Universities banking on research grants to stay afloat

Chuka University. [Olivia Murithi, Standard]

As universities reel under a shortage of funds, Chuka University and Meru University of Science and Technology are escalating strategies to raise funds to keep them afloat.

Dons at Chuka University have placed research as an important component of academic pursuit and means of earning grants for the institutions.

Vice Chancellor of Chuka University, Prof Henry Mutembei, highlighted the need to generate more funds from research grants for the institutions to deliver high-quality education for the country's economic growth.

Winning grants from partners enables universities to raise money to fund their educational activities and operations.

Professor Mutembei, who hosted the 10th Chuka University Annual Research Conference early this month, said competent dons must be able to develop research projects and apply for funding from potential donors.

He said having developed to the level of a professor, one possesses the skills needed to do attractive grant proposals.

“A University Research Fund should be heavily driven by the dons themselves. If you are a professor, the only difference between a professor and a high school teacher is the quality of research you conduct and the amount of money that follows your research,” Prof Mutembei stated.

He said the universities should strive to raise their funds through research grants to complement funds they get from the national government, pointing to his case where he won research grants for varsities he has worked for.

“Personally, in my don career, I have attracted over Sh2b of research money, and paid myself extra money from there because I can go to a donor and tell this donor I am going to have this concept, it will spur this kind of development. You have to advance the donor's interest and then advance the interest of the end product Wanjiku (citizen) there,” he said.

He said dons should be able to dedicate their time to projects and to earn money for their universities and themselves.

“That is what differentiates a very groomed professor all over the world, and that is the way to go. We have agreed with my Senate, and they are now grouping into thematic areas, and they are going for it”.

At Meru University of Science and Technology, the immediate former Chancellor and Equity Bank CEO Dr James Mwangi, gifted it the Sh100m Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre.

Over the years, the dons at the institution have developed various innovations across agriculture, health, sanitation, business, and other fields.

“This state-of-the-art centre not only embodies Dr Mwangi's unwavering commitment to education and innovation but also serves as an effective hub for great minds to collaborate and nurture ideas aimed at making our world a better place. It is a testament to the power of philanthropy, vision, and dedication to higher education, where innovation thrives and entrepreneurship flourishes,” said VC Prof Romanus Odhiambo.

MUST is building the Mariene Research Institute in Central Imenti to cement its place in research activities.

Prof Odhiambo said the coming of the research facility will strengthen postgraduate studies and robust research programs in undergraduate studies.

“This informs the move of Meru University to start a postgraduate centre of excellence in Mariene. Specifically, we are more concerned with how we impact the agricultural community,” he said.

He said the facility will also have a few undergraduate and even diploma programs in agriculture and animal science.

“We also want them to do research that is impactful and create other avenues for the university,” he said, adding that they aimed at enabling the community to increase productivity, achieve value addition, and commercialise agricultural innovations”.