University students

The number of public universities in Kenya has grown from less than 10 in the 90s to the current 31.

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Ministry moves to end duplication of programmes in universities

What you need to know:

  • Competition for students has motivated newly established universities to lower their admission cluster requirements.
  • The number of public universities has also grown from less than 10 in the 90s to the current 31.

As universities continue to grapple with financial instability, duplication of academic programmes has been identified as a major contributor to their failure to attract enough students.

The growth of the sector over the last 10 years has seen many universities diversify their courses from their niche disciplines as they compete to attract more students. This has left many of them struggling as some of the newly established courses seem to have been duplicated from the ones offered in other universities with little or no added value.

Universities have been admitting less than half of their declared capacities as the students have to be shared among many other institutions offering a similar course, as a result, the Ministry of Education is currently undertaking a process to lay structures to arrest the issue to enable universities focus on their niche programmes. Education cabinet secretary, Prof George Magoha, said that this will also improve the quality of programmes offered by universities.

“Duplication of programmes is a major problem in our universities and it cuts across nearly all public and private universities,” said Prof Magoha.

Competition for students has motivated newly established universities to lower their admission cluster requirements from what the established universities demand to enable them attract students. 

Establishment of major universities such as the University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University, Moi University, Egerton University, Maseno University and the Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology was initially based on their niche programmes to address particular needs and make universities stand out.

For instance, Kenyatta University has for long been known for offering Bachelor Education degrees, the University of Nairobi medicine and engineering courses while Egerton is known for offering agriculture courses while Technical University of Kenya and Technical University of Mombasa are synonymous with technical courses, mainly engineering.

For private universities, Daystar University prides itself as the best in communication and journalism courses, Strathmore University as the best in offering business-related courses, while KCA university is associated with accounting and accounting courses.

Redundant programmes

Presently, Mt Kenya University has been attracting thousands of students to its Bachelor of Education programme, however, due to demand from students and pressure to expand, universities that focused on offering science-related courses have introduced new courses in arts and business, while those that initially offered arts and business have begun to offer science, engineering and agriculture courses.

The number of public universities has also grown from less than 10 in the 90s to the current 31. The expansion saw some polytechnics upgraded to universities and offering courses mainly being offered by the University of Nairobi. Universities have also been establishing satellite campuses where they offer some of their newly established programmes.

Private universities have also seen a major expansion that has led to establishment of new schools almost matching the number of public universities. Currently, the number of private universities in the country stands at 34.

Professor Magoha noted that establishment of redundant and loss making satellite campuses, duplication of programmes and establishment of redundant programmes are among the major issues that have precipitated financial challenges in institutions of higher learning.

“To address the financial challenges in universities, the ministry has asked universities to stop and move courses that have been duplicated across universities where a university does not have a competitive advantage or niche,” said Magoha.

The Universities Funding Board in a draft proposal sent to public and private universities vice chancellors committees, proposes that the institutions establish centres of excellence in their institutions.

The board noted that expansion of universities and low funding from government caused the institutions to shift focus away from their centres of excellence as they pursued low-cost programmes which are not necessarily relevant to the economy.

Specialised programmes

“To support the development of the centres, the Universities Fund proposes seeking financial support for universities in their niche areas from the National Government, County Government and other interested partners,” reads the framework.

As universities await to roll out the Competency Based Curriculum for the pioneer classes, the Ministry hopes to arrest the mess of institutions duplicating academic programmes as they will be required to align their programmes with a specific area of competency.

At university level, the CBC will require universities to align the programmes to accommodate the senior secondary students majority of who will have gone through three pathways. The pathways include Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Arts and Sports Science and Social Sciences.

The universities will be expected to admit 60 percent of the students to pursue Stem subjects, 25 percent to pursue social sciences while 15 percent of the students will study arts and sports.

The duplication of courses has also been witnessed in Technical and Vocational Education Training Institutions initially established to offer hands on programmes but are currently offering theoretical related courses. 

Currently, the Ministry of Education is in the process of establishing Centres of excellence in the Tvet sector to ensure that institutions offer specialised programmes. The move is also there to ensure some Tvets do not admit more students than others.

The centres of excellence will be in the areas of agriculture, hospitality, engineering, automotive, technology, the blue economy among other areas.

This was after it emerged that some Tvet colleges were unable to get enough students despite institutions such as Nairobi Technical Training Institute and Kabete National Polytechnic having overcrowded classes.