New councils must bring positive change in universities

Friday March 17 2017

This photograph dated June 2, 2016 shows Kenya Power managing director Ben Chumo, who is now the chairman of Egerton University in Nakuru. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

This photograph dated June 2, 2016 shows Kenya Power managing director Ben Chumo, who is now the chairman of Egerton University in Nakuru. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By DAVID ADUDA
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The appointment of chairmen and council members for 22 public universities this week was the first step in reorganising their management following a damning audit report last month that revealed major loopholes in higher education.

Most of the older universities – Nairobi, Kenyatta, Moi, Egerton, Maseno and Masinde Muliro – as well as the new ones have been given new councils.

The councils will be required to spearhead changes at the universities to reverse the declines that were spelt out in the January quality audit. The universities were given 30 days to prepare a roadmap for addressing the anomalies.

Among others, the universities were found to have weak systems for quality control, engaged in unplanned expansion that compromised quality and lacked capacity to raise on own incomes to boost their finances.

Unlike in the past, the chairpersons and council members were appointed through a competitive process. Some of those positions had been vacant for long because terms of previous holders had expired but the Education ministry was barred from filling them through a court order, but which had since been quashed. Also included is the council of the newly establshed Turkana University, which started operations a month ago. Its founding chairperson is Dr Mussolini Kithome.

Private sector players, academics and researchers were appointed to the councils, a major departure from the past when the jobs were given to politicians and wheeler-dealers who never added value to the universities.

Some of the notable appointees are Dr Ben Chumo, previously chief executive of Kenya Power, who becomes chairman of Egerton University and Prof Shem Migot-Adhola, a one-time permanent secretary in the Moi era dream team, who is to chair Kenyatta University Council. Dr Timothy Mwangi Kiruhi, an international leadership consultant, is chairman of Nairobi University, while Dr Jeremiah Ntoloi Koshal, takes over at Moi University.

No chairperson was appointed to an institution located in their home areas in a move intended to insulate the universities from nepotism and insular practices.

Councils are charged with overall management of the institutions, including approving statues, laws and budgets, as well as staff recruitment of vice-chancellors and their deputies.