D-day for Magoha’s big varsity merger plans

Vice Chancellors (VCs) will today meet Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha to adopt a document that will make it easier for the Government to merge universities.

The Standard has established that after false starts occasioned by opposition from VCs, trade unions and protracted court battles, the new strategy will make it easy for the government to undertake mergers or acquisitions of both private and public universities.

Under the new proposals contained in the amended universities regulations (2019), a sponsor of a university who intends to cause a merger will make a request to the Commission for University Education (CUE). For the case of public universities, the Government through the Ministry of Education, shall make the application. For private universities, the requisition to merge may be lodged by the institutions’ board of trustees.

Upon receipt of the application, CUE will be required to set up an inspection committee to conduct an audit of the universities intending to merge. The report generated by the committee shall be handed over to CUE for consideration.

“The Commission shall consider the inspection report and where satisfied, recommend to the Cabinet Secretary, who shall upon being satisfied recommend to the President for approval of merger or acquisition,” state the regulations.

Where the President approves the proposed merger or acquisition, the Cabinet Secretary shall gazette the same.

Regulations also give proposals on how universities may change names or sponsors.

Finer details reveal that in considering the application for mergers and acquisition, CUE shall scrutinise students and staff welfare, assets and liabilities of the institutions.

Merging of universities or campuses, reducing staff numbers and dropping some academic programmes are part of the reforms being pushed by Prof Magoha.

The CS has called for a freeze on the establishment of new universities and satellite campuses. Instead, he is rooting for consolidation of some academic programmes and that every university specialises in offering particular courses.

But the VCs are opposed the mergers insisting that the greatest undoing in universities is poor funding, which must be addressed.

In their detailed report to Magoha, the VCs opposed direct mergers. Instead, they proposed a new financing formula that they said would lead to automatic mergers.

The VCs argue that universities mergers will inevitably fall in place if an enhanced financing plan is put in place.

Shutting down varsities

The regulations also spell out elaborate ways of shutting down a university.

“A university/institution/constituent college shall be wound up upon revocation of charter, letter of interim authority, or legal notice as applicable,” they state.

The Education CS shall then convene a meeting of the commission and the sponsor of a private university or with the commission for public university within three days.

The meeting shall consider the inspection and status reports, take custody of the instruments of authority and accreditation and put in place security measures to preserve the assets of the University.

A team shall then be picked to manage the winding up process.