Appointment of top managers of public universities has emerged as a major challenge facing the institutions. This is because of vested interests and political meddling.
Public universities are being viewed as ethnic and regional entities whose managers and employees should predominantly be sourced locally. This undermines the vision of the institutions, which should be citadels for academic excellence and symbols of national unity, not bastions of ethnic jingoism.
On paper, vice-chancellors, deputy vice-chancellors, council members and chancellors should be appointed competitively. However, that hardly happens. Cases exist where processes are subverted through schemes such as endless litigations. Several universities are operating without councils, substantive VCs and DVCs, which affects operations and academic programmes.
One of the universities that have found themselves in this quagmire is Masinde Muliro in Kakamega County. For nearly two years, the university has operated without a VC and deputies.
This week, the university finally appointed the top managers through a fairly transparent process. We hope the appointment of Prof Solomon Shibairo and two deputies will create stability at the institution and give it the impetus to deliver on its mandate.
The point is that appointment of university managers should be streamlined. Merit and national values should carry the day. Politics and ethnic biases have no place in academic institutions.
Already, the Education ministry has made proposals to review the University Act to streamline the management of the institutions. These proposals, including reviewing the role of the Public Service Commission in the recruitment, should be debated and ratified by Parliament after careful consideration.
The success of public universities rests on their leadership and, therefore, the system of appointment must be beyond reproach.