“What is a university? Do we still define and conceptualize it in the way it should be? That we just don’t teach but also do research. Have we allowed our intellectual capacities to sleep and allowed other people to drive them?”
In his inherent bare-knuckled way of approaching issues, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha did not mince words as he challenged University Managers to restore these institutions to centers of academic excellence.
“Time has come when we must hold candid discussions about the quality of leadership, teaching and research in our universities. Having been a manager at the University of Nairobi for 10 years, and having observed the sector now for four years, I feel compelled to state that our university sector is at a crossroads,” Magoha said when he released the 2019-2020 universities and colleges placement cycle results yesterday.
He put on the spot some 107 university programmes because they either did not attract applications or no student was selected to pursue the degree courses considered uncompetitive.
Thousands of teaching jobs are at stake in the looming shake-up with the inevitable axing or merger of some programmes.
For nine of the degree programmes, there were no applications from students who sat the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam last year, and in the remaining 98, no student was enrolled for the degree courses spread across 50 universities.
The programmes have a collective capacity of 6,721 students.It is such worrying statistics that prompted Magoha to direct the Commission for University Education to review the programmes to consolidate and scrap those that are unnecessary.
“There are many programmes in our universities that fail to attract a single student. This situation must be addressed. The Commission for University Education must conduct a thorough analysis of these courses with a view to addressing this shocking scenario, including a review and scrapping of such programmes,” said Prof Magoha.
Magoha called for merger of university campuses and a freeze on establishment of new ones. He also encouraged debate on the quality of teaching and the adverse effects of rapid expansion of the institutions.
Speaking at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) in Nairobi, the CS said his ministry would ensure that universities specialize in academic programmes they are relatively strong in.
“Universities should cut their niches. Henceforth, come to me and ask for full funding of relevant courses. Why is Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) teaching economics when we know its niche is engineering?
He threatened to dissolve councils that do not add value to the universities.
“I have interviewed PhD holders who can’t defend their certificates. I am forced to interview them on their master’s degree qualification which they are also unable to defend. I am forced to ask them to use their bachelor’s degree. Get the right people into universities not necessarily PhD holders who offer nothing,” said Magoha.
He further called on vice chancellors to de-ethnicise universities to ensure they reflect the national face of the country. He said some have up to 50 per cent of their staff drawn from one community.
“If you manage such an institution, close it before we come for you.”
The CS said some universities are established too close to each other.
“We can’t have 15 universities in a stretch of 30 square kilometers. Since I took office, I have received 10 university applications mostly from politicians. I have not granted them the chance.”
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