A cursory search is enough to show that quite a number of Kenyan universities lack a vibrant and functional web presence to showcase their training and research.
This, in an era that is becoming increasingly technology-based, thus consigning them to the backwater of global trends in higher education.
A web-based survey by Higher Education indicates that many university websites and social interaction platforms are outdated, not user-friendly or are have simply been neglected. Some of the websites are dour, lack information for prospective students and generally portray a failure to keep abreast of developments in higher education.
Universities the world over use websites to recruit students and the best members of faculty. With Covid-19 greatly reducing physical interaction, institutions of higher learning will hold fewer physical recruitment fairs and will therefore turn to online marketing.
Progressive web presence by a university is therefore key for the institution in its interactions with both internal and external publics about the programmes on offer, ongoing research and findings and scholarships.
It is also used by organisations such as Webometrics, the world’s pre-eminent body for ranking universities as one of the factors for deciding the best universities in the world.
Top five universities
“At the end a reliable rank is only possible if the web presence is a trustworthy mirror of the university. In the second decade of the 21st century, the Web is key for the future of all university missions...,” Webometrics says on its website.
In its latest ranking released in January, the top five universities in Kenya are the University of Nairobi, Egerton University, Kenyatta University, Moi University and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. Evidently, their websites are also treasure troves for anybody seeking information about them.
Technical University of Kenya, Maseno University, Strathmore University, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology and the University of Embu complete the top 10 list. Among the lowest ranked universities globally are Garissa University (23,738) and Lukenya University (22,431).
In Africa, the top universities are The University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University (2) Cairo University (3), University of Kwanzulu Natal (4) and University of Johannesburg in South Africa at number five.Most of Kenya’s universities fair poorly when compared with others globally.
UoN, which is ranked the best in the country is at a respectable 1,055 globally and 13th in Africa, however, institutions such as Taita Taveta University and University of Kabianga are ranked 19,383 and 15,298 in the world respectively 863 and 567 in Africa.
At the time of the survey, the Pwani University website immediately disappointed with a click on the About Us menu. For instance, only three members of the university council are shown with their mugshots as two others appear without pictures while the other spots are blank.
On the flip side, South Eastern University of Kenya has one of the most comprehensive websites. Information on its programmes and is easy to access and the site gives comprehensive staff profiles and publication performance by faculty shown.
Kenyan universities’ technological challenges are not new. They were exposed majorly by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many students had to wait until the institutions opened for face-to-face learning as they lack the infrastructure and human resource capacity to facilitate virtual learning.