Universities are headed for a fresh round of reforms as the new education system rolls on.
It is now clear that learners leaving senior secondary school, having pursued various pathways, will be enrolled in specialised fields at university level, which calls for improved infrastructure, staffing and revised courses.
The impending changes will, hence, include expansion of infrastructure, reviewing courses, hiring more qualified staff, revising the universities' funding regime and re-looking at students’ loans arrangement.
Overall, universities will review the existing curricular and align them with the Basic Education Curriculum Framework (BECF) and the national agenda.
It is now emerging that the ban on establishment of new universities may be lifted, as the new system will require more space to accommodate anticipated huge numbers of students by 2029.
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This means the existing universities will have to construct new lecture halls, accommodation facilities, libraries, science laboratories and more specialised infrastructure that would host thousands of students leaving senior secondary schools.
This will contradict the present government policy that stopped construction of additional universities and creation of new campuses as most of the existing became unviable, thus compromising quality.
The Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) education task force, however, finds that about 300,000 students expected to join universities may miss slots if adequate infrastructure is not provided.
The report of the Taskforce on Enhancing Access, Relevance, Transition, Equity and Quality for Effective Curriculum Reforms Implementation projects that 1.2 million CBC learners presently in Grade 4 will join universities in 2029.
“About 420,000 students will be expected to join university, with the assumption that 33 per cent will transit as the remaining 67 per cent join various tertiary institutions,” the report says.
It says with projections that the universities absorb about 122,000 annually through the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS), many learners would miss out.
“Given this scenario, it is important that additional resources be allocated to universities,” reads report.
The report says there is a mandatory additional requirement for physical facilities for various disciplines such as workshops, studios and laboratories.
The implementation schedule recommends that guidelines on establishment of new universities must be done by 2023 and 2025.
And between now and 2024, the report recommends an audit of universities infrastructure to determine capacity to host CBC pathways and tracks.
Major reforms are also expected in universities’ academic programmes.
Analysis of the report shows that education (arts) had the highest enrolment at 110,433 students, constituting 20 per cent.
This was followed by business administration with 106,544 constituting 19.9 per cent of the enrolment and humanities and arts with 44,779 students.
What is worth noting is the finding that even though these courses are cheap to mount by universities, few of the students are absorbed into the job market after graduation.
This compares to the low enrolments in academic fields listed as expensive to mount by universities.
These include law, which has the lowest admission of 8,950 students followed by Information and Communication Technology (ICT) with 27,037.
Agriculture, forestry, fisheries, veterinary, engineering, manufacturing and construction, health and welfare are also listed as some of the high cost programmes to mount.
The report proposes that Commission for University Education (CUE) develops and reviews university programmes to align with the three pathways offered at senior secondary schools.
“Ministry of Education to expand infrastructure to offer courses in the three pathways within identified niche areas and localised specialisations,” reads the report.
The CUE is also expected to develop policy for credit accumulation and transfer. On personnel, the report says some of the teaching staff working in universities are not qualified to teach academic programmes.
It finds that only 30 per cent of the teaching staff are PhD holders, which is the requirement to teach at university.
And now, the report wants CUE to rationalise lecturer recruitments to meet the changing educational needs in a cost effective way.
The implementation schedule proposes that recruitment of additional academic staff to match demands occasioned by CBC must be done between now and December 2023.
And all university academic staff should have been trained on CBC between July this year and December 2023. An inventory of human and capital resources must also be in place by 2023.
On funding, report proposes a review of the Differentiated Unit Cost (DUC) to ensure that funding is aligned to the CBC framework.
It also proposes that Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) enhances provision of loans and bursaries to cater for increasing number of learners joining universities.
According to the implementation schedule, increase of budgetary allocations to Helb to expand loans, bursaries and grants to learners in TVETs should be complete by December 2023.
Establishment and operationalisation of TVET Funding Board must also be completed by December 2023.
At university level, a review of the DUC to align with CBC should be undertaken between now and 2022. Enhanced provision of loans and bursaries to cater for increased university enrolments should also be done by 2021.