Thousands of students taking 'useless' varsity degree courses

Commission for University CEO Mwenda Ntarangwi. [File, Standard]
Thousands of students are wasting time and money studying useless degree programmes in various Kenyan universities.

The Commission for University Education (CUE) has rejected 133 courses with a cumulative enrolment capacity of 10,000 slots.

CUE is supposed to approve all the academic programmes taught in local universities.

Of concern is that there are students already studying these programmes who might now be forced to discontinue their studies due to mistakes that are not of their own making.

For those who might have finished studying these “useless” programmes,  it means their academic papers won’t be recognised by prospective employers and therefore end up jobless.

Vice Chancellors (VC) who spoke to The Standard accused CUE of being insensitive as most of the programmes are already being taught. They protested that the drastic action will set students against the universities.

“These programmes have students studying in higher classes. Why is CUE trying to set up universities against students? This is unacceptable. There are better ways of engaging universities,” said a VC whose programmes have been affected.

CUE Chief Executive Officer Mwenda Ntarangwi sought to address the panic that has gripped the institutions, saying the commission is still engaging the universities whose programmes were rejected. 

“This is still an ongoing process and we are in consultation with universities,” said Prof Ntarangwi.

The shock findings emerged after the CUE audited universities last year in readiness for the 2019 placement.

The audit also exposed how universities, in their haste to mint cash from huge enrolment, misrepresented their capacity, both in resources and teaching staff. 

Data seen by The Standard reveals that CUE has slashed nearly 30,000 slots from the universities. 

The report shows that all the public and private universities declared available capacity of 163,925 for the various courses but after a rigorous assessment on their capacities, only 134,075 were approved. 

MPs have called an urgent meeting this Friday to discuss the status of higher education, including the challenges of unaccredited programmes.

Of the 133 unapproved course, Tom Mboya University College has the most at 25.

Garissa University and Alupe University have 10 unapproved programmes each while Great Lakes University of Kisumu has eight.

Lukenya University

Seven courses were rejected at Kenya Highlands Evangelical University while University of Embu, Lukenya University and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology had six rejected courses each.

CUE rejected four of Kenyatta University courses and a similar number at Karatina University. Three courses were rejected at Moi University.

The regulator also turned down placement of students to five courses at Turkana University College, two at Kabarak University and a similar number at Kenya Methodist University.

All the three programmes at Mama Ngina University with a total capacity of 90 were rejected by CUE.  According to the report, the institution is not an accredited university college.

The details emerged as Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service opened its portal to students to revise courses. 

Some 651,189 candidates qualified for placement to tertiary institutions at various levels under government sponsorship.

Of these, 90,744 attained a mean grade of C+ and above, meaning they all qualified to join local universities.

Sources at the commission told The Standard that most of the programmes rejected were not approved by CUE, others were duplicated while in some cases, the institutions did not have capacities to teach the programmes.

At Africa International University that declared a total of 10 programmes, CUE only seven of them made the cut.

At Alupe University College, of the 18 programmes declared, CUE authorised placement of students in only eight. Two of the programmes were not approved.

And at Lukenya University, CUE advised against placement of students in all programmes until the institution meets certain requirements. 

Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed last week hinted at the purge on programmes.

“The Commission for University Education is reviewing the depth and substance of university programmes to eliminate unit duplication and shallow course content,” Amina said.

Speaking at Aga Khan University last week, Amina said in order to provide quality and relevant training in universities, a systematic review of the constraints facing the higher education sector is necessary.

“These constraints include increased enrolment which has overloaded lecturers and strained available infrastructure,” she said.

The programmes offered in universities is largely determined by the nature of the institutions, market forces, availability of resources, controls by professional bodies, availability and adequate space, facilities and teaching staff.

A recent universities audit report, however, accused the institutions of diluting quality of higher education by introducing many courses, which are narrow in scope and not market driven.

The report accused universities for launching many programmes to make money.

Findings of CUE Status of Higher Education Report released in 2016 indicated that the public and private universities had 3,408 programmes.

Bachelors level had 1,627, masters 1,162, doctoral 518 while there were 96 postgraduate diploma programmes.

According to the report, public universities had mounted the bulk of programmes (2,752) representing 81 per cent, followed by private universities with 655 representing 19 per cent.

Massive irregularities

And another report released last year exposed massive irregularities on programmes taught in the universities.

The Quality Audit Inspection Report shows some universities had mounted courses which did not have students.

“Some of universities offered academic programmes and did not provide evidence of approval of programmes by respective senates while others had programmes approved by CUE but had no students,” said the report.

The document by CUE also reveals that some universities varied programme tittles midstream.

CUE report shows that it has renamed a number of courses.

University degree coursesUseless degree coursesCommission for University Education