26 June 2019

Kenya: CUE Launches Probe on 118 PhDs Awarded at JKUAT

The Commission for University Education is investigating 118 doctorate degrees awarded by Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) last week.

Commission chairman Chacha Nyaigoti Chacha said they will seek to find out if standard procedures were followed in the teaching, researching and examination processes to determine if the degrees are justified.

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Prof Chacha spoke as it emerged that one professor had supervised more than 10 students in the School of Entrepreneurship, Procurement and Management against CUE requirements of only three scholars.

Some of the publications where the graduates published their works have also been put to question. CUE will be looking at the defence procedures, supervision of the programmes among others as it moves to maintain the credibility of doctorate and master's degrees awarded by universities in Kenya.

"We are on the ground to look at these doctorates and we will take necessary action if we find that the law was not followed," said Prof Chacha.

The commission will hand in a report of their investigation to Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha in two weeks. CUE requires that all graduate students publish at least a paper or two before they graduate.

The decision by CUE follows an outcry from Kenyans who questioned why the university produced many PhDs in business related studies in its 33rd graduation ceremony yet specialises in sciences. On Sunday, JKUAT released a statement defending the quality of their graduates.

"All degrees of the university are meritoriously earned and no student is allowed to graduate without going through the due process regarding coursework, seminars, original research, external examination and publications," said Prof Robert Kinyua, the acting deputy vice-chancellor (academic affairs).

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He said that the university observes stringent quality measures including those set by CUE, the body mandated with an oversight role over all universities. He added that the university has enough academic staff to supervise all its programmes. The university has 923 academic staff.

Prof Kinyua warned that the 'disparaging comments' could risk the careers of the graduates. Out of the 118 PhDs awarded, the college of human resource development had the biggest number at 89. The fewest doctorates were in the fields of science and technology, areas which the university specialises in.

Efforts to get a comment from the University Academic Staff Union through its secretary-general Constantine Wasonga were unsuccessful.

The curiosity around the veracity of the degrees seems to have exposed another dark side of academic publishing.

There appears to be briefcase or cash-for-publication journals in the country. One such journal purports to be American though it was registered in Nairobi with an Equity Bank account. It claims to have an impact factor of 3.0 and charges $100 (Sh10,000) for anyone who wishes to get published.

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