Vice-Chancellor Kiama: Varsity changes don’t need Magoha nod

Vice-Chancellor of University of Nairobi Prof Kiama Gitahi briefing journalists on the Institutional Reforms at the UON on July 9, 2021. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Reforms being undertaken at the University of Nairobi (UoN) do not require Education Cabinet Secretary’s approval, Vice-Chancellor Prof Stephen Kiama has said.

The VC said the positions of associate vice-chancellor recently created by the university council are mere designations that do not alter the structure of the University Charter and Statute hence do not require any gazettement.

Prof Kiama also said that the scrapping of the colleges was done by the council by simply amending the schedules which not amount to alterations of any legal documents of the university.

In its radical governance reforms, UoN Council abolished five offices of deputy vice-chancellors, replacing them with two associate vice-chancellors.

The university’s council also abolished six colleges and condensed all 35 faculties to 11 to avoid duplication and functional overreach. In an interview with The Standard, Prof Kiama said neither of the changes varied the university charter nor affected the statute.

He said the functions that were undertaken by deputy vice-chancellors and which will now be executed by the associate VC are the same.

“This is an issue of designation. If you look at the functions of the associate VC Academic Affairs is doing, they are the same. But in our view, we are convinced that this is a better title than DVC,” said Prof Kiama.

He said the title of ‘associate’ is not new to the university community.

“We have associate professors and they are not deputies to the professors. They are being mentored, they have not reached there but there are certain things they do and complete them. And that’s why we are saying that instead of talking about DVC, we just designate but the functions are the same,” said Prof Kiama.

On changes to the colleges, Prof Kiama said the charter allows that the university council to amend the schedule. In his letter dated July 14 to all universities’ management, Education CS Prof George Magoha directed that where reviews necessitate amendments to existing legally established structures (university charters, legal notices of constituent colleges and statutes), such amendments must be forwarded to his office for approvals and gazettement.

This is in line with Section 22 (A) of the Universities Act which provides for the process that must be undertaken to vary a charter.

The Act provides that such changes must be presented to the CS through Commission for University Education for approval and gazettement. But Kiama explained that “the reforms undertaken by council so far are not varying the charter. Varying the charter has its own process and as the CS explained, when we need to do that we will follow the procedures.”

He said the university management had read letter by Magoha and made proper interpretations and ruled out any conflict between the CS and UoN. Kiama added that the UoN is a resilient institution that has survived many years by responding to prevailing environment.

He cited changes in universities funding mode introduced by the Differentiated Unit Cost which is based on the number of students admitted. “As a result of this, the university capitation in 2017/2018  reduced from Sh6.2 billion to Sh4.5 billion. That means that if we continue to put more layers of administration and more units which increase our costs, it will be irresponsible of us,” said Kiama.

He said the university must manage its costs and at the same time deliver on its mandate through efficiency.