Recurrent grants for public universities have dropped to 53 percent on stagnated government funding, slashing the average amount allocated per student.
State funding to public universities is based on the Differentiated Unit Cost (DUC) model whereby institutions are allocated budgets based on the number of undergraduate students they register for the State-funded regular programme and the kinds of courses they take.
Under the model, the government is expected to cater for 80 percent of the unit cost while the remaining 20 percent is borne by students and institutions. A cash crunch has however seen allotments by the State fall way behind at about 53 percent.
“We are currently funding at 53.77 percent for public universities, compared to the 60.7 percent the previous year and the 66.4 percent we did in the year to June 2018,” the Universities Funding Board (UFB) chief executive officer Geoffrey Monari said.
The number of government-sponsored students increased by 38,228 to 271,446 between 2019 and 2021 while the approved budget in the review period increased at a slower rate by Sh3.7 billion to Sh41.9 billion.
This means that the average amount allocated per student has reduced to Sh154,385 in the current year from Sh163,560 in the year to June 2019.
The DUC model whose implementation started in 2017 groups university academic programmes into 14 clusters, each with a fixed cost.
Under this financing system, universities offering courses such as medicine, dentistry, engineering, architecture, and law receive more cash for tuition compared with those largely offering liberal arts and humanities programmes.
At 80 percent sponsorship, the government should pay Sh720,000 for a clinical medicine degree compared to Sh240,000 per undergraduate in social sciences and arts in hospitality, communications, and Fashion and design.
Previously, each academic programme was allocated a flat rate of Sh120,000 per year per student, in a system favoured by older and larger institutions like the University of Nairobi and Kenyatta University.
The DUC has thus resulted in a reduction of government capitation in large universities, causing a huge payroll gap and accumulation of debts.
Vice-chancellors have been pushing for the tripling of tuition fees to Sh48,000 from the Sh16,000 annually to close the financial gaps amid opposition from students.
UFB announced recently that it had stopped funding for 12,354 university students this financial year on establishing they had overstayed at the institutions.
Mr Monari said the move is targeted at ensuring that the agency caters better for deserving students and eases the funding burden for universities.
The affected students include those whose studentship has expired, those on expulsion, others with unexplained failure to transit to the subsequent level, and those that interrupted programmes by deferment or suspension.
An average undergraduate course takes four years except for others such as architecture and medicine which extend up to seven years. Many students drop out but continue seeking funding from the government.
The universities’ financial woes have been worsened by the sharp decline of students enrolling for the parallel degree programme courses over the past three years that generated billions for the institutions.
The Treasury has slashed the approved 2021/2022 budget for public universities by Sh4 billion, piling pressure on the institutions already facing dire financial challenges.
The institutions have been allocated Sh109 billion for the new fiscal year starting next month, down from Sh113billion in the current financial year. This despite a Sh20 billion request by the universities made in October to keep them afloat.