Consult parents, students on fees hike, Magoha urges VCs

Simeon Ombati and his daughter Christine Barbra at the University of Nairobi’s 61st graduation ceremony, yesterday. They both graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in project planning and management. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

The proposal by Vice Chancellors to raise fees may wait a little longer as Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha asked them to consult parents and students.

Magoha said fees hike is a sensitive matter that must be discussed by all education stakeholders and an agreement reached.

The statement by Magoha though signaling some progress in move to reform university education, erects yet another milestone to be navigated by universities. The VCs had proposed fees increase as part of their reforms agenda, in the wider funding plan that would also see programmes and institutions merged.

They argued the current flat rate of Sh16,000 per student per programme is no longer sustainable.

Differentiated Unit Cost

Presently, all government-sponsored students are funded at a flat rate of Sh120,000 per year based on a formula developed in 1989.

Of this, Sh86,000 is tuition fees while Sh34,000 caters for students’ personal expenses including accommodation, food and books.  The government pays Sh70,000 of the tuition money with students left to pay Sh16,000.

The VCs argued that efforts to implement the Differentiated Unit Cost (DUC) has not been effective.

DUC is the amount of money required by an institution to teach one academic programme per year per student.

If DUC is effectively implemented, training dentists will require the highest allocations at Sh600,000 per student for only one academic year.

Medicine shall require second highest funding of Sh576,000 per year while pharmacy will require Sh432,000.

Arts (general) would require the least funding at a cost of Sh144,000 per year.

VCs however argue that due to poor funding regime, many universities mount many academic programmes to plug their deficits.

This has resulted to duplication of programmes and mounting of narrow courses.

The VCs report, Status of University Education in Kenya, challenges and way forward that the government, handed to Magoha last month proposes that students’ fees be increased to Sh24,000, up from Sh16,000.

VCs said the fees would gradually be increased to Sh48,000 in a proposal that they argued will see the cost of training a student shared between the university, parents and the government.

But speaking yesterday during the 61st graduation ceremony at the University of Nairobi, Magoha said the planned reforms are a must but urged VCs to consult widely on fees increase.

“As you are aware, the Cabinet has endorsed proposals to conduct reforms in universities to ensure the institutions run efficiently,” said Magoha.

The CS said staff rationalise remains top reform agenda, saying this will help ease the payroll burden, adding that declining student enrollment and low capitation grants from the government has necessitated the push to introduce tenure tracks even.

Magoha also said all public and private universities must scrutinise their academic programmes with a view to reducing duplication.

The academician said all universities must improve their supervision of graduate programmes to enhance quality of graduates.

As the first step to achieving the reforms agenda, Magoha said he kicked off stakeholders engagements to craft best way of implementing the changes.

Magoha said his team is presently studying a report by the Commission for University Education on reforms submitted to him last month.

He also said the VCs report on reforms is being looked at and noted that he will soon call a stakeholders meeting to discuss the way forward.

“I am open to all stakeholders views. My door is open as we are all seeking a common goal of ensuring world class education for young scholars,” he said.

The minister said he has also met University Academic Staff Union officials and asked them to present their reform proposals.

The union had moved to court to oppose the planned universities mergers.

But in their report, VCs maintain that fees increment is part of the major plan that will lead in universities merges and programmes rationalisation.

They argue that the institutions will receive capitation money monthly to fund each student’s education.

“In the funding of the individual student, students have an enhanced flexibility in choosing the programme they would like to study at university,” reads the report.

The VCs said the current funding method of blanket allocations to the universities if faulty as it does not state which programmes are funded.