KENYA: Students warned against some foreign colleges

Kenya's higher education authorities have cautioned students against enrolling in five international universities purporting to offer degrees and diplomas without government approval. There is growing concern over declining quality in higher education and the mushrooming of institutions offering un-vetted courses.

The Commission for Higher Education said Spain-based Bircham International University, Nations University US and Dorcas International Theological College were not authorised to offer degree programmes. The CHE also named Dublin Metropolitan University and America World University in the list of institutions offering allegedly dubious programmes.

"The Commission wishes to inform members of the public that the institutions are purporting to offer degrees/diplomas on their own or in collaboration with local or foreign universities abroad and are not authorised to offer these programmes nor confer any degree in Kenya," CHE chief executive Professor Everett Standa stated recently in an advertisement in Kenya's leading dailies.

"The public is cautioned against institutions that are offering dubious, unaccredited degree and diploma programmes."

Pursuing a degree programme at a university that has not been accredited exposes students, parents and guardians to the loss of large amounts of money spent on fees and other charges, as their qualifications have no value in the labour market.

According to the commission, Bircham International University and Dublin Metropolitan University are not accredited by any recognised agency in their home countries, the US and UK. They have also not been granted authority by the CHE to collaborate with any institution in Kenya to offer any university education.

Standa also cautioned that Dorcas International Theological College had not sought or been granted authority to collaborate with any local or international institution to offer and award any degree level qualification. University World News was unable to obtain comment from any of the five institutions listed by CHE, to get their side of the story.

The CHE said students considering taking a degree offered by a foreign institution could check with the commission to ensure the legitimacy of universities and colleges.

Pressure has been piling on the government to crack down on unaccredited institutions.

Efforts to rein them in are expected to gain impetus when parliament adopts the Universities Bill, which seeks to revolutionise higher education. The bill among other things seeks to restructure the CHE to enable it to effectively regulate higher education institutions. It also spells out minimum qualifications for lecturers and acceptable staff-student ratios that institutions must achieve before they can be accredited.

The new law will also see institutions adopt internal quality assurance processes for each programme they offer to ensure that what the students are taught is "relevant, of international standards and responsive to the job market".

Samuel Oduor, a management expert in Nairobi, said employers were increasingly seeking information from the CHE on the status of tertiary institutions, to ensure the programmes they offered were vetted and recognised. The fact that education had become such a lucrative sector was encouraging new colleges and students should be "very cautious" about enrolling in unrecognised institutions, he said.

Demand for higher education in Kenya has outstripped supply, also resulting in growing numbers of students seeking places in universities in Uganda, the US, UK and Malaysia.

While the government is anxious not to dent the human capital boost the economy receives from the education sector, it knows that bogus colleges damage the reputation of the country's education system. Kenya has seven public universities, 13 university colleges and 24 private universities catering for a total of 155,000 students.