The Commission for University Education (CUE) is on the spot over the recent suspension of degree courses by professional bodies.
Law, engineering, medicine and pharmacy courses offered by a number of universities have been affected due to concerns about the quality of their graduates.
Moi, Egerton, Maseno and Masinde Muliro universities have been affected. So has been the Technical University of Kenya, Catholic University and the University of Nairobi, Kenya’s oldest institution of higher learning.
The courses are supposed have been approved by the Commission for University Education before being rolled out.
There are 19 professional bodies in Kenya whose courses are offered at the university level.
However, universities seem to have ignored quality regulations as they focus on revenue generated by self-sponsored students.
According to the Universities Standards and Guidelines 2014, CUE is required to only approve professional courses when it has confirmed that the physical facilities, equipment and lecturers are adequate and that the legislated relevant professional body had okayed the programme.
During this year’s university admissions, Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement (KUCCPS) admitted as low as 18 government-sponsored students for one course in one university due to lack of space.
However, the same university admitted more than 100 students in the same course under the self-sponsored programme.
Lack of qualified lecturers is another big problem. Documents filed in court by Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK) in response to a suit by engineering graduates it has refused to grant practising certificates, revealed that Masinde Muliro University hired a home science graduate to teach public health engineering — one of the degree courses that EBK has refused to recognise.
The board also claims the institution hired seven ‘‘quacks’’ masquerading as engineers to teach in the faculty while a geologist was engaged to teach geotechnical engineering.
The EBK also claims it found agricultural engineers teaching other engineering disciplines at Egerton University.
Despite having about 1,500 students taking law, Moi University does not have enough infrastructure; a library, moot court, seminar rooms and lecturers. The lecturer-to-student ratio is 1:60 against the requirement of 1:15.
At Maseno University, Pharmaceutical Science and Medicine degree courses have admitted students despite failing to get the approval of relevant professional bodies.
At the Technical University of Kenya, about 3,000 engineering students are at home following the suspension of the course after failing to get accreditation.
Currently, government-sponsored students pay Sh26,000 per year while those in parallel programmes pay about Sh160,000 per year in arts courses and more than Sh200,000 in science courses.
According to the regulations and standards, for a university to be set up it must have, among others, academic resources such as land, physical facilities, finances, staff, library services and equipment appropriate and adequate for the proposed academic programmes.
The regulations also require universities to submit to the commission all academic programmes for accreditation.
CUE is supposed to evaluate the proposed programmes to ensure they meet the various requirements and academic standards prior to the courses being launched.
The regulations also require each university to institute its own internal quality assurance policy, system and mechanisms in line with the commission’s prescribed guidelines.
Kenya School of Law director Patrick Lumumba admits that the quality of education at the university level is below the required standards.
“We have lowered the standards provided you can pay,” Prof Lumumba observed, who blames the crisis on reduction of funding by the government.
Universities, he says, have been compelled to mount programmes for revenue collection lowering standards.
“The bulk of students who are admitted to the legal profession are not the very best and we must admit that there are a lot of students going into this profession because of peer pressure. We must deal with the question of numbers vis-a-vis the number of facilities going forward,” Prof Lumumba observed.
Prof Lumumba defended the suspension of the courses saying the Council for Legal Education had been interacting with these institutions and making demands to them to ensure that the standards are met.
On Monday, the council stopped University of Nairobi’s Mombasa and Kisumu campuses from admitting new law students for the current academic year.
It also rejected Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University’s application for accreditation while Catholic University of Eastern Africa is facing closure by November 23.
Council secretary Wanyama Kulundu-Bitonye said Moi University had ignored its advice for more than two years.
“The university was given two years to address our concern since the number of students had gone up and the library had totally collapsed. The school had Library space for 80 students with a population of 1,600 and there were no books,” Prof Bitonye said.
There are two professors, five senior lecturers, 11 lectures and 12 assistant lecturers for 1,600 students.
“The shortage of lectures is the biggest elephant in the room. There has been growth of law schools but there is no evidence of development of capacity in terms of human resource,” he said.
KUCCPS, which is a statutory body tasked with placement of students in universities and colleges, absolves itself from blame.
“We normally get available capacities from individual universities and our work is to fill them. We expect the universities to ensure that they meet the requirements of the regulator in courses they offer,” John Muraguri, KUCCPS Chief Executive officer, said.
Experts observe that any student who graduates without getting the greenlight of a professional body wastes their time and money as they will not be accredited by the same bodies.
Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi wants CUE to live up to its expectations. “CUE should ensure that there is quality as demanded by professional bodies ... they should be consulted and involved while developing any related programmes,” Prof Kaimenyi sad.
CUE chairman Prof Henry Thairu blames poor working relations between the commission and professional bodies which, he says, has created instability in the higher education sector.