Diploma holders will now take longer to complete degree programmes after the regulator ruled that universities will enrol them as first years.
The students were previously allowed to enrol as second or third years, depending on the nature of the diploma, on a credit transfer system from the colleges to universities.
The changes will take effect immediately, pending review of the admissions process into degree programmes following the discovery of major irregularities, according to the Commission of University Education (CUE), which early this year asked the institutions' senates to review the credit transfer programme.
Last month, the CUE, the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Services (KUCCPS) and universities met in Nairobi to agree on the way forward.
Kenya National Qualifications Framework chairman Bonventure Kere said it would be unfair to ask a student with a three-year diploma to start his degree programme in year one.
Having a student with a higher diploma start his degree studies at second year after being in class for five years would also be unjust, said Prof Kere, adding: "This is a policy issue that needs to be resolved so that diploma and higher diploma students can join universities. We do not want a scenario where someone studies for more than five years to get a degree."
Prof Kere also announced that the qualification framework policy will be implemented in January.
Currently, a person with a C- and C in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education is admissible to a diploma course, those with C+ and above to a degree programme, while those with D plus and below study for a certificate.
CUE chairman Chacha Nyaigoti Chacha said the guidelines were being reviewed in collaboration with universities.
"We want to remain a regulator and universities have a duty to ensure that their programmes meet required standards," said Prof Chacha, adding that respective university senates must ensure standards are maintained.
The CUE audit report released in February this year revealed that only eight out of 31 public universities had complied with the regulatory requirements on credit transfer.
"Most universities did not have in place policies to guide credit accumulation and transfer system but they continued admitting students on credit transfer. In most universities, the credit transfer was left to the relevant departments to apply their own discretion when granting transfers to students," added the report.
The audit said some universities were offering bridging and pre-university courses on the basis of which they admitted students into degree programmes.