Scramble for 173,000 students joining universities as private varsities claim discrimination in placements

Sub County Director of Education, Lydia Mutegi (left) and Deputy County Commissioner Gideon Ombogi (right) opens Padlock to Exam container Day Eight at Kibra Deputy County Commissioners Office on Wednesday, February 23 2022. [Samson Wire, Standard].

Scramble for 173,000 students who attained university entry grade of C+ and above as private universities claim the government is keen to admit all of them to public institutions.

In a memorandum to Education CS Ezekiel Machogu, private universities argue that a move to admit all qualified students to public universities will cripple their institutions and now want to be included in the placement process.

The universities under their umbrella body National Association of Private Universities in Kenya (NAPUK) told Machogu that although they agree with the government's stand to fund students placed in public universities only, they should also get students placed in the institutions.

In the letter, private universities appealed to the Ministry of Education to separate admission from grants which are provided as government sponsorship in the placement, admission and funding of the qualified 173,000 candidates for the 2023/2024 academic year.

Further, they want all qualified students who applied for admission to either public or private Universities to be placed for admission to the respective Universities.

“Blocking private universities from admitting students who voluntarily choose to study in the institutions is grossly unfair and creates a monopoly for public Universities to dominate University education contrary to provisions of the Competition Act,” said the association’s Secretary General Dr Vincent Gaitho.

Although, private universities support government’s stand to allocate money to students admitted to public Universities only, they objected any policy that locks them out from participating in the student placements arguing that they pay same fees to Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) as public universities

“We will support an ecosystem where we are allowed to participate in students' admission and honor the government's efforts to provide grants to students admitted to public Universities only. But this should be brought to full knowledge of students who choose admission to private Universities,” said Gaitho.

The varsities complained that the ministry’s policy decision to admit all students who had grade C+ and above to Universities reduced the institutions’ income streams.

“Though the decision succeeded in increasing access to University education, it wiped out parallel programmes of public Universities which was their second stream of revenue next to exchequer allocations,” said Gaitho.

Universities further argue that some private Universities were unable to attract students outside of the placement service because all KCSE candidates with grade C+ and above were centrally placed by KUCCPS as government sponsored students.

The policy decision was made in 2016 to increase access to University for students who attain grade C+ and above in KCSE.

As a result, Gaitho argued that the policy has led to an increase in the student numbers placed under KUCCPS from 2016 to 2023 hence aggravating their financial crisis.

“The Memorandum to the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms presented by Universities Funding Board (UFB) indicated that the deficit of government sponsorship to public Universities rose from Sh9.2 billion in the 2017/2018 Financial Year to Sh27 billion in the 2021/2022 Financial Year,” read the memorandum.

Further, it stated that the deficit of government sponsorship to private universities rose from Sh1.2 billion to Sh11.9 billion in the same period.

“As a result of the growing deficits both public and private Universities have stagnated in terms of infrastructural and human resource development among others,” Gaitho argued.

He argued that private universities supplement governments efforts in provision of quality education and denying them participation in students' admission will cripple their institutions leading to layoffs and closures.

Further, they demanded that the Higher Education Loans Board should be left open to give education loans to any student in Kenya and elsewhere.

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