The county government plans to convert a primary school in Nanyuki town into a university.
Governor Ndiritu Muriithi said on Monday it would be more economical to use an existing building as his administration embarked on an ambitious plan to establish a fully-fledged university to serve the region.
There is already one other institution of higher learning - Laikipia University - in the county, located in Nyahururu town.
“We will identify a school in Nanyuki and move the pupils to the nearby schools,” he said.
The governor said the county government had reached the decision after a series of meetings involving education stakeholders from across the country.
Last week, the county hosted officials from five universities for a presentation by a task force on its findings on the study programmes most requested by residents.
The universities invited for the briefing were Nairobi, Meru, Dedan Kimathi, Moi and Laikipia.
“We presented an analysis of the market demand for university courses in and around Nanyuki so that if they saw any opportunities, they could take the next step to establish satellite campuses,” said Mr Muriithi.
From the findings, most prospective students said they would enrol for programmes in military science, hospitality, horticulture and floriculture, and rangeland and livestock management.
“Outside Naivasha, Nanyuki and Timau are the key horticulture areas and many showed an interest in agricultural courses. Laikipia is also big in tourism hence hospitality skills come in handy,” the governor said, adding that they planned to start with a university campus and grow to a college then a university.
“The idea to have a university in this region was long overdue because some Form Four leavers from far-flung areas such as Lonienk and Doldol in Laikipia North cannot afford universities outside Laikipia due to the high costs," he said.
"Establishing the campus would save more than 8,000 Form Four leavers and others who want to pursue higher education the trouble of travelling long distances in search of university education."
Currently, the majority of students from Nanyuki and neighbouring areas go to universities in Nyeri, Meru or Nairobi counties.
“This also calls for improved performance among Form Four leavers so they can qualify to join the university," said Muriithi.
According to the Commission for University Education (CUE), there were 74 accredited universities in the country by November last year.
These included 31 public chartered and 18 private chartered universities. There were six public constituent colleges and five private constituent colleges.
The CUE had further granted letters of interim authority to 14 institutions.