Universities ordered to stop non-degree courses

Kenya’s Commission for University Education, or CUE, has directed universities to cease teaching diploma and certificate courses by July, and also to end collaboration with middle-level colleges in delivering non-degree courses. As a result, universities stand to lose large amounts of fee income.

Diploma and certificate courses must be left to colleges and technical training institutions. “Universities must concentrate on their core business of offering degree courses,” said Professor David Some, CUE’s chief executive.

Universities, he added, “must abide by demands of the Universities Act 2014 which no longer allows them to offer courses that are in the domain of technical colleges”.

CUE is the sole regulator of the university sector, while middle-level colleges are under the control of the new Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority, or TVETA.

It is because of the creation of CUE and TVETA as separate bodies in 2013, each with a well-defined but limited sub-sector based mandate, that colleges have been instructed to end collaboration with universities, Some told the media.


With higher education in Kenya witnessing exponential growth, some colleges – particularly commercial ones – have been offering diploma courses in collaboration with universities in a symbiotic relationship that benefited both parties.

All these arrangements must stop by the beginning of July in a move that will deny institutions badly needed revenue, especially from self-sponsored adult learners who form the bulk of students on such courses.

About one third of students in universities are enrolled in diploma or certificate courses, most of them privately funded. But last October the government asked the CUE to move fast to enforce the 2014 act by ensuring that universities drop non-degree courses.

Some universities could lose up to 30% to 40% of their current private fee income, according to some estimates, and could also lose lecturers who have been earning extra cash by teaching private ‘modular 2’ courses mainly in the evenings and at weekends.

“This directive will not affect those already enrolled in these courses in different affected institutions,” said Some.


Experts have faulted the directive, noting that some vocational training institutions do not have the capacity to teach courses such as the diploma in nuclear science currently taught at postgraduate level by the University of Nairobi.

Further, universities have tailored numerous certificate and diploma courses not found in middle-level institutions such as diplomacy and international relations, which have been helping to keep some departments afloat financially.

Patrick Mbataru, a lecturer in Kenyatta University’s school of business, told University World News that some non-degree courses have been tailored by university faculties to respond to market and workplace demand.

Faulting the decree, the lecturer observed that the concept of universities offering non-degree courses is common in developed countries such as the United Kingdom and United States.

“The Kenyan education system is based on and has borrowed heavily from the Anglo-Saxon systems of the US and Britain. I see no reason to discontinue teaching the courses.”

Many people sought courses in universities to access quality education, as well as because of time and financial considerations. Many choose courses on the basis of their duration and the fees they charge, Mbataru continued. “And where else do you get high quality training other than in a university,” he wondered.

The decision to terminate collaborations between universities and middle-level colleges is also well meaning, intended to raise tertiary education quality – especially in a country with a proliferation of institutions springing up in towns across the country.

CUE, Mbataru conceded, must act to avoid a situation where ‘garage’ and ‘backstreet’ colleges offer courses on behalf of universities.