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Dropping degree courses is preserve of university senates

The matter of which degree programmes a
The matter of which degree programmes a university should offer (or drop) need not be a legislative agenda. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The matter of which degree programmes a university should offer (or drop) need not be a legislative agenda. Rather, it should be a supply and demand agenda, left to individual universities to decide in line with their sustainability strategies, through their University Senates.

Threats by the national government to close down ‘duplicated’ academic programmes amount to attempts to micro-manage universities at multiple levels. First it is an attempt to usurp the powers of the regulator (CUE), and second it is an attempt to negate the role of the University Senates, the university organ with the responsibility and authority to approve or disapprove those programmes. A funder, such as the Exchequer, can specify conditions under which it will fund or not fund a university or its programmes, but it should not have the leeway to close down universities or their academic programmes on whims.

These should be decisions informed by thorough research studies and analyses by key stakeholders, not by mere reports of the number of universities offering the same programmes. This is partly because the national government is not close enough to pertinent issues to be able to make such decisions competently.

Moreover, for the national government to make such threats is to presuppose that all the Senates of all the 74 Kenyan universities are either not competent or they just do not know what they are doing. Rather than try to do the work of both the University Senate and the Universities Regulator, the national government needs to put in place laws that allow achievement of its specific objectives as they pertain to university education and to the product it places on the job market, the university graduate.

There are several ways in which the national government can regulate the higher education sector without dictating which university should merge with which one, and which university should offer which courses, and vise versa.

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These include building incentives in its funding structure to universities. For example, upon establishing that there is relatively higher demand for a specific area in law, funding allocations to universities for that programme should then be made relatively more attractive.

This will give clear indications to universities that there is need for the course which will cause them to develop the necessary infrastructure and to install the programme. A possible alternative method of regulating universities is for the national government, through the universities regulator, to undertake a comprehensive study to inform itself of sectors of manpower needs in the national economy, and to publish this information for consumption by universities.

It is highly unlikely then, that universities will not offer courses that will provide needed manpower.

Universities should be free to offer menus of education and trainings that the average Kenyan university candidate would demand. It is certainly not logical to close a programme just because many universities offer it.

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