Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has suspended any setting up of new public universities.
Speaking in Nairobi during a forum on University Education, Prof Magoha said the current universities are too many and not sustainable.
"I have received requests to increase the number of universities... you must apply the breaks," said Prof Magoha.
He said there is no reason to have six universities in the same place teaching the same thing.
"No money will come from government to support you," Prof Magoha told the university administrators.
The CS has directed universities to ensure good staffing norms and suggested merger of the institutions.
"Rationalisation of academic programmes should be done. If possible the existing universities can be consolidated," he said.
He directed the Commission for University Education to prepare a report regarding the status of universities, qualification of academic and support staff, supervision of students, lecturer to students ratio, and facilities and equipment for teaching.
He said the report should be submitted to the Ministry by July 31 this year.
“I would expect to see a proposal on how we rationalise the existing universities so that we can have universities that are of high quality... and are globally competitive,” he said.
This means job cuts loom in 74 universities as they begin implementing proposals ordered to raise the quality of education.
Some of the measures include sacking unessential staff, merging academic programmes and scrapping some, and specialising in specific academic fields.
“If possible, existing universities and campuses can be consolidated for maximum utilisation,” said Prof Magoha when he opened a two-day conference on higher education in Nairobi attended by top university managers.
The universities also renewed their call for an increase in fees from the current Sh16,000 to Sh48,000.
The 32 public universities have 27,000 staff with 9,000 being lecturers.
Prof Magoha wants universities to merge with a view to realising their full potential.
Several campuses have been shut since 2016. They include Kisii University, Laikipia University, Moi University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenya Methodist University, Catholic University of East Africa, and University of Baraton.
Others are Cooperative University (Meru), Kabarak University (Nairobi) and South Eastern Kenya University (Nairobi).