Government to continue placing students in private universities, says CS GeorgeMagoha

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha (pictured) has dismissed a proposal to reverse a directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta on admission of government-sponsored students to private universities.

Prof Magoha said only the president can make such a decision and dismissed a statement by University Education Principal Secretary Simon Nabukwesi that indicated that the Ministry does not support the plan.

“I want to believe he was misquoted. If not, then he was speaking for himself because he is not in charge of policy. I am not aware of such plans as the Cabinet Secretary,” said Magoha.

Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee, Nabukwesi is reported saying that the ministry does not support placement of students to private universities.

Magoha said the placement of students to private universities is also anchored in law and noted that reversing such a decision requires stakeholders’ participation.

Section 56 (1) (a) of the Universities Act says Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) shall "co-ordinate the placement of the government-sponsored students to universities and colleges".

Magoha said: “Our analysis has even shown that it is cheaper to admit students to private universities. It costs less than 50 per cent to send students to private universities. And they have equally level facilities.”

Speaking in Parliament, Nabukwesi argued that the money sent to private universities should be channelled to the underfunded public institutions.

Details show that so far, private universities have received about Sh9 billion since 2016 when the programme started.

President Kenyatta directed KUCCPS in 2015 to place government-sponsored students to private universities.

The president said the move would provide a chance for more students to pursue courses of their choice.

The presidential directive was aimed at expanding access to higher education and so far seen some 60,000 students placed in private universities between 2015 and last year.

But speaking in parliament, the PS told MPs that he had advised KUCCPS not to place students to private universities during this year’s exercise.

The Standard has now established that the renewed push by the PS is now threatening to split KUCCPS board, whose representations include private universities.

Vice Chancellors Committee Chairperson Prof Geoffrey Muluvi, who also sits on the KUCCPS board, is on record saying that public universities management are opposed to the plan.

Prof Muluvi said that public universities VCs want students’ placement to private universities stopped and the money used to sponsor the learners diverted to plug the funding gaps.

“Let it go on record that we are opposed to this programme and we need a review,” said Prof Muluvi.

The Kenya Association of Private Universities (KAPU), Prof Mumo Kisau, who also sits on the KUCCPS board, said the placement is anchored in law.

“The Universities Act requires students’ placement by KUCCPS be done to universities. It dos not mention whether public or private,” said Mumo.

KUCCPS Board members who spoke to The Standard disclosed that the push to amend the Universities Act is at the centre of the renewed push to stop funding students to private universities.

The Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2020, makes far-reaching changes to the composition of KUCCPS.

The Bill seeks to remove VCs from the crucial students’ placement board and proposes that councils send a representative to sit on the KUCCPS board.

The Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) and representatives of Kenya Association of Technical Training Institutions (KATTI) will also no longer sit on the KUCCPS board.

However, KUCCPS will sit on Universities Fund board and envisages smooth co-ordination between the two agencies on student funding.

“The amendment seeks to drop some representatives to cut down number of board members because, as it is now, it is bloated. Some of those who will be dropped seem to be pushing for a plan to stoke controversy,” said a KUCCPS board member.

Speaking to The Standard, Magoha said the placement of government-sponsored students to private universities will go on.

He said all students are free to pick choices from private universities during applications and revisions.

KUCCPS data shows that many students have been enrolled in private universities to pursue programmes such as medicine, law, nursing, public health, media, international relations, hospitality and pharmacy, courses that do not have adequate spaces in public colleges.

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