Regulator instructs JKUAT to review the award of 118 PhDs

The report exposed major breaches in student admissions to the PhD programmes. [Standard]

A State agency has ordered the review of 118 PhDs recently awarded by Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).

The Commission for University Education (CUE) has directed the university to reassess, within three months, all the degrees it conferred this year following an investigation that exposed various breaches.

“The university senate should meet to review the 118 PhDs awarded during the 33rd graduation ceremony held on June 21, 2019, make decisions on the issues raised in this report and report back to CUE within three months,” the CUE said in a report.

The shortcomings include one lecturer supervising an average 13 PhD students in one year instead of the recommended maximum of three, students publishing in non-existent academic journals, and admissions to the programme without relevant academic papers.

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The university has also been ordered to submit to the CUE evidence of the mandatory students’ publications in refereed journals since 2014, failure to which the non-conforming PhDs would be recalled.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha termed the findings of the report not good, noting other universities could be in a similar mess.

“I suspect it is not just at JKUAT,” said Prof Magoha during a presentation to editors in Nairobi on Monday.

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At the last JKUAT graduation ceremony in June, 661 master’s degrees were awarded. In the past three years, a total 327 PhDs and 2,101 master’s degrees have been awarded.

The CUE probe was prompted by the high number of PhDs awarded this year, particularly in the College of Human Resource Development.

Satellite campuses

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CUE has also banned the university from admitting doctorate students in its satellite campuses after the audit report revealed that nearly half of the PhD students graduated from the campuses.

Of the 118 PhD graduates, 58 were from the campuses, including three from Kigali, Rwanda.

“The university should cease training PhD students in the satellite campuses for lack of adequate capacity and transfer them to the main campus in Juja,” reads the report.

The report exposed major breaches in student admissions to the PhD programmes. It laid bare punishable violations in student supervisions and unmasked fraudulent practices in publications rules in refereed journals.

Contrary to the requirement that one supervisor handles a maximum of three PhDs and five master’s students in an academic year, the report reveals that one supervisor graduated up to 41 PhD students in the last three years.

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During this year’s graduation, the report notes, one lecturer supervised 15 PhD students while two other lecturers supervised 14 and 11 students respectively.

“In the three graduations, three supervisors from the College of Human Resource Development each graduated 41, 30 and 33 PhD students, respectively. In addition, each of the three supervisors graduated 45, 106 and 72 master’s students.”

It also emerged that most lecturers did not have the relevant competencies in the respective areas on which they supervised the students.

For example, the 41 master’s students supervised by one lecturer specialised in 10 different disciplines, raising questions about the lecturer’s competence.

The report further notes that in addition to supervising the huge number of candidates at master’s and PhD levels to completion, the lecturers were also teaching undergraduates while some continued to hold administrative positions.

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“This scenario compromises the quality of post-graduate training and research in the university,” it read.

CUE rules require that before the award of a doctoral degree, a candidate shall show proof of acceptance of publication of at least two papers in refereed journals.

Even though the report finds that most students had at least two publications, some of the academic journals that the students published in were non-existent or were pulled down at the height of the probe.

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JKUATPhD programmesCommission for University Education