Finance the most qualified students, VCs tell government

Egerton university staff protesting at the University on November 4, 2021, on what they termed as sustained systematic industrial injustices and employer cruelty. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Vice-chancellors of public universities have proposed a new funding formula, where the government will only support qualified students based on the available budget. In the plan, VCs argue that the government will be required to declare how much it is ready to spend on university education and that is what will determine the number of students admitted.

This means students who qualify for university education but cannot be supported by the government budget will join institutions of higher learning as module II learners.

This is a major shift from the present case where students are admitted to the university and the government spends money, which most of the time does not cater for the enrolled numbers. Insiders say this formula may help restore students’ numbers for Module II, which have been declining over the years and was major source of universities financing.

In their report titled ‘Comments on University Funding Framework,’ the VCs propose a major shift to funding students where a fixed amount of money is sent to per student to enable universities to predict and plan better.

“If the model is adopted, the number of students supported shall be dictated by the amount received from the government. Students who meet university entry requirements but are not supported by the government can join universities as self-sponsored students,” reads the document.

The VCs argue that the present funding method is not fixed and is dependent on the number of students who meet university entry requirements. “Hence, the amount (sent to universities) varies from year to year and keeps dropping every year,” said the VCs. These are some of the proposals VCs want included in the ongoing review of the maximum Differentiated Unit Cost (DUC).

The details of VCs proposed funding plan are contained in a memorandum by Vice-Chancellors Committee to the Universities Fund (UF) to inform the ongoing review of the DUC; the amount of money required by an institution to teach one academic programme per year per student.

The review is at stakeholders’ engagement, with various bodies presenting their memorandum to the UF for consideration.

The university managers also propose that university fees be increased to align with DUC funding model.

In their proposal, the VCs want that the Universities Fund, which is tasked with apportionment of funds to Universities, to lobby for increased capitation from the government to ensure that funding per student should not go below 80 per cent. “This way universities will not be exposed to budget deficits as is currently the case, and especially now that universities have no Module II students to bridge the deficit,” said the VCs.

However, even with the government support, VCs want the exchequer to cater for 80 per cent of students costs, with the remaining 20 per cent settled by universities and parents.

The DUC, as presently implemented, has lumped specific costs of programmes into clusters of 18, ranging from the lowest - Sh144,000 - for humanities, to the highest - Sh720,000 - for dentistry.

Universities have for the last four years called for the revision of the DUC to eliminate the large disparity between public and private universities.

The government, through the UF, is reviewing the DUC following the uproar that the formula has inherent gaps that must be plugged to resolve the present universities crisis.

Part of this is that presently the DUC funds students at 55 per cent as opposed to the 80 per cent rate.

Overall, a Universities Funding Framework has been developed, reviewing the DUC by introducing allocations of infrastructure funds.

Broadly, the framework makes far-reaching proposals on how universities money shall be shared based on four key parameters – postgraduate research, national priority areas, institutional factors (age of university) and special needs education.

In the proposal, block allocation would be shared based on the allocated weights of the four listed parameters.

UF proposes that 70 per cent of universities apportionments go towards base allocations, which will allow an institution to perform its basic functions such as teaching and learning.

Another 20 per cent of the total allocation would go towards funding universities that have focused on national priority areas, while 5 per cent of the total budget would go towards supporting post-graduate training.

The institutional factor parameter would get some 3.22 per cent allocation as the special needs education gets an allocation of 1.78 per cent of the total budget. In their proposal, VCs want an allocation formula that is clear, equitable, transparent and clearly communicates how funds are shared for better planning. “It is evident that the current formula favours some universities and disadvantages others. It is not clear why two universities with an almost similar student and staff population get different recurrent capitation,” argue VCs.

They propose that younger universities must be funded better and should be favoured by the allocation.

“There should be a minimum figure allocated to take care of this up to a point where a certain threshold is achieved,” said the VCs.

On capital development or infrastructure funds, VCs propose that a formula be generated to make available grants to enable universities plan better. “The formula should include affirmative funding to support the younger universities develop the critical infrastructure to enable them attract and retain staff and students,” VCs propose.

Currently, there is no formula for the allocation of development grants and in many cases, it appears pegged on allocation given in the previous year.

“This propagates inequality as those poorly funded universities with the poor funded trajectory for many years,” reads the report.

The VCs argue that this allocation approach does not promote equity among universities as younger universities that require critical infrastructure are funded less than more established universities.

And for performance-based funding, the South African Model is adopted. “Where for each masters and doctorate degree graduate, there is an amount sent to university with a portion of it going to the supervisor. Similarly, for publications the same happens,” reads the document.

In its framework, UF proposed that performance funding be based on specific performance measures such as course completion, degree completion, equity and gender considerations instead of allocating funding based entirely on enrolment.

The Fund proposed that key performance indicators attached to this funding will be the four-year graduation rule and the employability rate of one year after graduation.

This means that universities that are efficient in graduating their students upon completion of their courses and those whose students get jobs within one year of graduation would get higher finding.

UF also proposed that universities that focus on courses that fall within the key government priority areas would get more money as the new funding regime seeks to strengthen the national development agenda.

Universities Fund proposed to allocate 20 per cent of the allocated budget to these universities to encourage them to operate in ways that advance national priorities for higher education and national goals for social and economic development.

The framework identifies national priority is based on the Big 4 Agenda and the broader Vision 2030.

VCs want the amount proposed to be allocated to national priority courses reduced to free up some money for the other programmes.

“The 20 per cent allocation is too high because other areas, not labelled as priority, equally need to be developed since priorities are likely to change with a shift in what the government of the day may consider a national priority,” VCs said.

The VCs rejected a proposal by the UF to fund post graduate students, by up to 80 per cent. “The Funding board should not use the existing funds to fund the postgraduate students but should source for more funds to cater for these students,” said VCs.

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