22 January 2016

Kenya: Varsities Must Be Held in Check Before It's Too Late

editorial

Kenya's university education is at a crossroads. It is expanding too quickly but without proper planning, coordination and commensurate resources. In other words, it is in a mess.

All sorts of institutions have sprung up across the country purporting to offer university education when they are just hollow shells that can never pass for universities.

Against this backdrop, the recent interventions by the Commission for University Education (CUE) are timely and appropriate.

Early in the week, the commission closed down 10 campuses of Kisii University for failure to measure up to the appropriate quality and standards, bringing to 20 the institutions axed for the same reasons.

This was followed by the cancellation of five doctorates awarded irregularly by the university.

On Friday, the commission issued a warning to the public against enrolling in unaccredited universities.

What is emerging is that the massive expansion of universities, which is intended to give a chance to thousands of qualified students transiting from high schools, is fraught with peril.

So far, the country has about 70 public and private universities, most of which are totally deficient in terms of facilities and lecturers.

At any rate, they do not offer value since they merely duplicate courses available in the market.

Some have mounted professional courses such as medicine, engineering or law without consulting the respective regulatory agencies.

But the problem cuts both ways. Whereas the universities are at fault, the commission has particularly been weak in inspecting and regulating the institutions.

It is questionable how dubious institutions can be set up and run for years without the commission's approval.

A point of contention has been the mandate of the commission in regard to the approval of campuses set up by public universities because that is done by the respective councils of the institutions, which enjoy autonomy.

However, the duty of maintaining the quality of learning belongs unequivocally to the commission.

The commission must clear the mess in higher education by intensifying inspection, weeding out dubious institutions and tightly managing the registration of new universities.

Kenya

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