How universities and colleges sell diplomas and clean up degrees

Sunday February 1 2015

By SAMWEL BORN MAINA
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The rot in higher learning institutions that engage in academic malpractices can now be revealed.

From selling certificates to “cleaning” of degrees, the institutions are riddled with corruption and greed.

Investigations led us to a number of them, which were ready to dish out certificates without requiring one to step into a classroom.

For as little as Sh3,000, students are given certificates without setting foot in class. Even Standard Six drop-outs have found their way into these institutions.

Recent data indicate that almost half of the graduates from Kenyan universities and colleges are half-baked for the job market.

According to education regulators and the Inter-University Council for East Africa, the quality of human resources is nose-diving.

Nairobi Aviation College boasts 16 years of offering professional training. But damaging claims — by its own employees — that it is riddled with fraud continue to stain its reputation.

HELPED THOUSANDS

A lecturer at the college told us that he had helped thousands of students to acquire certificates without their setting foot in class. He bragged about his network across all campuses.

Our undercover “student” was given two options. The long wait in which he was to be charged a fee of Sh3,000 or the express option that would cost him Sh4,000.

“If you have Sh5,000, you will have a Nairobi Aviation certificate. So long as you know someone in management,” he said.

The “student” obtained a diploma in Aeronautical Engineering from the institution, without ever stepping into a classroom.

And now, his leaving certificate, complete with an admission number, says he completed a diploma course in Aeronautical Engineering after three years of studying. The college official backdated it to September 2010.

The remarks about our operative are that he was generally of good conduct; a well-behaved student, hard-working, trustworthy and cooperative; ready for the market or any other institution of higher learning.

The college recommended him to any employer.

UNFORTUNATE REPORTS

Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi says it is unfortunate that such cases are being reported, saying such institutions should be shut down.

“There is something I have been telling our quality assurance bodies (to) be courageous enough to do: close (down) these institutions!

“I have a feeling, in view of what you’ve shown me here, that some people don’t close (down) these institutions because they are bribed,” says Prof Kaimenyi.

To be admitted to Nairobi Aviation College, for instance, our “student” paid a fee of Sh7,200 and was given a receipt with a breakdown of what he was paying for.

With an admission number, writing books and a T-Shirt, our student was ready to start attending classes. The college did not ask him for any form of identification.

Older and established universities are being accused by their peers of retaining students for long periods without graduating them, creating a chance for others to “poach”.

Kisii University, which was awarded a charter in 2013, has been mentioned in academic circles as poaching students from other institutions with the promise of faster graduation. FILE PHOTO |

Kisii University, which was awarded a charter in 2013, has been mentioned in academic circles as poaching students from other institutions with the promise of faster graduation. FILE PHOTO |NATION MEDIA GROUP

POACHING STUDENTS

The Kisii University administration, for instance, has been accused of poaching students from other universities with the promise of graduating them faster.

The university has denied the claim, saying it only helps students “taking forever” to graduate.

This is because, according to Vice-Chancellor John Akama, the institution attracts students due to its “better academic standards”. 

Further, the VC says the university has many academic supervisors and qualified staff who are well versed with technological changes.

“We are an institution with advanced infrastructure and our professors are young and dynamic.

“This is a factor that (does not stand) well with some other institutions because we are a spark for students,” Prof Akama says.

He says the university will continue to rise despite “jealousy” from competing institutions.

But Kenyatta University’s Prof Olive Mugenda says it is untrue that students are leaving older and established institutions for newer ones.

“On the contrary, many students want certificates from older and more established universities.”

Besides students, local institutions are also engaged in poaching of teaching staff from other universities, a phenomenon that has become common.

'CLEANING' DEGREE

In addition, a concept known as the “cleaning” of degrees is being experienced in some universities. Mercy (not her real name), who spoke to the Nation in confidence so as not to jeopardise her employment opportunities, scored a pass from a local private university.

A pass is the lowest grade and getting a job with it is difficult.

She resorted to “cleaning” her degree. She said she was expecting a first-class or second-class (upper division) qualification at the end of one academic year in her new university.

“Cleaning” of degrees is a concept whereby students who got weaker grades in university join another to strengthen their grades within a short period.

The Commission for University Education (CUE) has warned that the practice will backfire as the students who engage in it will be asked to produce transcripts when clearing with the commission.

CUE chief executive David Some said the body does not monitor student admission as that is controlled by the internal structures of each university.

“Admission is a function of (the) Senate. No one but (the) Senate admits, trains, examines and graduates students,” Prof Some said.

FACE CONSEQUENCES

He, however, warned that universities and students engaged in “cleaning” of degrees would face the consequences of their actions, including having the certificates nullified.

“In future, when you come for clearance, we will ask you to produce transcripts since your first year.

“That way, we will be authenticating your degree certificate.”

Kisii University denied it was one of the institutions under scrutiny for “cleaning” certificates, a practice Prof Akama said was not acceptable.

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho was once confronted with claims of “cleaning” his degree at Kampala University, allegations that he denied.

According to Prof Egara Kabaji of Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, there are clear guidelines governing university education in Kenya and other commonwealth countries. 

“Acquiring a degree is a process. The academic world is not like Gikomba market where you gallivant from one trader to another. We are governed by guidelines and all universities subscribe to one code.

“So the issue you call poaching should not even arise because there is a criteria used when a student is transferring to another institution,” Prof Kabaji says.