Students snub varsities leaving 38,973 empty slots


Technical University of Kenya (TUK). FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenyan universities have been left with 38,973 unfilled slots after some candidates who sat the national entrance exams last year failed to take up their admission offers, dealing a fresh blow to the institutions’ already falling revenues.

Data from the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) shows that the 69 public and private universities admitted 128,073 students against available space for 167,046.

This means that 76.6 percent of available capacity in universities has been filled for this year, a drop from 84.6 percent in 2020 when the institutions were left with 22,298 unfilled places.

The number of students who scored C+ and above in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam that opted to join technical and vocational education and training institutions (TVETs) increased 40 percent, an indication that technical courses are gaining popularity.

“In the 2020 KCSE, 6,617 students who attained C+ and above chose TVET programmes and were placed, up from 2,632 in 2019,” Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said yesterday during the release of the 2020 universities and colleges placement results.

Of the 747,161 candidates that sat the 2020 KCSE examination, 142,540 attained the minimum university entry grade of C+.

The admissions data shows that of the lot that preferred TVETs courses, 20 had scored an A, 1,574 a B, and 5,023 a C in their KCSE.

“This is encouraging because the government has built and equipped TVET institutions in every county,” said Prof. Magoha.

Helb loans

The government has been focusing on opening more TVETs, in what has opened funding and allowed access to study loans offered by the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb). Previously, Helb loans were available only to students admitted to universities.

The empty slots in the universities means that the pool of learners available for self-sponsored or Module II programmes has further shrunk in what will have a direct bearing on the institutions’ finances.

Over the past four years, nearly all students scoring C+ and above were admitted to the regular university programmes, reducing the pool of learners available for private universities as well as Module II in public universities.

The drop in the number of students pursuing the parallel degree courses -- whose fees are based on market rates -- has hurt university finances, prompting the institutions to freeze hiring and slow down expansion as they struggle with debt.

The universities are struggling to honour obligations such as payroll taxes, retirement benefits, and insurance premiums for employees, according to a report submitted to lawmakers by the Ministry of Education.

The public universities have outstanding remittances to the Kenya Revenue Authority, the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), the National Social Securities Fund (NSSF), pension schemes, insurance companies and saccos.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have demanded reforms in the universities under a raft of conditions for Kenya to qualify for loans.

This comes at a time government funding to universities has been declining.

Government capitation to public universities currently is based on the differentiated unit cost (DUC) model that is pegged on the number of undergraduate students registered and courses they take.

Under the DUC, the government should ideally cater for 80 percent of the unit cost while the remaining 20 percent is borne by the students and the institutions.

Recurrent grants for public universities, however, dropped to the current 53 percent in the year to June on stagnated government capitation, reducing the average amount allocated per student.

The number of government-sponsored students increased 38,228 in three years to 271,446 while the approved budget in the review period increased at a slower rate by Sh3.7 billion to Sh41.9 billion.

Of this number, 134,690 candidates applied for courses of their choice and were placed, while 7,850 did not apply.

The data shows that Kenyatta University leads in the number of students selected at 6,733, representing 97.6 percent of its 6,894 capacity for freshmen.

It is followed by Maseno University, with 6,659 freshmen against a declared capacity of 7,740.

The Great Lakes University of Kisumu had only 224 admissions against a space of 2,550, translating to 8.7 percent of available slots.