EDITORIAL: Cutthroat competition not helping universities - Daily Nation
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Cutthroat competition not helping universities

Saturday October 3 2015


The higher education sector has been quite vibrant with the number of universities increasing tremendously.

Today, there are 10 more such institutions than there were four years ago — 68 compared to 58. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

It is an indication of the growing demand for higher education, as more students enrol in the public universities dotted around the country and the few private ones.

However, a source of concern is the apparent cutthroat competition between the institutions. The universities are frantically trying to attract more students, especially the ones who can afford to pay the fairly high fees.

There are 22 public universities, up from seven only two years ago. Interestingly, this rapid growth comes against the backdrop of debilitating national poverty, with the majority having limited access to education and health care.

But the exponential growth has not come without challenges. The upgrading of 15 university colleges has not been matched by the provision of the required facilities and personnel.

As a result, their capacity to deliver on their key objective, which is to train highly skilled manpower, cannot be vouched for.

The total enrolment in the public and private universities is 506,083 students, up from 443,783 last year. But recent global university rankings have had only the two oldest institutions featuring among the very best on the continent.

The others are just glorified high schools, with poorly paid and demoralised staff. Interestingly, the problem has been compounded by the tendency by the public universities to introduce courses they lack the capacity to offer.

Alarmed professional organisations have refused to admit such students.

Instead of duplicating courses, the universities should be encouraged to specialise in programmes for which they have comparative advantages.

Without this, they will just end up with half-baked graduates, having denied their students access to the best lecturers and facilities.