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Fund university research for meaningful growth

By The Standard | July 7th 2016

The rate at which universities have sprung up in the last few years has been phenomenal. While this signifies a commitment to keeping in tandem with the ever-increasing demand for education, it has had negative effects on the quality of education.

From just one university in 1963 that had an enrolment of barely 1,000 students, Kenya today boasts 33 universities with a combined enrolment of slightly over 270,000 students. Interestingly, 70 per cent of these institutions were established between 2012 and 2013.

The prestige of having such a big number of universities is not however buoyed by an impressive output of academicians who add value to society. Thus, we must face the reality and ascertain at what point the rain started beating us.

Government support for universities began to wane in 1990, when it adopted what was referred to as a market-based policy. This compelled universities to generate much-needed revenue from tuition fees and commercial activities that have no direct bearing on educational matters. It is from this situation that satellite colleges emerged, leading to great compromise in quality.

Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i has been instrumental in finding solutions to myriad of problems facing our institutions of higher learning. From disbanding a few boards to closing some satellite colleges, the focus now must be on increased funding for our universities.

The Government’s one-size-fits all approach will not do. Emphasis should shift to research, a key area of university education. If say, among others, agriculture and health were properly funded, new innovations could lead to enhanced food sufficiency and improved health.

We look to our universities for competent doctors, lawyers, teachers and financial experts, to name a few. Universities must give society new knowledge and techniques that are relevant in today’s world.

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