Varsities risk closure if they don’t pay debts

Thursday April 20 2017

University of Nairobi Vice Chancellor Peter Mbithi (left) and Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i

University of Nairobi Vice Chancellor Peter Mbithi (left) and Education CS Fred Matiang'i during an induction workshop for public universities council members at Lake Naivasha Simba Lodge on April 10, 2017. Many universities risk closure over debts. PHOTO | MACHARIA MWANGI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By OUMA WANZALA
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A crisis looms in the higher education sector after the regulator threatened to stop any engagement with universities that have not paid service charge since 2015.

The Commission for University Education (CUE) said it will halt processing applications for programmes or campus accreditation for such universities.

“Further, the concerned institution and its programmes will be removed from CUE’s list of accredited and chartered universities,” warned the CUE at a meeting with university council members in Naivasha last week.

The row involves hundreds of millions of shillings supposed to have been paid by universities after the charges were raised in 2014 by the then commission chaired by Professor Henry Thairu.

The increase caused a protest by the institutions, which expressed their fear that it could led to an increase in school fees. The charges were revised in July last year.

There are 70 universities with 539,997 students but CUE did not indicate how many have defaulted.

REMUNERATE EXPERTS

CUE is demanding payment of 2015/16 debts, which were based on the previous gazetted service charge, and new service charges for 2016/17, based on the current revised charges.

On Wednesday, CUE’s acting chief executive officer, Professor Walter Oyawa, did not respond to queries on how much the universities owe the regulator.

Explaining the increase, however, CUE said it needed money to remunerate experts involved in quality assurance in institutions of higher learning. It also cited the government’s move towards cost-sharing and reduction of capitation to public institutions.

In the 2014 charges that were to be implemented in the 2015/16 academic year CUE had demanded Sh1,000 for quality assurance per year for every student enrolled for a bachelor’s degree, Sh1,500 for master’s and Sh2,000 for PhD while a post-graduate diploma was to cost Sh800. However, the new charge agreed upon last year is Sh1,000.

INTERIM AUTHORITY

Annual accreditation charges per academic programme was Sh640,000 but was reduced to Sh320,000 while establishment for grant of letter of interim authority or new constituent college is Sh405,000 from Sh810,000.

CUE was demanding Sh960,000 for a charter award but has reduced that to Sh480,000 and cut quality audit from Sh1.8million to Sh900,000 with e-academic programme costing Sh320,000 from Sh640,000. Campus accreditation cost Sh300,000 but is now Sh150,000.

Authority to collaborate was charged Sh810,000 per degree programme but it is now Sh405,000 with a local university and Sh385,000 a foreign one.

CUE said the charges were last revised in 2002 — except those for recognition and equation of qualifications, which was done in 2008.

It noted that, subsequently, major policy decisions such as establishment of campuses had been made and implemented by university management arbitrarily.