Clear the air over unapproved degrees on offer in varsities

The predicament facing tens of thousands of students whose Bachelor’s degrees have not been approved by the Commission for University Education should concern everyone.

Picture this; a high school leaver applies to pursue one of the courses advertised by a local university. The student is enrolled into the course of his/her choice. Half-way through the course duration- about two years- the course is declared unapproved. What to do? About the wasted time and money?

Among the courses affected include those with high demand including Actuarial Science, Applied Statistics, HR, Law, and Commerce.

First things first: how did the universities affected enroll students for courses that they knew were not recognised by the quality assurance entity? Secondly and perhaps most importantly, where do the students go from here? In spite of these damning revelations, officials of the CUE and the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service have not come out to deny or accept the findings thus causing much.

The mere fact that the courses have not been approved renders them bogus.

The irony is that the report listing the questionable courses was done by another government entity; the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service. CUE monitors the quality and standards of higher education.

The key highlight from the report – besides the unapproved courses being offered at universities - is how two government entities working parallel might have seemingly failed the country’s youth who now find themselves in an academic limbo. Even then, the institutions of higher learning are not without blemish.

Shouldn’t the universities be seeking approval for the courses before putting them on offer? Still, we ought to be genuinely outraged that this affects even the established colleges and universities.

What is the rush? Granted, cut-throat competition in the job market could mean that the universities are trying all the tricks to ensure that their students stay ahead of the pack. But that doesn’t excuse what clearly is the dereliction of duty and thereby putting the lives and careers of many youth in a precarious situation.

To many youngsters, education remains a choice-giver, a door opener, the leveler in life.

It must be heartbreaking for the youngsters when they feel that their only chance has been blown away by the inaction of a few people.

Because it is the ladder to opportunity, some (with the help of their parents) will move heaven and earth to secure the 10,000 or so slots at a public university. It follows then that the universities know there is demand for what they offer and seek to address it by diversifying the courses on offer. Some of the methods include introducing new courses and breaking up others. But they ought to do it the right way.

By their very nature, universities are not just centres for learning. They also thrive through innovation, research and development. They break new grounds and push the horizons.

That should not be punished. By all means, it should be encouraged.

Make no mistake, it is the contention of this newspaper that education should not be an end in itself. Education for the sake of it defeats the purpose of going to school in the first place. Education should lead to some gain, not necessarily a well-paying job. To Seymour Lipset, a renowned American sociologist, Education should broaden man’s outlook.

To those unlucky students, it must feel as if their education and careers has crashed off the rails. They need to be assured that their time and money spent in college will count in the end.

The universities, CUE and KUCCPS should hastily iron out the issues of concern and before the next intake, clear the air on which courses are approved and which ones are not.

But this, after thoroughly vetting the institutions to ascertain capacity. Furthermore, for those that are not approved and for which students have covered at least a year of coursework, the universities should be given time to phase them out. Abrupt discontinuation will cause disruption and unnecessary anguish to the students who have spent much effort in the coursework.

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Bachelor’s degreesCommission for University Educationfake degree courses