Six-month closure notices for eight satellite campuses

The fate of eight satellite university campuses established in the Kenyan capital Nairobi’s central business district hangs in the balance after the higher education regulatory body, the Commission for University Education or CUE, issued a six-month closure notice.

The commission accredited 12 other campuses, and gave provisional accreditation to three.

In the notice published in newspapers last month, the CUE indicated that the universities running the campuses – six of them public institutions – had flouted laws and regulations governing the setting up of campuses.

“The commission is mandated by section 20 of the Universities Act and section 43 of the Universities Regulations 2014 to regulate the establishment of university campuses,” read the notice by CUE head Professor David Some.

It informed the public that in line with the laws and regulations, CUE had evaluated satellite campuses in Nairobi, and listed their accreditation status.

Among those to be closed after six months are campuses owned by Egerton University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, Multimedia University of Kenya and South Eastern Kenya University – all public institutions.

Others facing the closure deadline are St Paul’s University and Africa Nazarene University, both owned by church organisations.

Pros and cons of satellite campuses

In all, 23 universities from across Kenya operate campuses in the capital’s central business district, all of them aiming to offer services closer to potential learners in order to boost their student numbers and income.

The institutions have been taking advantage of rapid growth in self-sponsored adult and evening learners that is part of a mad rush for university education in Kenya. The main target is fee-paying working class people who attend evening and weekend classes.

The rush has prompted fierce competition among universities, with property owners in Nairobi’s city centre laughing all the way to the bank.

More positively, fee income from non-traditional students attending satellite campuses has enabled some institutions with low student numbers and poor funding to stay afloat.

While CUE did not give reasons for the intended closures, the sections of the rules cited give it powers to accredit any campus after inspection, and before any campus can be allowed to operate.

Under the rules, campuses must have environments that are conducive for learning. “Campuses must never be located near noisy bus terminuses, bars, brothels and casinos or in unhygienic or condemned buildings,” states the 2014 regulations.

While CUE did not say which of its regulations the campuses had flouted, some of the blacklisted facilities are next to noisy and overcrowded bus stops and terminals, while others are in aged, non-descript multi-storey buildings.

CUE also did not indicate what it wanted institutions to do to avoid being shut down after the deadline.

Universities deny knowledge, problems

Even as the regulator took stern measures, some affected institutions denied having knowledge of CUE having carried out inspections of satellite premises, or of having flouted laws or rules governing campuses.

Professor James Tuitoek, vice-chancellor of Egerton University, is reported to have denied having knowledge of any inspection of the Nairobi campus, saying that nothing had been communicated to him by CUE.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Professor Joseph Galgalo, vice-chancellor of St Paul’s University, who said he was only aware of CUE asking the institution to move its city campus from the current building to a more habitable one.

According to Some, some of the affected campuses were found to have tiny lecture rooms while others had no toilets.

The purge, he was reported in local media as saying, will be extended to towns outside Nairobi where universities have established satellite campuses.

Students studying at the affected campuses will need to move to the main campuses of the universities after the six-month deadline expires, Some said.