New accreditation system sets down HE standards

In a move to standardise qualifications, the Kenya National Qualifications Authority has created a new system for the accreditation of student qualifications and has defined entry grades for both degrees and diplomas, according to newly gazetted regulations.

In an exclusive interview with University World News, Juma Mukhwana, chief executive officer of the Kenya National Qualification Authority (KNQA), said Regulations 2018 outlined the establishment of a national database containing information on registered unit standards and qualifications, accredited educational institutions, assessment and certification systems of these institutions, validated learning qualifications, equated foreign qualifications, recognised and approved foreign qualifications, those from prior learning, and student records.

Mukhwana added that Regulations 2018 met the requirements of the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) and also aimed to stop the proliferation of fake certificates.

Database a registry for prospective employers

“The database will be a one-stop qualifications registry for prospective employers and will give information on all graduate qualifications in the event of any doubt about their certificates. This is a requirement under the IUCEA,” he said.

Mukhwana added that the infrastructure for the accreditation system was finalised. If higher learning institutions and bodies wished to continue issuing certificates to students, they would have to reregister for accreditation by the end of this year. An accredited institution would also have to apply to renew its four-year licence at least a year before it expired.

“This will enable students to know which are genuine institutions or the bodies to register with for their courses. It will curb the number of fake certificates being issued by unregistered bodies in the country,” he added.

Mukhwana said the KNQA would meet twice a year with accredited education institutions to review national qualifications. It would also issue manuals, codes and guidelines to institutions about developing national qualifications.

Requirements for new regulations

According to the new regulations, before being admitted to a diploma course, students would have to have a minimum mean grade of C-minus in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination or its equivalent, or at least one principal pass in the Kenya Advanced Certificate of Education examination. Previously, depending on the diploma course and institution, students were required to have a C or C+ to qualify for a course.

In terms of bridging courses, Mukhwana said: “Under the new regulations, institutions will not be allowed to offer these to enable candidates to qualify for a course. For example, if a student had a D, he or she couldn’t take a bridging course to qualify for a diploma course that required a C-minus.”

For a bachelor degree, the minimum admission requirement was now a mean grade of C-plus in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination, or its equivalent. Previously, the qualification grade was determined by the space available at institutions, which led to the minimum grade varying every year.

For a postgraduate certificate or diploma, a student would need a bachelor degree from an accredited education institution. The minimum for a masters was the same, where previously it had been honours. To qualify to study towards a doctorate, a student would need a masters from an accredited institution.

New rules for transferring credits

When it came to transferring credits, Mukhwana said that law students would be prohibited from doing so, while others would have to apply to both the KNQA and the institution they were studying at for credit approval. These would also have to have been earned by the applicant no more than four years before applying for the transfer. Transferring credits from common core units at accredited education institutions was also not allowed.

In addition, only two years’ worth of credits towards a degree could be transferred, but if a student attained a higher grade after going to study at another institution, a transfer of credits would not be allowed. There had been no timeframe set down in the past and credit transfer had been possible at any time during study.

Mukhwana added that, for example, a Kenyan engineering student who had earned course credits at a foreign institution and wanted to come back home to further his or her studies – or use his or her completed qualification to work in Kenya – would have to apply to the awarding body in the specific field for recognition of his or her qualification. The relevant authority – for example, the Engineers Board of Kenya – would assess the quality of course credits, and recommend a remedial Kenyan qualification to the applicant if it declined his or her request.