MPs give nod for roll out of open university


Higher Education and Research PS Beatrice Inyangala responds to queries when she appeared before the National Assembly Education Committee on February 27, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The Kenya Open University is poised to become a reality after Members of Parliament paved the way for the admission of the first batch of students. The National Assembly Education Committee has granted the government permission to establish this new virtual university, marking the beginning of the process to admit approximately 7,000 students.

Qualified learners will have the opportunity to pursue their preferred courses through e-learning, eliminating the need for physical classrooms. The Education Committee, led by Tinderet MP Julius Melly, emphasized that the university will break down barriers to accessing higher education for marginalized groups.

‘‘The committee is convinced that investing in the Open University for Kenya is sound and timely,’’ reads part of the report of the committee.

This development marks a significant turning point in the nature of learning expected to be conducted in tertiary institutions, as it will primarily be based on information and technology. The university aims to provide affordable education by reducing costs associated with transportation, accommodation, tuition fees, and admission fees for students attending physical classes.

Moreover, the university will offer access to individuals working or residing in remote areas, regardless of their social background, enabling them to pursue higher education. Although the university campus will be located at Konza City in Machakos County, all lessons will be conducted virtually.

The technical committee spearheading the establishment of the institution has projected a starting fee range of between Sh10,400 to Sh10,900 per module, depending on the nature of the course. The university plans to offer eight online degree and diploma courses, with students typically taking four to six subjects.

For programs such as Bachelor's in Data Science, Economics and Statistics, Bachelor's of Science in Business and Entrepreneurship, Bachelor’s of Technology Education, and Bachelor of Cyber Security and Digital Forensic, learners will pay Sh10,400. Those pursuing a Bachelor's of Science in Agriculture Science and Technology and Food Systems will pay Sh10,900.

The university's charter will also enable it to offer postgraduate diploma courses in leadership and management, learning design and technology, which will be offered in the first year at a cost of Sh130,000. Students will also have the opportunity to study subjects such as climate change and sustainability, global citizenship, philosophy ethics and social cohesion, psychology, and research.

Beatrice Inyangala, the Permanent Secretary of Higher Education, stated that the establishment of the Open University is part of a concerted effort to realize previously stalled projects.

‘‘The Open University is a stalled project, it has been on our books since it was conceptualised in 2010. It had an allocation of Sh20 million that has been unused for the past four years,’’ Dr Inyangala said.

The government has consistently emphasized that the university aims to address the high cost of university education and provide opportunities for those who were unable to secure admission in previous intakes.

However, Malulu Injendi, the vice-chairman of the Education Committee, questioned why the government was pushing for this project instead of revitalizing struggling public universities.

‘‘I can see you want us to review school fees from Sh16, 000 to Sh48,000. What you are asking for also is Sh1.8 billion for Open University, is this in good faith?  ‘If this Sh1.8 billion will be given to you will that amount be final or you will come back to ask for more money in future,’’ said Injendi.

In response, Dr Inyangala affirmed that the Open University will become self-sustainable once it takes off. She acknowledged that additional funding would be required during the first three years to develop the program, but assured that afterward, the Open University would be able to support itself financially.

A blueprint for the establishment of the institution, along with proposals and the Open University of Kenya Bill 2011, including a draft charter, has already been forwarded to Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu.

The government has requested an additional allocation of Sh1.86 million to establish physical facilities, information and communication technology structures, designs, production, acquisition of teaching and learning materials, and learner support services.

The majority of staff will be employed on a contractual basis, with salaries expected to account for 30 percent of the budget.