In this interactive series, we invite readers to send in questions to select public figures. This week, John Muraguri, the chief executive officer of the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service, responds to your questions.
In the 1990s and part of 2000 when you and I worked in the Joint Admissions Board (JAB) secretariat, you can attest to the fact that the institution was one of most transparent in Kenya by admitting only qualified candidates. This was achieved through involvement of all the stakeholders—the vice chancellors, deputy vice chancellors, principals, academic registrars among others. In the absence of this involvement what mechanisms are KUCCPS putting in place to fairness?
Yes, I can attest to Mr Kiswi’s assertion that JAB did a good job and in a transparent and fair manner. And I can guarantee that the process is even more transparent and open now than it was then. Before we embark on placement, we hold stakeholder meetings attended by Vice-Chancellors, Registrars and College Principals to discuss and adopt the criteria. Further, the Placement Board and Committees of the Board play an oversight role and approve every stage of the placement process to ensure that it complies with our placement policy and the requirements of fairness and transparency. And lastly, we have increasingly automated our processes, ensuring that the placement is not just transparent but also verifiable.
My son was a KUCCPS-placed student admitted at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology on government scholarship having attained A-minus but he would like to join Strathmore University and has been since admitted there. Can KUCCPS arrange to formalise the transfer of his government sponsorship to Strathmore and so that I top up the difference since the tuition fee at Strathmore is higher?
E. Otieno, Nairobi
At the moment, Strathmore University is not among the institutions that are admitting government-sponsored students, by choice. Therefore, your request to formalise the transfer and move the scholarship to Strathmore would not be possible.
The unending tussle between your institution and Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) on student placements is one that has baffled even the most level-headed Kenyan. The two institutions are public and the least expected of them is just quality service delivery. What is your view on this issue?
Komen Moris, Eldoret
This matter is currently the subject of court proceedings and is pending determination on whose mandate it is to place Government-sponsored students to KMTC. Therefore, it is only fair to allow the process to be concluded and a determination made.
Following the announcement that all who sat for their exams from 1992-2015 could apply for a diploma programme under government sponsorship, I wanted to know if the application I did will be responded to. I did my KCSE 2015 and I had a B- (56 points).
The KUCCPS is working on modalities of placing students to diploma courses on a semester basis instead of annually as currently is the case with universities. Hence, students seeking diploma courses will be able to apply for placement on a continuous basis. Nevertheless, to provide an answer on the status of your diploma application, we would require the specific details regarding your application, especially your KCSE index number.
What exactly is your institution’s mandate?
Francis Njuguna, Kibichoi
KUCCPS derives its mandate from the Universities Act of 2012, Sections 56 and 57. Our mandate is to coordinate the placement of government-sponsored students to universities and colleges; disseminate information on available programmes, their cost and areas prioritised by the Government; collect and retain data relating to placement to universities and colleges; develop career guidance and counselling programmes to benefit students; advise the Government on matters relating to placement; and perform any other function assigned by the Act.
Was thorough audit of private universities in Kenya done to ensure that they have adequate resources and manpower before the government partially sponsored thousands of students to attend these universities?
First, the regulation of university education, including accreditation and quality assurance, is carried out by the Commission for University Education (CUE). KUCCPS only places students to universities that have been accredited by CUE, both public and private.
What measures are KUCCPS putting in place to make sure that students who fail to secure slots at university level get chances at the Technical and Vocational Education and Training level?
Andrew Maranga Ratemo, Malindi
As I have already stated, KUCCPS is working on a mechanism for placing students in diploma courses on a semester basis to enable students to apply for diploma placement on a continuous basis. It is also important to note that TVET institutions are not just destinations for candidates who fail to meet the minimum grade for university placement but also attract students who qualify for placement to degree courses but prefer technical training at the diploma level.
What was the reason for moving from Joint Admissions Board (JAB) to KUCCPS?
Abuga A. Mark, Nairobi
To understand the rationale for the establishment of KUCCPS, one needs to first understand the background of JAB. JAB was an association of public universities. It had not been established under a legal framework, hence there was a need to establish an institution with a legal mandate or whose mandate was based on a legal framework. Therefore, the Placement Service was established through the enactment of Universities Act. Secondly, with JAB having developed a unique and fair criteria for university admissions, there was a need to cascade this to middle-level colleges where a central placement system was non-existent. This was in addition to bringing the private universities on board. All these had to be based on a legal framework.
Sir, the course KUCCPS picked for me to study is not of my interest. I have tried to look for an alternative in the same campus but all don’t suit me. I wanted to purse public health or political science. Can it be possible for KUCCPS to change my application because it has really bothered me?
Joseph Kitole Muye, Malindi
Joseph, we have a policy that guides inter-institutional transfers of placed students. These transfers normally happen immediately after the placement is done. However, before one changes institutions, one must get concurrence from the institution one wishes to join and the other that one had been placed in, following which KUCCPS processes the transfer request.
Last year I was among the 2,000 students who were placed by KUCCPS to join KMTC despite the placement service being aware that there was a legal stalemate between the two institutions. What is KUCCPS doing to avoid such circumstances in future? Why is it that KUCCPS still advertised courses offered in KMTC during the period students were applying earlier this year? And what will be the recourse for the affected students in case the court rules against KUCCPS?
Stephen Ndaire, Kiambu
The dispute between KUCCPS and KMTC over the placement of students to the latter having been taken to court as I have already indicated, the Placement Service did not advertise KMTC courses during the just concluded placement so as to avoid the scenario that you have referred to. In fact, the Placement Service did not place any of the 2016 KCSE exam candidates in KMTC. However, for any student who may have been placed to KMTC previously and was not able to get admission to the institution, once the matter is reported to us, the Placement Service has been looking for alternative placement in other institutions. All such cases that have been brought to our attention have been resolved.
Many students satisfy the requisite threshold cluster points for entry into the so-called top layer programmes like engineering in various public institutions, and even apply to get selected in the latter. How it is that only a few get selected? What measures does KUCCPS have in place for students from hardship areas?
Byron T. Momanyi, Nairobi
It is true that not all students who satisfy the requirements for admission into competitive courses such as engineering get selected. This is as a result of the limited vacancies available in these courses in the universities. On affirmative action, students from minority and marginalised regions, those with disabilities and those who deserve gender-based affirmative action benefit from concessions on the minimum points as approved by the placement board. For one to benefit from marginalised and minority affirmative, one must have done both KCPE and KCSE exams in a marginalised region (as classified by the Commission on Revenue Allocation).
Unemployment is high and the number you are enrolling is increasing yearly. How many graduates does your board incorporate for an internship to set them off for the job market and what kind qualification does one need to be part of your organisation either as an employee, intern or attachee?
Abuga A. Mark, Nairobi
While I concur that the unemployment rate for graduates is high, university graduates do not necessarily have to become employees; rather, they can also become employers by engaging in entrepreneurship applying the skills and knowledge gained in universities. At the Placement Service, however, whenever vacancies arise, the board follows due process by advertising the vacant positions and recruiting competitively.
The recent signing of doctors’ Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the two levels of government will catalyse the attractiveness of this career from both students and their parents. This in itself is likely to trigger corrupt practices in your institution just as witnessed in the KCSE exams. Sir, how will you insulate your institution against such malpractices?
Komen Moris, Eldoret
Even before the CBA, medical courses have been the most attractive both in our universities and colleges. However, through automation and our merit-based, open student placement process, which also considers affirmative action criteria as approved by the Board, the Placement Service has been insulated against any possible malpractice in the placement process, and this applies to all courses.