Professional associations and industry lobbies are to be roped in the running of universities as the government moves to bridge the gap between training and the skills employers want.
The proposal is contained in a draft Universities Bill prepared by a team that the Ministry of Higher Education appointed to align training with the Constitution.
The Bill proposes to establish a Commission for University Education — which, if approved, will replace the Commission for Higher Education — to which the lobbies will appoint representatives.
The associations will also be represented at the university councils, the Bill proposes.
The draft comes in the wake of a disagreement between universities and professional associations over the quality of degrees offered in technical disciplines such as engineering and medicine.
Recently, the Engineers Registration Board declined to recognise graduates from Kenyatta, Egerton and Masinde Muliro universities over the depth of some of the modules they offer.
This has reduced the graduates’ chances of getting jobs as most employers demand membership or clearance from a regulator.
Higher Education minister Margaret Kamar appointed the team led by Prof David Some in September.
The other two drafts the team has drawn are Science Technology and Innovation Bill and Technical, Industrial, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training (Tivet) Bill.
“Universities need to collaborate with industry in curriculum development so as to address the needs of the labour market,” said Ms Betty Maina, the CEO of Kenya Association of Manufacturers, calling for increased partnership to address the skills mismatch.
Some universities have on their own included professionals and industrialists in their policy bodies.
Mr Benson Wairegi, the CEO of British American Investment Company is the chairman of Kenyatta University Council while Dr Betty Gikonyo, the CEO of Karen Hospital, is the vice chairman of the University of Nairobi Council.
“We must allow industry into our classroom; we must invite and engage industry players not only in designing our courses but also in offering such courses,” said Daniel Huba, the co-ordinatorof the Regional Centre for Enterprise Development (RCED) at Inoorero University.
RECD has partnered with the Kenya Association of Stockbrokers and Investment Banks (KASIB) in offering a course in Financial and Stock Market Trading and also runs a business mentoring course.
The Council of Legal Education has also cautioned students and their guardians against enrolling in institutions without confirming their accreditation status and admissibility of their legal education qualifications.
The council runs the Kenya School of Law which offers diplomas that enable graduates of law to practice in Kenya after pupilage.
The Pharmacy and Poisons Board which regulates the practice and training of Pharmacy lists Nairobi, Mt Kenya, Kenyatta and Jomo Kenyatta universities as the only institutions cleared to offer degree courses in pharmacy.
Other professional boards such as Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board, Nursing Council, Clinical Officers Association and the Veterinary Board are also asserting their regulatory authority.
Most professional bodies publicly list their members on websites or through notices in the Kenya Gazette and the media.
A survey by the Kenya ICT Board dubbed ‘Julisha’ released in November last year revealed that innovative thinking, problem solving and project management and implementation were the top three skills that IT graduates trained locally lacked.
“Roughly a quarter of companies are not satisfied with the quality of IT professionals from educational institutions in Kenya; a third of companies have contracted or plan to contract external providers to manage the skills shortages,” says the Julisha report.
If the Bill passes into law, CUE will liaise with the public and private sector to develop a national manpower strategy.
It will have the powers to oversee the establishment, governance, management and quality assurance in Kenyan institutions of higher learning.