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Politics and policy

Private varsities in a tight spot as admissions grade retained

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Mount Kenya University founder Simon Gicharu, board member Jane Nyutu and Prof George Magoha, the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board chairman,  cut a cake to  celebrate the private university’s 20th Anniversary in September 2016. file

Mount Kenya University founder Simon Gicharu, board member Jane Nyutu and Prof George Magoha, the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board chairman, cut a cake to celebrate the private university’s 20th Anniversary in September 2016. file 

By MUGAMBI MUTEGI

Posted  Wednesday, January 11   2017 at  08:36

In Summary

  • Only 88,929 candidates scored C+ and above in the tightly monitored Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam — a number that public universities can comfortably absorb.
  • In the past, many candidates who scored C+ and above were unable to get admission to public universities due to capacity constraints, forcing them to pursue their career ambitions at private universities or at public universities as self-sponsored students.
  • Dr Matiang'i on Monday said that the government had asked students who did not qualify to join university to join TVET institutions.
  • The Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) began the selection for degree courses, which gives public universities first priority, on Monday.

The minimum university entry grade will remain at C+ despite the drop in the number of candidates scoring top marks in the 2016 national high school exam, putting private universities on the path to a student enrolment crisis.

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Only 88,929 candidates scored C+ and above in the tightly monitored Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam — a number that public universities can comfortably absorb.

The Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) began the selection for degree courses, which gives public universities first priority, on Monday.

Last year KUCCPS picked 74,389 students (who sat the 2015 KCSE examination) to join public universities and an additional 10,000 to join private colleges with government support.

If a similar number is selected this year, public institutions will absorb almost all “qualified” students, leaving their private counterparts in an admissions quandary.

John Muraguri, the KUCCPS chief executive, said private universities have no option but to adjust to the consequences of policy change and innovate as they prepare to pick their 2017 first years from the “smaller pool” of qualified students.

“It is clear from the number that if the capacity stretches a bit this year, we shall be able to accommodate all those who scored C+ and above as government-sponsored,” said Mr Muraguri.

“Private universities may not get as many students as they are used to but they will have a small pool to pick from. They will, for instance, have to focus on getting students from previous cohorts who haven’t joined university as well as those we pick to enter the public system but opt for private institutions.”

Students apply to join public and private universities (for limited slots) and then wait for KUCCPS to assign them the courses based on their KCSE performance, a process that is solely dependent on available capacity in public colleges.

Selection by May

This year’s selection kicked off this week and is to be complete by May, said Mr Muraguri.

In the past, many candidates who scored C+ and above were unable to get admission to public universities due to capacity constraints, forcing them to pursue their career ambitions at private universities or at public universities as self-sponsored students.

The decision not to lower the pass mark despite a sharp dip in performance has shifted the numbers game in favour of public institutions – who will also have to search harder for students to fill the module II capacity they have built over the years.

Simon Gicharu, the founder and chairman of Mount Kenya University, acknowledged the extraordinary admissions challenge that the latest KCSE results have presented to private universities but added that they are surmountable.

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