Noisy or hazardous university campuses to be closed

The Ministry of Education in Kenya has directed universities to shut campuses and constituent colleges that are situated near rubbish dumps, quarries or factories.

Urging the Commission for University Education, or CUE, to enforce the order, Cabinet Education Secretary Professor Jacob Kaimenyi said the government had noted with concern that some campuses were located in environments that could be injurious to students.

“Some campuses are also situated in buildings that house bars, noisy restaurants, casinos, brothels and night clubs,” said Kaimenyi in an interview with University World News.

According to recent standards and guidelines issued by the CUE, campuses and constituent colleges should not be located in places that could be a distraction to learning – such as airports, bus parks and markets.

The increase in campuses and learning sites in unsavoury places in the capital Nairobi and major towns in Kenya is as a result of intense competition for private students who pay full fees for their education.

According to Professor David Some, executive secretary of CUE, the new guidelines are expected to help establish standards for quality education in all universities in the country.

“Universities are expected not just to expand their capacity but to provide quality education in an environment conducive to learning,” said Some in an interview in Nairobi.

He noted that plans were under way to ensure that universities, whether public or private, adhered to the strict guidelines. “It is in our mandate to shut campuses, constituent colleges and learning sites that might be operating in noisy places,” he said.

Commenting on the issue, Kaimenyi noted: “Although some of the universities have obtained the International Organisation Standardisation [ISO] certification, there must be additional effort to enhance a favourable environment for students.”

He said the government had directed universities to establish a department of quality assurance whose responsibility should include identifying facilities to be used in learning and for libraries and recreation.

“Such facilities must be of the same standard as those at the main campus,” said Kaimenyi in a statement.

According to the guidelines, university learning facilities must be located away from noisy streets and should be accessible via all-weather roads. In order to have control of facilities, universities offering contact academic programmes are required to own land that is capable of supporting about 600 students.

Every building intended to be used as part of a university’s physical facilities is expected to comply with the country’s health, environmental and safety standards. Any changes made to such buildings must be approved by the relevant authorities.

But while the Ministry of Education and CUE have issued threats to shut campuses and learning sites located in distracting environments, no deadline has been given as to when they will be closed.

The crux of the matter is that most institutions do not own buildings where learning centres are located and they may need more time to look for alternative facilities to buy.

Even then, Kaimenyi is keen to have such centres closed and said the government will soon issue a timeline for compliance. “We are committed to improving the quality of education and we would like the universities to lead the way,” said Kaimenyi.

Amid efforts to improve higher education quality and standards, CUE has also directed all universities to show evidence of long-term plans. “Each university is required to submit a 10-year master plan of its physical academic, academic and financial development,” said David Some.