The growing allure of diploma courses as candidates opt out of degrees

Technical University of Kenya.
Efforts to revitalise technical, vocational education and training (TVET) institutions in Kenya are paying off as students qualifying for placement to degree programmes opt to pursue diploma instead.

A growing number of students are enrolling in Kisumu National Polytechnic and Technical University of Mombasa which were elevated to universities among other institutions to pursue diploma courses.

This year, 1,269 students who scored C+ and above and were eligible for degree courses in universities opted for technical institutes and teachers training colleges.

The number is nearly double the 597 candidates who made a similar decision in the 2018 and is a pointer to a growing allure of diploma courses.

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Meanwhile, no students were placed in 107 university programmes due to lack of interest. Nine of the degree programmes received no applications from students who sat KCSE exams last year while the others had no students currently admitted.

Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TVETA) Director General Dr Kipkirui Langat pointed out that students preferred diploma courses instead of pursuing “noncompetitive” courses.

“If you look deeper, the majority of those who opted for diplomas had qualified for general degrees in universities but went for professional diplomas in TVETs,” Dr Langat said.

The bulk of candidates have been selected into engineering, architecture, computer science and pharmacy programmers. Technical University of Kenya (TUK) snapped up the majority of students, 271, while Technical University of Mombasa (TUM) has 216.

TUK’s Diploma in Mechanical Engineering was the most popular with 36 students placed into the programme while Kisumu Polytechnic’s Diploma in Pharmacy had 34 students.

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Kisumu Polytechnic Principal Zedekiah Chanzu concurred with Langat that the reforms in the TVET sector had brought a different approach to higher education.

“There have been reforms to meet the industry needs and the training offered is hands on, we are no longer training employees we are training employers. If a course attracts interest it means that the quality we are offering has satisfied the students,” he said.

Out of the 90,755 students who scored C+, the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) placed 89,486 into degree courses in public and private universities. The rest, 1,269, opted to pursue diplomas.

In addition, another 98,393 applicants have been placed to various polytechnics and technical training institutions countrywide, so far. Placement into TVET institutions will continue throughout the year.

“Initially, regardless of whether you had a diploma or not the students would continue in university from first year. Once the three-year diploma is done you can continue to a degree in a university and with credit transfers you will finish in a shorter time than before,” he said.

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The Ministry of Education recently directed efforts towards making technical institutions attractive to students. More money, Langat said, went to universities and their students, regardless of the nature of the course.

The government has set out to expand the existing institutions, construction of new ones in each of the 290 constituencies and equip them with relevant equipment.

“The financing of the institutions and was also a challenge but we have gotten support in terms of finances for capitation, expansion of infrastructure to increase access and loans for the student,” he said.

Initially, he said, the institutes suffered from low enrollment due to the quality and relevance of the programs.

“We have involved the industry in the development of the curriculum and even teach, therefore the diplomas are very acceptable in the market,” Langat said.

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Meru National Polytechnic Chief Principal Geoffrey Rukunja noted that the new capitation from the government, on fees payable and support from the Higher Education Loans Board had made technical education more affordable.

“We have never had such a high interest before. There is a new shift towards technical institutions,” he said.

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TVETTechnical University of MombasaKisumu National Polytechnic