Lecturer crisis looms on shortage of PhD holders

Kenyatta University PhD graduands last July. PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA
Kenyatta University PhD graduands last July. PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA 

Teaching crisis looms at universities after the regulator raised the alarm over the small number of PhD holders and low doctoral degree enrolment.

The Commission for University Education (CUE) data show that more than half of the 10,350 lecturers have no PhDs and that 4,394 students or one per cent of the total population of learners are enrolled for doctoral degrees.

This will make it difficult to implement fresh guidelines that require only holders of PhDs to lecture at universities. This rule takes effect in 2018.

“At the moment a majority of faculty members, 5,900 representing 57 per cent of the faculty members, only have master’s degrees and, therefore, technically do not qualify to train post-graduate students,” says a report by the CUE. 

Chief executive David Some said the November 2018 deadline still stands and asked universities to ensure that they meet the regulations.


“We want to ensure that lecturers in our universities are of high quality,” he said.

Prof Some asked universities to increase their focus on masters’ and PhD students to ensure they complete studies within the set time period.

A report by the CUE on the status of post-graduate training indicate there is no national policy on postgraduate training and as such, there are few guidelines on budgeting, students’ loans, admissions and priorities on programmes and research.

“The commission also observes that enrolment in master’s and PhD programmes remains relatively low, the processing of students from the time of initial registration to graduation is too long, with the quality of preparation and supervision of graduate programmes on the whole quite weak,” adds the report.

This has dimmed the production of postgraduate graduates, hurting the staffing needs of the increased number of universities and replacing an ageing lecturers.

The regulator wants universities to discontinue master’s degree students who fail to complete their courses within five years.

Master’s degree programmes are supposed to take two years, but many part-time postgraduate students have been unable to complete their studies within the set deadlines due to work commitments.

Inadequate teaching staff, especially PhD holders, has also affected students at a time when the number of learners enrolled in universities continues to grow, buoyed by the approval of new degree courses and the setting up of new campuses.

Both public and private universities had 443,783 students in 2014, up from 361,379 a year earlier and 218,628 in 2012.

The tutor shortage looks set to get worse with the new CUE guidelines that require only holders of PhDs will be allowed to lecture in universities.

Kenya has a total of 48 universities, consisting of 34 public universities and 24 private ones.

It had nine public universities in 2012. Lecturers with master’s degrees will be reduced to tutorial or junior research fellows, according to the new guidelines.