The Higher education regulator has expressed concerns about criteria used to admit students to law programmes in universities, saying there were wide variations, which could be contributing to mass failure of students at the Kenya School of Law (KSL).
The Commission for University Education (CUE) chief executive officer Mwenda Ntarangwi in a submission to Senate Justice and Legal Affairs Committee last week, said universities applied different entry standards, meaning some students may have studied the course but were not actually qualified or suited for it. Such students were likely to experience difficulties at the KSL.
"This can best be ascertained if an analysis by the Kenya School of Law is undertaken to show previous academic attainments and performance by students at the Kenya School of Law based on their initial university admission points," said Prof Ntarangwi.
The Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) provides the standard admission requirements for a law degree as a Mean Grade of C+ (plus) in KCSE and a B Plain in English or Kiswahili.
However, in reality, only those who obtain B+ and above in KCSE get placed in the programme. The cut-off is always high. But for their own admissions, individual universities have different criteria.
University of Nairobi, Moi University, Jomo Kenyatta University of agriculture and technology (JKUAT) admit students with C+ while Strathmore and Kenyatta Universities admits students with B, Riara and Egerton enrol with B-.
"While all the universities have listed the standard admission requirement provided by KUCCPS, of at least a mean grade of C+ and grade B in English or Kiswahili, the alternative requirements show some variations among the institutions," Prof Ntarangwi told the committee.
He said for the defunct Kenya Advanced Certificate of Education (KACE), some institutions require three principal passes while others such as Moi, JKUAT, Kisii and Catholic University require two.
Others such as Kenyatta University allow for a mean grade of C- at KCSE and progression from certificate to diploma, while others allow for a mean grade of C plain and at least a credit pass in a diploma from a recognised institution.
According to CUE, a total of 14 universities in Kenya are accredited to offer Bachelor of Laws degree.
Currently, the programme is taught in 17 licensed campuses of the 14 accredited universities.
The Senate is probing how more than 85 per cent of students who had passed graduate examinations could perform so dismally at the KSL following a petition by Abdalla Suleiman and Elkana Kitur.
The 9-member team is chaired by Nyamira Senator Okong'o Omogeni.
Law Society of Kenya (LSK) in its submission proposed that the minimum entry grade for students wishing to study law be B plain in KCSE up from C+.
"Raising the entry requirements will allow students with the preferred academic muscle to be admitted into universities. When such students are admitted into the Kenya School of Law they are able to handle the rigorous nature of the Advocates Training Programme," said LSK.
Attorney General Kihara Kariuki attributed the mass failure to the fact the students were being tested on legal work that had not been taught.
Mr Kariuki said exams set by the Council of Legal Education (CLE) captured legal questions that had not be taught at the law school.