes stretch their limits considering that they decide the number of student to enroll "there should be regulations on the number of students each university is allowed to admit" said professor Nderitu who is the deputy vice chancellor Academic affairs at Egerton University during an interview.

"Higher education has been commoditised in Kenyan universities where there is competition to enroll self-sponsored students because their fees are higher thus more profitable," said professor Nderitu. Some critics believe the decision to eliminate subjects such as art and craft, music and other technical subjects such as woodwork have led to the decline of quality graduates. "Innovation is killed right from primary, children are not taught to think outside the box, children should be exposed at an early stage so as to early identify their talent and work on it early enough" said Sally Macharia who is a HR business partner.

The grading system is also seen as impediment to the students reaching their full potential. Most students study only to pass exam and not to gain knowledge. Also the curriculum available to them is almost obsolete and not relevant in the digitalised job market. "It is high time that our universities get rid of some of these degrees and introduce the ones that are relevant to the job market. We need courses which will equip graduates with knowledge in the various fields. Students should not be placed in fields where they have no interest and job prospects,"said Sally Macharia.

To deal with the market deficiency, employers are working with private firms which offer graduate trainee programmes for graduates in different areas of interest. The trainee programmes last three months before the graduates are eligible for a job.

"Universities should embrace internships at an early stage probably from second year to help them students improve on their skills" said Macharia. This will also help them gain work experience necessary to get a job in the future.

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