University commission wins accreditation battle

Professional bodies in Kenya have lost the battle with the Commission for University Education, or CUE, over who has the final say in the accreditation of university programmes.

This after President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Universities Amendment Bill in December which, among other things, hands the power to accredit all university programmes to the CUE without the commission necessarily having to consult any professional body.

The amendments were sought by the university education regulatory authority after a long-running standoff with professional bodies including the Engineers Board of Kenya, which annulled more than 47 engineering programmes taught by public institutions in 2014 on the grounds that the courses did not meet the required standards.

Questions over quality

The board said there was a lack of well-equipped workshops, a shortage of qualified lecturers with a minimum PhD qualification and “inadequate” curricula. Universities, it said, were producing incompetent engineers.

The move resulted in embarrassment for the regulator as more than 5,000 engineering students in four universities were sent home despite the fact that the CUE had approved the programmes.

Previously, the authority to accredit was shared between the commission and professional bodies. Under the new provisions CUE has the option of consulting the professional bodies if and when it deems it necessary before approving programmes.

Reduced role

The new law effectively reduces the role of 19 professional associations to a peripheral one in terms of what is taught in universities in disciplines such as engineering, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry and law, among others.

Commission CEO Professor David Some initiated the drafting of a provision seeking to amend the Universities Act of 2012, with a view to handing authority to approve programmes to the regulator. It also sought to eliminate the implications of multiple accreditation by different entities.

According to a report in the local Daily Nation the amendment was seen in part as a means to address the fact that all regulatory bodies had been claiming ownership of academic programmes and also charging fees to students and universities. The duplicated costs were then passed on to students, making some professional courses in Kenya the most expensive in the region.

The press report also notes that the Act allows the commission to engage professional bodies and associations to carry out inspection of universities on its behalf.


Section 5A(1) of the new Act states: “If there is a conflict between the provisions of this Act and the provisions of any other Act in matters relating to approval or accreditation of academic programmes offered by universities, the provisions of this Act shall prevail.”

Clause 2 of the same section states: “Despite the provisions of any other law, the approval or accreditation of any academic programme offered at a university shall be the exclusive mandate of the Commission to be exercised in accordance with this section at the exclusion of any other person or body.”

The Act states that CUE may, before approving an academic programme, consult with the relevant body established by written law to regulate the profession to which the programme relates, where such law empowers the professional body to approve or accredit courses offered at any university or college.