Covid-19 forces change of plan in varsity reform
By Augustine Oduor | July 26th 2020
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has initiated reforms that will impact on funding of universities in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a letter to vice chancellors of public universities and principals of constituent colleges, the ministry wants detailed reports on students’ accommodation plans ahead of re-opening.
The institutions are also expected to provide information on how exams are managed and administered, as well as details of existing information and communication technology infrastructure to be used to offer blended learning.
University Education Principal Secretary Simon Nabukwesi, in a circular, says the ministry is implementing the National Education Sector Strategic Plan of 2018-2022, which has identified key issues to be looked into to enhance efficiency.
Mr Nabukwesi said the department's concerns had been presented to the National Development Implementation and Communication Cabinet Committee.
“Upon presentation, the National Implementation Technical Committee was instructed to develop a detailed policy and regulation framework on the way forward for total transformation of the university education sector,” he said.
The circular titled Status of University Education Reforms also wants universities to provide comprehensive data on pending bills as at July 1.
Reports of monthly expenditure for various subheads such as salaries and allowances, research and general administration are also required.
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"Kindly, this is an urgent matter and you are supposed to ensure the information is provided within the stipulated time to the ministry of Education,” reads the circular.
This is the latest stab at university reforms after the most recent one on mergers was rejected by vice chancellors. It is now clear that any changes must be fine-tuned to take into account the challenges posed by the coronavirus disease to the physical learning environment.
The push for reforms started in 2016 under then Education CS Fred Matiang'i during a conference held at Kenyatta University.
During the meeting, comprehensive data on critical areas of enrollment, staffing, graduation trends and financing were provided. The state of research in universities and the role it plays in identifying problems was also discussed.
A report titled the State of University Education revealed that universities had watered down the quality of higher education by introducing many courses that were narrow in scope and not market driven.
Overall, nearly all the reforms initiated under Cabinet secretaries Matiang’i, Amina Mohamed and Prof Magoha are yet to bear fruit despite numerous calls and directives to realise the goals.
Magoha's merger plan, for example, was rejected by VCs who insisted that a robust financing plan is the key to substantive reforms.
The CS had proposed the right-sizing and down-sizing of university staff, rationalisation of academic programmes, consolidation of universities and campuses, and a freeze on the establishment of new universities and satellite campuses.
In 2017, the Commission for University Education released a checklist that called for employment of appropriate staff, mounting of accredited courses, having appropriate infrastructure, and quality teaching by qualified staff.
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