County governments could soon be allowed to establish their own institutions of higher learning if a proposed law is passed.
Chairman of the Senate’s committee on Education Daniel Karaba on Wednesday noted that at least 20 counties lack public or private universities or their constituents.
“These counties will be a priority as we will first ensure each of them have at least a university,” Mr Karaba said in a phone interview.
But the senator failed to allay concerns over the ability of counties to run universities, only saying: “These are points for further discussion with the authorities.”
Accreditation of degree courses and granting of university charters remains the preserve of the national government through the Commission for University of Education.
One has to apply to the commission showing resources available such as land and buildings before being allowed to establish a university.
NOT A DEVOLVED FUNCTION
The Universities Bill introduced in the Senate in October seeks to have at least a public university established in each of the counties as a centre for research in those regions.
Even though this is meant to ensure equitable access to university education, provision of education is not a devolved function in the Constitution.
“The universities would provide centres for research and innovation that would address the needs of both the national government and county governments.
“The universities will benefit counties in executing functions relating to agriculture, health services, transport, trade and basic education and public works, among others,” the Bill reads.
There are questions on how counties would manage the new universities given that existing ones are struggling financially. They also lack adequate staff and facilities.
Mr Karaba said his team met commission officials this week to seek their views on implementing the move.
CUE will need to advise county governments on their setting up of universities.
The Bill states: “The commission (for university education) shall ensure the establishment of public universities in each of the counties, giving priority to counties that do not have universities immediately after coming into force of this Act.”
The Bill also seeks to have the commission report to the National Assembly and the Senate on the progress made in the establishment of public universities in each of the 47 counties.
However, the commission declined to make a comment on the matter.
Currently, there are 66 accredited public and private universities in the country.
Out of these, 22 are public universities, nine university colleges and 17 private universities.