University reforms mean well for higher education sector

When Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha (pictured) signalled intent to get some university courses scrapped, he came under heavy flak.

Prof Magoha's call, however, was in line with measures to reform our university education system that has seemingly gone haywire; offering a number of courses that many believe have no relevance today.

The advent of satellite universities following the Government's scaling down of funding for universities in the 1990s has not helped matters. Notably, with so much cheating in the KCSE exams in previous years, the quality of students admitted to universities raised concerns.

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After the completion of their university education, some of the graduands have failed the test of competency, so much that even the job market is reluctant to take them on.

That being the case, the need for reforms in our institutions of higher learning cannot be gainsaid. While proposals to merge some universities, scrap some courses and merge others initially met with resistance, the University of Nairobi seems to have embraced them.

So far, it has indicated it will scrap a total of 40 courses, and the process is already underway. Were other universities to follow suit and also harmonise courses, no doubt, the lost lustre of our education system will be regained.

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Our universities have continually punched below their weight, and something needed to be done. Indeed, even in international rankings, our universities fare poorly. In 2017 for instance, Webometrics, a global ranking institution, placed the University of Nairobi (UoN) at position 775 globally from 24,000 universities ranked.

That position has dropped to 993 in the 2019 rankings. It is instructive that from all the Kenyan universities, only UoN made it to the international charts.

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This newspaper has stated before that the proposed reforms should include a re-assessment of the qualifications of both tutors and students; and that emphasis should be placed on good academic credentials to attract the best in the field. We have pointed out that some of the degree programmes on offer in our universities have little relevance today.

Many are out of sync with the country’s aspiration of becoming a medium-income nation, in line with our Vision 2030 blueprint. Further, college environments must be conducive to learning.

Once reforms are done with, the issue of research funding must be addressed to give our universities a competitive edge.

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