KENYA: Hundreds of unaccredited colleges to be closed

Kenya has published a list of all accredited colleges operating in the country, exposing hundreds of bogus tertiary institutions that will be closed down in the second week of January. While the move signals government's intention to clean up the higher education sector, it has caused uncertainty and panic among students in colleges denied accreditation.

The higher education ministry in East Africa's biggest economy said only 464 of an estimated 1,000 colleges had passed registration criteria, which included checks on educational facilities and the teaching force.

A further 395 institutions face closure next month for failing to renew their registration. These are colleges that had been issued with 18-month provisional certificates, which have now expired.

The conclusion of the vetting process and publication of the final list of accredited institutions follows a string of warnings issued by education officials over the past five years, during which unregistered colleges have mushroomed in the country's main cities to cash in on growing demand for higher education.

Educationists have said unscrupulous businesspeople are taking advantage of Kenyans' quest for education by establishing 'bogus' colleges.

The list of the recognised and registered colleges was published in local newspapers this month, causing panic among students enrolled in institutions not appearing on the list, as January - the beginning of a new semester - nears.

Educationists said the publication of the list was likely to trigger massive transfer of students from 'unrecognised' colleges once the institutions reopen. This is also likely to fuel anxiety and confusion for graduates of such colleges, who will be left holding certificates from institutions whose credibility has been called into question.

"It's highly likely that after the crackdown, big and established institutions which have passed the registration test will get a windfall as students seek transfers to accredited institutions," said Simon Oduor, an educationist in Nairobi.

Demand for higher education places in Kenya has been on the increase, buoyed by rising transition rates from primary and secondary schools over the past seven years. During this period, government investment in the education sector has reached new heights.

Of the 80,000 or so students who score the minimum grade for university entry annually, at least 50,000 miss out on a university place, leaving them with only one option - to enter tertiary colleges or end their ambitions for education.

In a bid to bring sanity to this crucial sub-sector, all tertiary colleges have been required to register afresh and have their premises inspected for their suitability to offer certificate, diploma and degree courses.

In a statement in the Kenyan media last week Higher Education Permanent Secretary Crispus Kiamba argued that publishing the list "was necessitated by concerns that unscrupulous persons may be taking advantage of Kenya's quest for education".

"The establishment of the institutions must be consistent with the needs and policies of the country, the premises and accommodation must be suitable and adequate and the managers must be suitable and proper persons to manage the institution," said Kiamba.

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