Move to defund private varsities raises concerns

University student leaders

Student leaders protest against the proposed fee increment outside Meru University on December 7, 2020..

Photo credit: Charles Wanyoro | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Private Universities VCs Committee chairman Kisau Mumo said government-sponsored students voluntarily choose to join private universities, and suggested that the existing freedom of choice should be encouraged.
  • University of Eastern Africa, Baraton, VC Prof Philip Maiyo, who is also the vice-chairman of the Private Universities VCs Committee, said public and private universities are not competing.

The Ministry of Education and vice-chancellors of public universities are fronting a proposal to stop enrolment of government-sponsored students into private universities.

Should the proposal be adopted, most of the 34 private universities will either close down or scale down their operations as a significant portion of their budgets is supported through the government-sponsored students programme.

The proposal, raised through the Education Committee of the National Assembly, appears to have attracted the support of MPs and ministry officials. Dr Eve Obara, the MP for Kabondo Kasipul and Dr Pamela Ochieng’, the woman rep, Migori County, supported the review.

“Why would we have students sent to private universities when public universities have enough capacity?” asked Dr Obara. Education Committee chairperson Florence Mutua (Busia woman rep) said the matter calls for extensive consultation.

However, private universities have questioned the motive of the proposal, accusing public universities of a sinister scheme to undermine them and in particular, the students’ freedom of choice.

Private universities

Private Universities VCs Committee chairman Kisau Mumo said government-sponsored students voluntarily choose to join private universities, and suggested that the existing freedom of choice should be encouraged.

“The vice-chancellors in public universities are not sincere when asking the government to stop the admission of students in private institutions,” said Prof Mumo, who is also the Scott Christian University vice-chancellor.

University of Eastern Africa, Baraton, VC Prof Philip Maiyo, who is also the vice-chairman of the Private Universities VCs Committee, said public and private universities are not competing.

“Private universities are playing an important role in this county, which needs to be appreciated,” he said. Currently, private universities are struggling with numbers as most students who score the minimum C+ grade in the secondary school final exams join universities through government sponsorship.  The universities mainly rely on government-sponsored students for admission to their degree programmes as the entry grade was lowered from a Grade B of 60 points to a Grade C+. Previously, the universities relied on the admission of thousands of students who had scored between C+ and B. 

Enough space

Public Universities VCs Committee chairman Geoffrey Muluvi (South Eastern Kenya University) said the government had invested heavily in public universities and they have enough space to take in all students who qualify to join degree programmes.

Embu University VC Daniel Mugendi Njiru said the available spaces are not filled as the number of students joining the varsities has gone down in the past four years.

Higher Education and Research Principal Secretary Simon Nabukwesi said public university vice-chancellors have raised a valid proposal for review.

However, the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) acting CEO, Ms Agnes Mercy Wahome, said students should be able to choose to join private institutions.

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