Universities under pressure to focus on quality

Commission for University Education Chairperson Chacha Nyaigotti-Chacha has criticised universities in Kenya for the poor and overcrowded conditions in which their students are housed, and their obsession with enrolment figures.

“There is new madness around the globe, and we cannot continue glorifying the number of universities without being worried about quality education,” Nyaigotti-Chacha is reported to have said last week at an education conference in Nairobi organised by the Africa-America Institute.

The criticism comes in the wake of a recent ultimatum given to newly appointed university councils by Education Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang’i at an induction workshop held last month in Naivasha.

Matiang’i gave the councils 100 days to interrogate audit reports concerning their institutions and start working on corrective measures.

He added that the embargo on the creation of satellite campuses of universities still remained, saying that any proposal to create a satellite campus must be approved by the ministry.

“These measures are expected to address the issues of the quality of our university education, effectively address the growing demand for university education in Kenya and enhance competitiveness of our universities and thereby enhance their resource base,” said Matiang’i.

Dissolution of councils

Dr Matiang'i dissolved all university councils in January and named 22 new councils for public institutions in March.

Following the findings of the country-wide quality audit report conducted by the Commission for University Education in February, Kenya’s Ministry of Education has highlighted the areas the university councils are expected to focus on in order to address the challenges the universities are facing and which are compromising quality.

“As members of university councils, you need to closely monitor the progress of implementation of the recommendations of the audit reports,” said Matiang’i

The councils have been tasked to ensure that their universities have in place integrated electronic information management systems that facilitate accurate acquisition of information all the way from admissions to registrations, examinations, grading and graduation.

“The Commission for University Education and the State Department of University Education at the Ministry of Education should ensure that no graduation ceremony takes place this year in any university that has not put in place an electronic student information management system,” said Matiang’i.

Quality assurance systems

For the purposes of safeguarding academic standards, the chancellors are expected to ensure that there is an existing quality assurance system in place and special attention should be given to the governance and management of the university, efficiency in the running of student affairs and quality of academic programmes.

The national audit of universities in Kenya that was carried out in February, in response to an outcry from the public on the quality of university education in the country, exposed weaknesses in a number of areas – including admission of students who had not attained minimum university entry requirements, missing student grades and transcripts, the granting of credit transfers to students who did not have the requisite qualifications, lack of minimum lecture hours for specific disciplines among graduates of various programmes, the awarding of honorary degrees to individuals who did not possess outstanding accomplishments, and plagiarism among students.

Other concerns included a mismatch between programmes on offer and the demands of the labour market, lack of appropriate research outputs and innovations to influence the national development agenda, financial mismanagement and instability, and ethnicity in the recruitment and promotion of staff in some universities.

In a communiqué issued by the council from their Naivasha meeting, it was observed that public universities suffer governance challenges relating to conflict of interest, nepotism, corruption, lack of accountability and mismanagement of resources.

There was a general observation by the council that there were weak internal management systems which affect the provision of quality education in the universities.