Major initiative to train university managers

Kenya's government has launched a major initiative to train senior university managers including council members, vice-chancellors, their deputies, deans, heads of departments and managers in a strategic project funded by the African Development Bank, or AfDB.

The training falls under a bigger Support to Enhancement of Quality and Relevance in Higher Education, Science and Technology - HEST - Project, which the AfDB is funding to the tune of US$36 million and will be coordinated by the Ministry of Education.

University managers will be trained in, among other areas, corporate governance, financial and personnel management, procurement, the Universities Act 2012 and Sessional Paper No 14, which deals with the policy framework for and reform of the education and training sectors.

Also to be covered are the roles of governing bodies, and an overview of the country's 2010 constitution in relation to higher education and resource mobilisation. International and local consultants will conduct the training, which kicks off in June.

Besides the management training, the bank grant will also be used for constructing teaching and learning facilities, purchasing equipment, and capacity-building among academics in the science and engineering fields in selected institutions.

"The aim of the training is to improve decision-making processes in universities as well as to enhance efficiency and effectiveness to ensure there is good value for public investments in the university sector," said Professor Bellio Kipsang, principal secretary of education, in a media notice.

"Once this is achieved it will allow universities to deliver their triple mandate of teaching, research and provision of extension services to society."

In a departure from the past, when the government mainly focused on public universities, managers in private universities interested in undergoing the training will also be considered. This is perhaps recognition of the growing role private institutions are playing in delivering higher education to the populace.

The programme will target both new and experienced university managers including council members and chancellors, even though they are not involved in the day-to-day running of universities.

Traditionally, university leaders - especially vice-chancellors, chancellors and council members - are appointed by the president and are only taken through brief induction sessions, mainly on governance structures and rarely on deeper aspects of management, corporate governance or even procurement.

Kipsang said there was a need for universities to adopt best corporate management practices if the sector was to play its full role as a catalyst for sustainable development.

Kenya has seen rapid expansion of higher education, with the number of public universities rising to 26 in 2012 from only 10 in 2003. The number of private universities has also grown rapidly, from just six in 2001 to more than 20 currently.

An estimated 300,000 students are enrolled in public and private universities countrywide.