Universities face closure over fake degrees in fresh purge

A university associated with embattled Mombasa Governor Hassan Ali Joho is among three academic institutions facing closure in a major government shake-up to streamline higher education.

The Commission for University Education (CUE) has written to Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i recommending that three private universities be stripped of their authority to offer degrees following a quality audit and inspection conducted in January.

They are the Thika-based Gresta University, Kiriri Women’s University of Science and Technology located in Nairobi and The East African University based in Kajiado. Commission Secretary David Some has asked Dr Matiang’i not to renew their Letters of Interim Authority.

Gretsa University, where Mr Joho went for his second bachelor’s degree, has been found in the Commission’s audit to have committed malpractices, most of them unrelated to the Joho affair. Quality audits are a statutory function of the commission. The decision seems to be unrelated to the controversy surrounding the Mombasa Governor, who says the Government is using State organs to punish him.

Mr Joho has been embroiled in a public tussle with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Government, which accuses him of having applied for admission to Nairobi University using fake examination result documents

If Dr Matiang’i accepts the Commission’s recommendation when he returns from a one-week US tour next week, it will lead to an immediate ban on all admissions to the three universities which are home to thousands of students. In such circumstances, the universities will be allowed what is called a “teach-out” period, which will only allow them to run programmes for two years. That period will only allow the students currently in their second year to complete their four-year degree courses, The Saturday Standard established.

Concern over the quality of degrees offered by Kenyan universities has been sparked by the increase over the past decade in accredited universities even though there is a severe shortage of lecturers. Related to this has been suspicion that universities were relaxing admission terms to increase student numbers — and earn money from tuition fees — while at the same time granting undeserved degrees.

Following news of the Commission’s closure decision, The Saturday Standard visited the three the universities late yesterday and found them running their programmes as normal — including admitting new students — oblivious of the impending weighty decision.

Once Dr Matiang’i, the man determined to correct years of academic slide in local universities, accepts Prof Some’s recommendation he will be expected to publish a notice in the Kenya Gazette, which will mark the beginning of their closure. Prof Some’s letter says: “The (following) three universities have not been granted renewal of Letter of Interim Authority, awaiting conclusion of assessment of Quality Audit Inspection Reports.” he added: “The stakeholders are informed of the universities’ status.”

Five other universities were, however, lucky to have their Letters of Interim Authority renewed. They include Management University of Africa, Presbyterian University of East Africa, Riara, Aga Khan and Pioneer International University. If the Government maintains its decision, the country will have only 10 universities operating under a Letter of Interim Authority. This certification allows a new institution to offer degree programmes, set up a governing body, continue the development of physical facilities and assemble of academic resources.

Gretsa University, where Mr Joho went for his second bachelor’s degree last week said it admitted him on the strength of a degree he was awarded by a Ugandan institution.

Vice Chancellor Kuria Thuo defended the decision to admit Mr Joho for a commerce degree. Mr Joho was last week questioned by police investigating the authenticity of examination papers’ allegedly presented to Nairobi University in his name, which showed he scored a C+ in in 1993. The governor has disowned the C+ examination slip, declaring that he had scored a mean grade of D- in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE).

He said the government investigation had been initiated to punish him for having told off President Kenyatta over development projects at the Coast. He claimed he was also being targeted for questioning infrastructure decisions which threatened to make Naivasha a more important cargo transit point than Mombasa.

The Saturday Standard learnt that a recent audit by CUE found that Gretsa University was guilty of examination malpractices, including cases where students were compensated marks drawn from entirely different units to make them pass the failed units.

The university was also accused of awarding degrees to students who did not meet the minimum set instructional hours. Some students in the year 2012 to 2016 were awarded credit transfers irregularly in some universities. It was not clear if the affected universities responded to the allegations with a view to having them corrected in case the facts had been wrongly captured during the audit.