Kenya's universities are staring at financial crisis as incomes from fee-paying students decline following reforms introduced in national examinations last year, an international conference heard Wednesday.
Public universities have been depending on fees from parallel degree programmes while private universities largely generate their revenues from the fees. But the trend is going to drop dramatically this year as numbers of applicants go down.
Consequently, the universities have to seek new modes of funding to keep themselves afloat as traditional revenue streams run dry.
Charles Nyandusi, a Moi University lecturer , said the changes in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) had drastically reduced the number of university qualifiers, all of whom are now assured of government sponsorship hence cutting the numbers of those going for parallel degree programmes or joining private universities.
"The advantage is that universities will no longer have to struggle with bulging classes, but they have to contend with reduced incomes from fee-paying students. The universities must therefore think differently to generate new funds to survive.
Speaking at the on-going conference of the African Association of Universities in Accra, Ghana, Mr Nyandusi called on universities to shift focus to collaborative research and innovation to attract funds from the industry and international research organisations.
Last year, Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i introduced stringent measures in national exams to curb rampant cheating that resulted to the number of candidates scoring incredibly high marks, as before, dropping remarkably.
In 2016, about 89,000 candidates scored the minimum entry point grade for university, C+ and above compared to 169,000 in 2015.
In 2015, the universities admitted about 85,000 students, leaving nearly half of the qualifiers who then joined parallel degree programmes in public or private universities leaving the universities to think more creatively and innovatively to generate resources.
Meanwhile, Kenyatta University has been selected to host the inaugural postgraduate degree programme on regional integration.
The masters' degree in regional integration supported by the African Capacity Building Foundation will admit students from the Comesa countries.
Dr Folasade Ayonrinde, the head of the Foundation in West Africa, said the programme aimed at supporting African countries to entrench regional integration.
Kenyatta University was selected on the basis of strong tradition on open and distance learning, pioneered by the virtual university initiative.