New funding model to pull varsities from debt hole, Education PS Beatrice Inyangala says

Beatrice Inyangala

Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang, Higher Education PS Beatrice Inyangala and Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu at Esumeyia Primary School in Kakamega on May 27, 2023.

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group

The government says it has breathed life into public universities that were on collapsing due to financial challenges.

According to the Ministry of Education, the new funding model for universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) will rescue the institutions from insolvency.

The funding to students includes scholarships, loans and household contributions on a graduated scale, determined by a “testing instrument”.

Scholarships will only be granted to students in public institutions. Those in private institutions will only be eligible for funding by the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb).

Education CS Ezekiel Machogu says the Sh13 billion given to private universities and colleges in the last six years has never been audited. These universities were last audited in the 2018/19 financial year.

“We shouldn’t give public funds to private entities that are not subjected to auditing,” he said.

Higher Education Principal Secretary, Beatrice Inyangala, says  the government will give scholarships to learners from vulnerable families.

The new financing model provides students with grants and loans, based on their financial needs. It categorises learners as vulnerable, extremely needy, needy and less needy.

“Students from poor levels will get 53 per cent scholarship and up to 40 per cent loans. Their families will contribute seven per cent. Less needy students will get 38 per cent scholarship and 55 per cent loans. Their households will also contribute seven per cent,” Dr Inyangala said.

The PS said funding would be student-centred and allocated according to the level of need.

Universities and colleges will be required to declare and publicise the actual costs of their programmes.

“No public institution shall levy additional charges or raise fees without the approval of the University Funding Board,” she added.

According to the model, students are to be placed at various levels using a Means Testing Instrument (MTI).

The PS said the model promotes equity as allocation of resources is fair, promoting access and retention.

“Universities will be assured of a regular and reliable income. It is possible to apply for a loan and not the scholarship and vice-versa,” she added.

Dr Inyangala announced the funding model during the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association Conference in Mombasa last month.

During the graduation events at Technical University of Mombasa (TUM) and Kenyatta University, she said the new funding model is timely.

“It seeks to alleviate the financial burden on students and promote inclusivity, ensuring that education remains a powerful tool for social and economic mobility,” she said.

Dr Inyangala added that the funding model takes into account academic merit, financial needs, career potential among other prospects.

The PS said the model has come to rescue public universities collapsing from the weight of heavy debts.

“It will ensure adequacy and predictability of resources,” she said.

Meanwhile, Dr Inyangala said the government seeks to establish a special Service tariff for learning institutions for basic utilities like water, electricity and internet.

“We are also reviewing the current exam-based system of academic progression. We are setting up the National Open University to increase access and reduce the cost of education,” she said.

Dr Inyangala said the aim of the Open University of Kenya is to make higher education affordable, accessible, inclusive and attainable. She added that the government is committed to promoting equitable education.

e-platforms established

The PS urged universities to ensure their programmes are relevant and competitive on the international market.

“The funding model aims to assist low-income students by covering up to 80 per cent of tuition costs. The government is committed to ensuring no student falls behind and financial barriers do not obstruct their academic journey,” added the PS.

She challenged young people to seize the opportunity to acquire necessary skills, knowledge and competencies.

The PS directed universities to embrace ICT and transform the education landscape.

By establishing e-platforms, centres, and sub-centres for distance, virtual, and open learning across the country, universities can address the barriers of time and location, she said.

Dr Inyangala told the Technical University of Mombasa to  play a leading role in advancing technological innovations in education.

“Through the establishment of e-platforms, the Technical University of Mombasa can extend its reach beyond physical boundaries, connecting with learners from different regions and backgrounds,” she said.

“This will enhance access to education and foster inclusivity and equity.”

The PS added that the university can  position itself as a pioneer in shaping the future of education in Kenya through becoming a hub for research, technological development, knowledge exchange and nurturing a generation of graduates that is well-equipped to tackle challenges and opportunities of the digital era.

Technical University of Mombasa VC, Laila Abubakar, said the institution is seeking more government funding to realise its vision and fulfil infrastructure needs.

“We are grateful for the regular government funding, which serves as a vital source of support and motivation for the expansion of the university,” she said.

“It is, however, important to highlight that the implementation of capital programmes and execution of our core mandate necessitates urgent more funding,” Prof Abubakar said during the 10th graduation ceremony.

She added that the search for significant capital funding remains a prolonged and ongoing endeavour, especially in light of the new model and the highly cost-intensive nature of technical programmes.

During the 53rd graduation at Kenyatta University, VC Paul Wainaina blamed the Covid-19 pandemic for the financial challenges bedevilling public universities.

Learning institutions shut for close to a year to curb infection during the pandemic. Many resorted to online lessons.

“A combination of many factors, among them a drop in student numbers – especially those on self-sponsored programmes – reduced funding from the government. The pandemic and the prolonged drought in Kenya hit our financial portfolio,” Prof Wainaina said.

To remain afloat, the university went through the second phase of restructuring.

Restructuring measures included reducing the number of schools from 19 to nine, with the attendant reduction of deans, associate deans and other key senior officers.

Kenyatta University also reduced the administrative division from four to three. That resulted in the merger of the administrative, finance, planning and management sections.

“We rationalised and redeployed staff to ensure maximum utilisation of human resource. We also deployed teaching staff from administrative positions to their teaching departments in an effort to reduce the number of part-timers engaged,” Prof Wainaina said. 

However, the VC added that Kenyatta University ensured the austerity measures did not compromise service.

In February, some 35 public university VCs laid bare challenges faced by their institutions.

The VCs said the universities had accrued Sh60.6 billion in staff pensions and statutory deductions.

They asked the government to clear the pending pension bills amounting to Sh19.6 billion.