The cash crunch at public universities is set to worsen after Parliament on Thursday voted to cut funding by Sh1 billion to accommodate President Uhuru Kenyatta’s proposed austerity measures.
Funding for recurrent spending such as salaries, buying learning materials has been cut by Sh841 million while development budget for items such as building lecture halls has been reduced by Sh229million.
The cut comes amid a crisis at the public universities that has seen some of them reduce jobs, freeze hiring and research funds to lower budget deficits.
“The reduction of funds under the university education programme may result in the accumulation of pending bills” warns the National Assembly Budget Committee.
Universities had petitioned the Treasury for additional funds.
This is linked to the sharp drop in the number of Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education candidates scoring the C+ and above — the minimum grade for university entry.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data show university enrolment declined to 439,655 last year from 479, 312 in 2016 and more than Sh500,000 in 2015, making it the first drop since the government started disclosing student numbers in the 1990s.
The number of students enrolling for the parallel degree, which has been the institutions’ money minting machine over the past decade, has also dropped.
University of Nairobi (UoN) and Egerton universities have announced job cuts.
For instance, UoN said it received Sh391 million from the Treasury to the pay of its 4,945 workers against a need of Sh870 million, leaving it with a deficit of Sh500 million.
Since 2016, the government has been funding universities based on courses they offer, which has reduced their capitation.
The KNBS data shows that funding for State department of university education declined by more than a third to Sh5.45 billion in 2017/18 from Sh7.93 billion in the last financial year.
Education secretary Amina Mohamed asked universities to consider sacking some staff for sustainability.
She said universities must address the ratio of technical staff to support staff at the institutions, adding that the number of support staff is too high.
“We are encouraging and supporting rationalisation to guarantee the sustainability of institutional operations,” said Ms Mohamed.