By SAM OTIENO
Graduates with business, economics, medical, engineering and information technology degrees are in heavy demand, a new study reveals.
Least preferred degrees by employers include those related to professions in the hospitality industry as well as creative and performance arts, such as music, theatre, and arts.
The study by a leading scholar, Andrew Rasugu, found that the demand of some courses exceed training opportunities.
Data from the Joint Admission Board indicate that there is excess demand in some universities and excess capacity for all academic programmes in others.
The study, Demand for Regular Academic Programmes Offered in Public Universities and Their Relevance to the Labour Market, was conducted in seven public universities. "Despite their relevance to emerging social issues, it is interesting that degrees in disaster management, criminology, and architectural and surveying are in less demand in the labour market," says Rasugu.
The research shows that although courses such as agriculture, criminology, disaster management, literature, poetry, and ethical education, and natural sciences are relevant to sustainable development, they are unattractive to students.
It recommends that the courses be promoted to ensure holistic training at universities.
According to the research, courses such as architecture and survey are offered at the University of Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Jkuat), Maseno and Moi universities.
Whereas there is excess demand for the courses at the UoN and Jkuat, there is excess capacity at Maseno and Moi universities.
Like agricultural courses, interest in architectural and surveying programmes is low. The study found that these programmes are offered in all public universities except Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST).
This means there is excess capacity in all the universities where they are offered.
This implies that these courses are not popular among university applicants. "The few students admitted into the academic programmes may be explained by the fact that agriculture is an optional course in secondary schools and more importantly there is limited demand in the labour market,’’ states the report.
Design, anthropology, fine arts, sociology, cultural studies, geography, history and philosophy are also offered in all public universities except MMUST and Jkuat.
The study found that excess capacity exists at the UoN, and Kenyatta, Maseno and Egerton universities. This may partly be explained by the fact that the institutions concentrate on sciences.
According to the study by Rasugu, who is also an associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (Ipar), applicants to public universities are influenced by the dynamics in marketplace when selecting programmes.
But another study is recommended to confirmation through empirical evidence.
The study recommends that courses in criminology should be promoted because of the poor security environment.
"One would have expected that given the situation, the Government would find criminology courses useful in curbing crime," says the report.
Education courses are available in virtually all public universities except Jkuat resulting in excess capacity.
As a result of the freeze in employment of secondary school teachers since 1997, applicants do not find education courses attractive.
"Society generally looks down on education graduates perhaps due to the relatively low remuneration of teachers," says the report.
Engineering courses are offered in all other public universities except Maseno and MMUST. This may be associated with the demand for the qualifications in the marketplace.
Courses included in this category were mining, construction, geomantic, mechatronics, electronic, civil, electrical, mechanical, geospatial computer and software engineering.
The study recommends that universities expand capacity to offer the courses and enhance the quality of research and training.
With the anticipated expansion of the economy where the service industry may take centre stage, demand for legal services is expected to grow.
This would perhaps mean more training and work opportunities for lawyers.
University of Nairobi, Kenyatta and Moi Universities offer medical courses.
Whereas excess demand existed at Moi University, the programmes were only recently introduced at Kenyatta University.