Kenya’s higher education expanded exponentially since the mid 1990s, driven by higher demand by high school qualifiers and the working class seeking to upgrade their professional skills.
For a while, Kenya became a shining example in the continent—until it came crashing down with the grave realisation that the development was built on quicksand.
Last year, the government commissioned an audit of all universities—public and private—that revealed massive rot in the institutions.
Top on the list was degraded quality of teaching and learning and flagrant forgery of academic qualifications.
Not only did it transpire that the universities were badly managed but that most of them had become marketplaces for academic papers.
This necessitated a purge that saw several universities ordered to close campuses, radically change their administrative structures and systems and open themselves up for periodic assessment.
We are not out of the woods yet, however. The Commission for University Education (CUE), which has just appointed a new chief executive, Prof Mwenda Ntaragwi, has decreed that it will assess all courses offered by the universities to ascertain their quality and relevance to the economy. But that is long overdue.
In their uncoordinated expansion, many universities resorted to introducing similar courses—mainly humanities—and also carving out what are essentially units and upgrading them into fully fledged academic programmes, just to attract students.
The end result was a flooded market or ill-equipped graduates with a narrow grasp of their supposed areas of study.
We have universities that we do not need and courses that do not have any value, which, in an orderly society, should just be closed.
Not only are they a wastage of resources but a waste of students’ time.
Even so, it is questionable whether CUE has the capacity, resources and political will to execute the envisioned ‘radical surgery’.
Since it has committed itself, however painful it may be, we call on the commission to rid the country of valueless universities and courses and restore sanity and dignity in higher education.