The government is set to charter 15 new public universities in the next two and a half months in a bid to boost tertiary education enrolment in the country.
This means that Kenya will have 23 public universities by March next year, up from the current seven, marking a more than 200 per cent growth in the number public universities.
Dedan Kimathi University of Technology in Nyeri became the first of the 15 new public varsities when it received a charter Friday earning its position as the 8th public university in the country.
President Mwai Kibaki conferred the charter to the university just a day after he assented to the new Universities Act of 2012.
Kimathi University had been a constituent college of the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology for the last six years.
Now a chartered institution, the university is fully autonomous with all governance structures and control being vested in the institutions chancellery and university council. Prof Okoth Keya is the institution's first chancellor while the former principle Prof Ndirangu Kioni remains acting vice chancellor.
Other technical institutes in Kisii, Narok, Chuka, Kwale and Kitui are set to follow suit, with President Kibaki expected to confer charters to these institutions before the March 4th elections.
These institutions have been university colleges under the mentorship of public universities which they were affiliated to.
The commission for university education has been inspecting the institutions to ensure they comply with the requirements of the new Universities’ Act of 2012. The new Act seeks to create a level playing field for both public and private universities by using a uniform accreditation system for all institutions of higher learning.
“The Act has ushered in a well coordinated, harmonious regulatory system for university education,” noted Higher Education minister Margaret Kamar.
The Act has harmonised governance systems and quality assurance standards for all universities including both public and private.
Kimathi University has over the last six years undergone major changes that have transformed it from a technical institute to a public university. The institution has seen growth of its student population from 500 to 5,000, development of an ultra modern administration block and construction of modern engineering workshops with state-of-the-art facilities.
The institution has also spent over Sh20 million in setting up a 140 acre conservancy on part of its land.
President Kibaki challenged the new universities to translate research into innovations that can help improve the livelihoods of people. The institutions have also been challenged to widen their search for jobs in the East African region.