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Economy

Varsity expansion blamed for half-baked graduates

From left: Education secretary Fred Matiang’i,
From left: Education secretary Fred Matiang’i, Commission for University Education (CUE) chairman Henry Thairu, CUE secretary David Some and Higher Education PS Collette Suda during the biennial conference on the state of higher education in Kenya at Kenyatta University on August 22, 2016. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA 

The government has stopped public universities from setting up satellite campuses as it moves to curb an expansion spree blamed for producing half-baked graduates.

Education secretary Fred Matiang’i said the campuses have been turned into cash-minting schemes.

This has been backed by the Commission for University Education (CUE) findings indicating that the campuses lack sufficient physical and teaching facilities.

Dr Matiang’i highlighted concerns by employers and the private sector on the mismatch between the education provided by public institutions and the needs of increasingly dynamic labour market.

Several universities have acquired prime office towers in Nairobi in multi-billion shilling deals.

The Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology last year bought the iconic ICEA Building in the city centre for Sh2 billion.

The 18-storey building was owned by the family of former Central Bank of Kenya Governor Philip Ndegwa. Kenyatta University has a building on Haile Selassie Avenue.

Dr Matiang’i said universities had abandoned their core mandate of pursing academic excellence and become money making ventures.

The number of students enrolled in universities has grown by double digits in recent years, buoyed by the approval of new degree courses and the setting up of new campuses.

Enrolment in both public and private universities now stands at 539,749 with public universities accounting for 461,820 students while private ones have 77, 929. This has put pressure on the government to create jobs for graduates whose number stood at 62,000 in 2002.

The high enrolment is also putting pressure on university teaching staff and facilities.

“While having an educated populace is a good indicator for the country, this has also posed a number of challenges such as having many graduates who are not adequately prepared for the market or whose qualifications do not match market demands,” said the quality report by CUE.

The report proposes that universities focus more on their areas of specialisation in order to eliminate unnecessary competition and assure quality delivery. Dr Matiang’i added that the Cabinet had approved a Bill for the establishment of the National Open University of Kenya.

“Upon enactment by Parliament, this legislation will enhance increased participation in higher education at an affordable rate for many Kenyans who otherwise may not afford the time and cost of higher education in the regular, traditionally institutionalized form,” he said.

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