According to the Economic Survey 2019 released by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) on 25th April 2019, nearly one-third of public university campuses closed last year partly due to failure to meet accreditation requirements. Universities had been rapidly expanding, leading to the opening of 81 new campuses between 2014 and 2017. This raised the number of higher learning institutions to a whooping 168. However, 57 have since shut down after they became casualties of tough exam management rules.

Prior to reforms implemented in 2016 to curb exam cheating, a record number of students were qualifying for university admission. In 2015, for example, over 170,000­ attained the minimum university entry grade. But with new measures put in place, student numbers fell to a low of 70,000 in 2017, a situation that saw universities operate below their declared capacities and fall into hard financial times. This is the same fate that authorities have warned will befall degree programmes that no longer attract students.

Besides the reduction in number of candidates scoring C+ (plus) and above in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams since 2016, universities have also become the casualties of continued quality assurance audits by the Commission for University Education (CUE). Enrollment for both male and female students in public universities is expected to drop by 1.8 per cent and 5.2 per cent in 2018/2019, respectively.

The survey shows that the total enrollment in both public and private universities is expected to drop by 1.7 per cent to 513,182 in 2018/2019. In the preceding year, the number stood at 522,059 while in the 2016/2017 period, the total number of those who joined universities stood at 537,689.

The biggest casualty is Kisii University, which is expected to lose more than 7,000 students. The university had 29,903 students in 2017/2018 but the figure will drop to 12,055 in the 2018/2019 period. Other universities set to lose between 1,000 to 5,000 students are Masinde Muliro, Maasai Mara, Kabianga, University of Eldoret, Chuka, JKUAT, Maseno, Kenyatta, Technical University of Kenya and Moi. The University of Nairobi is expected to admit more students in the 2018/2019 period, from 68,000 in 2018 to 70,500 in 2019, while Egerton will admit 15,000 in 2019 up from 11,000 in 2018.

The number of approved public university degree programmes increased to 4,063 in 2018 while that of private universities increased to 714 in the same period. The number of approved degree programmes for universities with interim authority more than doubled from 70 in 2017 to 144 in 2018. The increase is attributable to a directive by CUE in December 2017 that recognized all university senates’ approved programmes as accredited. But CUE Chief Executive Officer Mwenda Ntarangwi blamed universities for mounting unaccredited courses and vowed not to relent in the commission’s efforts to restore order higher education. Prof Ntarangwi advised parents and students to carry out due diligence before enrolling for some degree courses.

“We anticipate that before universities mount professional courses, they should have sought guidance and approval from professional bodies like the Engineers Board of Kenya and the Kenya Medical Association, among others,” he said.

The survey shows the number of loan applicants for higher education went up by 11.1 per cent to 281,044 in 2017/2018. The number of female loan applicants increased by 33.6 per cent to 118,950 whereas that of male applicants declined by 1.1 per cent in the same period.It further shows that the total number of loan beneficiaries increased by 12.8 per cent to 275,823 in 2017/2018. The amount of loans awarded rose by 17 per cent to Sh11.1 billion in 2017/2018.

During the review period, the amount of loans awarded to female applicants increased to Sh4.7 billion.The number of loan applicants from public universities increased by 4.9 per cent to 221,816 in 2017/2018. The number of male loan applicants from public universities declined by 5.2 per cent to 130,285 whereas female increased by 23.6 per cent to 91,531.

The survey shows the number of loan beneficiaries from public universities increased by 5.1 per cent to 217,888 in 2017/2018, while the amount of loans awarded rose to Sh9.2 billion. The number of loan applicants from private universities increased from 7,044 in 2016/2017 to 13,228 in 2017/2018. The amount of loans awarded to applicants from private universities grew from Sh257.1 million in 2016/2017 to Sh563.3 million in 2017/2018. This was in line with a Government initiative to support students pursuing degree and diploma courses in private universities within east African member countries.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has vowed to continue with university reforms. During the launch of this year’s placement results, he revealed that 107 university programmes will be scrapped because they either did not attract applications or no student was selected to pursue the degree courses.

For nine of the degree programmes, there were no applications from last year’s KCSE candidates while for the remaining 98, no student was enrolled for the courses spread across 50 universities. The programmes have a collective capacity of 6,721 students.

Kenya has 74 universities, with 31 public universities, six public constituent colleges, six private universities, 18 private constituent colleges five private constituent colleges and 14 institutions with Letters of Interim Authority.

No new university had been established in the last two years, with Prof Magoha saying the freeze will continue to be enforced as one way of addressing the quality of higher education.

The education reforms were started in 2015 by Magoha’s predecessor, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i. When Dr Matiang’i released the 2016 KCSE results, only 141 candidates scored a mean grade of A plain compared to 2,636 candidates who attained the grade in 2015.

In 2016, only 88,928 candidates attained grades of C+ (plus) and above compared to 169,492 candidates in 2015.

When Magoha announced the 2019/2020 Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service results this month, out of 660,204 candidates who sat the KCSE exams last year, 90,755 scored a mean grade of C+ (plus) and above while 331 scored A plain.

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