Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i’s caution at the weekend against unplanned expansion of university education was spot on.
The country needs to take an audit of the growth of universities and address the critical issues of quality and relevance.
At present, the country has about 70 public and private universities, the bulk of them established in the past decade.
This exponential growth is attributed to the expansion of secondary schools and the desire by workers to acquire new skills to boost their productivity and chances of upward progression.
Although the universities have opened avenues for more deserving people to acquire degrees, on average, the country still has a lower per capita enrolment in higher education.
Just about 5 per cent of the relevant age cohort is enrolled in universities, which is less than the average in sub-Sahara Africa at 7 per cent.
This is the paradox. Statistically, the number enrolled is less but the universities are growing at a pace not consistent with national needs.
Most of them duplicate programmes, especially in the humanities, while sciences and technology-based courses are few and have low enrolment.
Even worse, the universities do not have adequate numbers of lecturers and facilities.
In this mix, the universities have resorted to setting up satellite campuses across the country, most of them too poorly resourced and equipped to offer any satisfactory education and training.
The obtaining situation is such that universities have sprung up because their managers and sponsors want to make money or politicians want institutions of higher learning in their regions to satisfy community egos, in the process turning the universities into breeding grounds for nepotism and tribalism.
The government, through the Commission for University Education, must take stock of the growth, review the national human resource needs, and formulate policies to create sanity in higher education.