PhD, Master’s enrolment jumps 20 per cent as firms resume hiring


Stakeholders from six universities in Eastern Africa after signing a partnership with Nottingham Trent University of UK in October 27, to set up the Eastern Africa PhD Hub for doctoral training and supervision process and research capacity. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Enrolment for postgraduate courses in public universities rebounded and grew highest in three years as firms resumed hiring and restored full salaries, opening opportunities for Master’s and PhD graduates

The latest data from the Ministry of Education show that the number of students enrolling for PhDs and Master’s jumped 20.5 per cent to 34,403 in the year that ended June, the highest since 2019.

The rise coincided with Kenya's economy adding jobs and increasing pay marginally following recovery from Covid-19 economic hardships, which triggered layoffs, salary cuts and business closures.

The hardships saw postgraduate enrolment drop to its lowest in eight years from 44,657 in 2019 and 67,407 in 2017 to 28,539 in 2020, further hurting the finances of cash-strapped public universities even as the Treasury cuts funding to Kenya’s universities.

PhDs and Master’s degrees are considered a ticket to promotions and the resumption of hiring has reignited the pursuit of postgraduate qualifications.

Average earnings for workers in the private sector grew at the slowest pace in 11 years, as firms resumed hiring and kept a lid on wage costs in a recovering economy.

Official data show private companies raised average monthly pay by 2.24 per cent to Sh69,102 last year compared with 3.97 per cent to Sh67,585 the year before.

The economic rebound led the economy to create the highest number of jobs in six years, a boost to the more than one million young people who graduate from colleges and secondary schools.

A total of 926,100 jobs were added in both formal and informal sectors last year, the highest since 2015 when 929,000 employment opportunities were created.

A monthly survey from Stanbic Bank, based on feedback from about 400 corporate managers, says firms have reported increased expansion of job opportunities this year.

Universities are promoting postgraduate courses in a bid to grow their revenues, hit by the sharp drop in the number of students pursuing parallel degree courses, whose fees are based on market rates.

This has seen top institutions like the University of Nairobi freeze hiring and expansion plans as they struggle with huge debts.

Admission to public universities of nearly all students who scored C+ grades and above in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination over the past six years has reduced the pool of learners available for private universities as well as parallel degree programmes in public universities.

The self-sponsored students had over the past two decades been a key source of revenue for the institutions since they paid multiple times what the rest of the students did.

This cut the cash flow of universities such as the University of Nairobi, which announced cost-cutting plans to keep afloat.

Since 2016, several campuses have been closed across the country after lower entry grades cut student numbers, adversely affecting the lucrative parallel degree programmes.

Fees in parallel degree programmes peaked at nearly Sh500,000 annually for courses like medicine and pharmacy.

Fees for regular students pursuing degrees remained unchanged for more than two decades at about Sh26,000 annually.

The High Court last year stopped the University of Nairobi from increasing fees for certain Master’s degree courses.

The university raised fees for students pursuing Master’s degrees in courses like communication and business administration (MBA) to Sh680,000 for a two-year programme from an average of Sh275,000, reflecting an increase of 147 per cent.

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