Revelations of a new universities funding regime

Universities will be compelled to release official students data showing those who passed examinations and those to progress to the next class. [Photo, Standard]

The government is considering a new radical university-funding regime that will enhance efficiency, instill discipline among students and lecturers and push administrations to be more accountable and innovative.

Saturday Standard has established that if adopted, each student would receive monthly capitation sent to the university based on the programme they study.

Students financing will be pegged on a percentage of the total cost of teaching each programme as captured in the Differentiated Unit Cost (DUC).

This means that a government directive will spell out the rate at which it would foot cost of each student – as a percentage – relative to the programme they are studying.

Universities would then be directed to negotiate with parents and other sponsors to bridge the funding deficit.

This means that universities will assess their income generation capacities and foot a stated percentage of students’ cost as parents are allocated a certain portion of the money to pay. 

Based on this formula, universities will receive money every month in terms of capitation to fund students’ education – part of which will cater for remuneration of staff. 

Currently, the ministry makes blanket allocations to universities without clear instruction on which programmes are being funded and for which students.

This has resulted in under-funding in some universities as others get more money.

This new thinking of the government is captured in two critical documents that broadly point at the direction the sector wants funding focused -- the Sessional Paper dubbed ‘reforming education and training for sustainable development’ and a document prepared by Vice Chancellors Committee.

The VCs document – Strategies for funding staff compensation in public universities in Kenya – was tabled in the National Assembly Education Committee last year.

The Sessional Paper expressly states that public universities will have to reduce their dependence on the government by diversifying their sources of income and ensure more efficient and cost-effective use of resources.

Major shift

The strongest indication yet on the new funding strategy is evident in the proposal by the ministry to provide budgetary support to public universities in direct proportion to the total number of Full-Time Student Equivalent (FTSE) in each institution.

According to this plan, universities will make all management decisions based on unit cost per student.

Saturday Standard established that the discussions are already underway, though in low tones.

If implemented, the strategy will mark a major paradigm shift that will also revise how university workers negotiate pay and correct the perennial missing marks menace.

It means that overcrowding in universities, unpopular programmes and bloated workforce will be done away.

What will however shock many is the proposal that no student will get funding from the government unless they have sat in class for the required time, written examinations and passed all the units.

With students academic scores made mandatory requirement for students funding, lecturers who fail to remit marks would be pushed out of the system.

No student will be allowed to advance to the next class without marks in all the units of a previous class in a new financing system that will also raise the cost of failing examinations.

Funding from government will come to student by name and at the end of every financial year, vice chancellors will be required to to submit returns.

Universities will be compelled to release official students data showing those who passed examinations and those to progress to the next class.

The returns will also contain list of students who failed some papers and will have to re-sit them, and those who did not sit examinations or failed to turn up after registration.

For fourth year students, universities will be required to give the official graduation list. This means that universities will demonstrate that the students whose money they collected reported, actually studied and passed examinations and qualify for next round of funding. 

With the new financing strategy, the government would develop guidelines to pay only half the cost for students who fail examinations.

For instance, a student studying history who pays Sh48,000 as fees, receives Sh72,000 from the government and Sh24,000 from university will only get half the monies paid.

This means that in addition to the Sh48,000 fees; the student will also pay another Sh48, 000 (half of government and university cost) bringing the cost of failing that paper to Sh96,000. The cost of failing is even higher for expensive programmes.

It also means that a lecturer will be tasked to teach well, mark examinations and release results because this would be tied to funding.

The proposals further say that the government will be responsible for big time infrastructure development.

CBA with unions

Each development project would be merited based on proposals submitted by each university. The VC’s document reveals that the government would assess the justification and approve or reject universities projects funding proposal.

“Every project proposal should be based on a thorough evaluation and the government should fund the project to completion and within specified time schedule,” it says.

The proposal also hints at taming bloated lecture halls as universities will admit students based on their capacity. For instance, if a university seeks to admit 400 students to study medicine, they will set aside Sh96,000 for each student.

This translates to about Sh38.4 million. If the university income is only Sh14.4 million then they will only admit about 150 students, automatically pushing the institution to rationalise.

What is likely to generate controversy is the new proposal that university councils be empowered to negotiate remuneration of staff with unions.

In their proposal to Parliament, universities proposed a two-tier negotiations arrangement with the first level exclusively involving them and the various arms of government.

These would include the National Treasury, Ministry of Education, Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) and State Corporations Advisory Committee (SCAC).

“The agreed compensation at this level should be adopted as the minimum levels that a university may offer staff,” reads the vice chancellors document.

The proposals says that a sense of competition will be cultivated as each institution will fix upper limit pay based on their capacities.

The next phase of negotiations would be between councils and unions. The University Academic Staff Union (Uasu) has already raised concern, accusing the ministry of undertaking reforms “opaquely”.

“Such policy proposals would fundamentally reform and impact the higher education sector and require participation of stakeholders,” said Constantine Wasonga, the Uasu secretary general.