The quality of health-related courses offered by Mount Kenya University (MKU) is in the spotlight after the Rwandan Government stopped the institution from offering five medical courses in the country saying they did not meet set requirements.
Rwanda’s Ministry of Education, through the Higher Education Council (HEC) — the country’s tertiary education regulator — has issued a notice suspending MKU from offering undergraduate courses in nursing, pharmacy and medical laboratory sciences as well as both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public health.
“Due to not fulfilling requirements, the following academic programmes of Mount Kenya University Kigali Campus have been suspended until all the deficiencies are addressed,” HEC said in a notice dated August 28.
The regulator also moved to shut down MKU’s newly opened Rusizi Campus saying it was established “without fulfilling the due requirements.”
HEC declined to reveal the number of students affected by the ban on the five courses, whether the ban affects both new and continuing students and the time frame given to MKU to address the issues raised.
“We have got an obligation to do our regulatory duties without promoting or defaming any institution,” HEC executive director Innocent Mugisha told the Business Daily in an interview.
The disciplinary and quality assurance measures only relate to MKU’s operations in Rwanda, where HEC has powers to regulate higher education.
MKU founder and chairman Simon Gicharu promised to shed more light on the matter upon his return from a trip to India.
The MKU Kigali Campus was opened in 2010 and mainly offers courses in health education and Executive MBA programmes. It has more than 4,000 learners in three locations — Kicukiro, Camp Kigali and Town Centre — and was about to open a fourth, Rusizi, when it ran into trouble.
Rwanda has a few public tertiary institutions including the University of Rwanda, integrated polytechnics, Institute of Legal Practice and Development and three nursing schools. The nascent east African economy has 15 private universities.
Kenya’s Commission for University Education (CUE) secretary David Some declined to comment on the matter.
The revelations are likely to raise anxiety among MKU’s recent graduates and learners currently enrolled in the affected programmes, given that these courses are also offered in Kenya.
The development also leaves parents and guardians in a cloud of uncertainty over their investment in these courses.
Nairobi-based professional bodies in the named health sciences fields — which accredit colleges and licence graduates in their respective trades — weighed in on the matter saying they plan a fresh audit on the affected courses at MKU.
MKU is one of Kenya’s biggest privately held universities with a student body of about 52,000. It started in 1996 as Thika Institute of Technology, a mid-level college. It was chartered in January 2011 by President Mwai Kibaki.
The Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) said it will send a team to review the pharmacy programme at MKU once it gets details from Rwanda on why it has stopped the course in Kigali.
“With this information, we will have our accreditation and certification team look into the matter. We will enquire why they were stopped in Rwanda,” said Dr Kipkerich Koskei, the board’s registrar, in an interview.
All institutions offering diploma and degree courses in pharmacy in Kenya must be approved by the PPB. The board also annually renews the practicing certificates for all pharmacists working in Kenya.
MKU was the first private university endorsed by the PPB to offer degree courses in pharmacy.
The list of approved colleges offering pharmaceutical training include University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenya Methodist University and United States International University-Africa.
Last year, the PPB declined to register 13 pharmacy graduates from MKU saying they had not qualified to be admitted into the programme.
Dr Paul Mwaniki, the chairman of the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK) and previously a board member at PPB, said the students had not scored the set minimum grades while some had not done biology — a mandatory subject for those wishing to pursue pharmacy.
“We’ve had quality issues with MKU in the past,” said Dr Mwaniki, who chaired the board’s training committee. His term lapsed in December 2014.
PPB has been without a full board for the past nine months because Health secretary James Macharia is yet to make any appointments. The PSK has taken the matter to court.
The Nursing Council of Kenya promised to follow up on the matter saying it was not aware of the Rwanda issue.
“We don’t know their standards in Rwanda. We want to get all the facts,” said Fredrick Otieno, deputy registrar at the council.
The council has approved 101 institutions in Kenya to train students at degree, basic and higher diploma level in various branches of nursing. The list includes 21 colleges offering nursing at bachelor’s degree level.
Kenya’s Public Health Officers and Technicians Council said it plans to re-evaluate the curriculum, facilities and staff of MKU’s public health programme.
“We need to re-look it,” said Samuel Muthinji, the vice-chairman at the public health body.
Mr Muthinji said the accrediting body will cast the net wider and evaluate public health courses at all universities in Kenya, especially those in upcountry branches and campuses.
“We will look at all, especially the satellite campuses. Some of them are not even in approved facilities,” he said.
The CUE in June forcefully shut Barack Obama University located in Ndenderu, Kiambu County, saying it was operating illegally.
Last week, the regulator disowned Landmark International College — which claims to be affiliated to a Texas-based seminary — saying it is not authorised to offer degrees in Kenya.
“All degree certificates purportedly awarded by this college are not recognised by the commission,” CUE said in a statement after the Kiambu-based Landmark International College held a graduation ceremony in August.