Varsities woes deepen as projects cash cut by 60pc


Maseno University first-year students take a selfie with Vice Chancellor Julius Nyabundi during the freshers’ orientation day on September 22, 2022. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NMG

Ongoing projects in public universities will accumulate debt and their completion delayed following Treasury’s proposal to cut funding by Sh2.8 billion, the professional unit which advises lawmakers on financial and economic matters says.

The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) is also questioning whether each project per university was assessed on merit before effecting the 60 percent uniform reduction in the development budget.

The projects including lecture halls, hostels, libraries, laboratories and dining halls risk joining the growing list of stalled capital projects in public universities that have been, abandoned midway due to lack of State funding.

“This reduction has the effect of slowing down the progress in completion coupled with the risk of pending bills if commitments have already been made,” fiscal analysts at the BOP told the National Assembly Committee on Education on Thursday.

President William Ruto’s administration slashed the 2022/23 approved development budget for the higher education sub-sector by Sh2.8 billion on account of budget rationalization.

Garissa University took the biggest hit in the budget reviews having its allocation reduced to Sh83 million from Sh210 million, followed by Jaramogi University whose allocation has been slashed to Sh79 million from 200 million.

Other big losers are Masinde Muliro University whose budget has been cut to Sh55 million from Sh140 million, Maseno University’s slashed to Sh35 million from Sh88 million and Moi’s budget is now Sh32 million from ShSh80 million.

The rapid expansion of public universities in the last three decades has left the institutions with tens of stalled infrastructure projects which are now proving a nightmare to complete after gobbling up billions of shillings.

Pending bills by public universities nearly doubled in a span of one year to Sh56.1 billion in the year to June 2022 amid a falling student population and declining government capitation, worsening their financial crisis.

State capitation to public universities has been on the decline, following this rapid increase of the institutions from eight in 2012, to 32 in 2016 and to 37 currently.

State funding to universities is based on the differentiated unit cost (DUC) model under which institutions get allocations based on the number of undergraduate students registered on the regular programme and the kinds of courses they take.

In the recently released 2022 KCSE results, the number of candidates that scored C+ and above rose 19 percent to 173,345, compared to 145,776 recorded in 2021, 143,140 in 2020 and 125,746 recorded in 2019.

These candidates qualify for government sponsorship which is allocated through the Universities Fund (UF) after placement by the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS).

Under the current budget reviews, Treasury has proposed an increase on the recurrent budget by Sh923 million for the state department of University Education and Research citing that the enhanced allocation caters for funding of the Open University of Kenya.

The Kenya Kwanza administration is keen on establishing an open university which it intends to be domiciled at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

The one-of-a-kind institution of higher learning will have an open-door academic policy, with minimal or no entry requirements.

“There is a need for the Department of Higher Education to explain in detail to the committee its thinking around the setting up of this university and its envisioned mode of operation,” said the BPO analysts.

Open universities may employ specific teaching methods, such as open-supported learning or distance education.

An allocation of Sh250 million has been allocated under the JKUAT to establish the Open University.

The lawmakers added their voice to the raging debate on the government’s policy of funding operations in private universities at a time public universities are grappling with a cash crunch.

In 2022/23 the private universities were allocated Sh3.2 billion to support government-sponsored students and an additional Sh250 million has been provided in this Supplementary budget.

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