Private universities risk closure, job cuts under new funding model

Kenya Association of Private Universities (KAPU) chairman Prof Stephen Mbugua. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Job losses loom in private universities while some institutions may close under the new funding formula, it has emerged.

This follows the adoption of the new funding model that support students through scholarships and loans and will come to force in September this year.

Under the arrangement, however, private universities will not be eligible for the scholarships as they will exclusively be reserved to students joining their public institutions.

This means that students joining private universities will only benefit from loans to settle their tuition fees.

Prof Stephen Mbugua, the Kenya Association of Private Universities (KAPU) chairman on Tuesday noted that some private institutions might be forced to close shop following the decision by government to exclude the private universities from government funding in form of scholarships.

“The numbers (of students) are so low that they are not sustainable to make our universities to move to the next five years,” said Prof Mbugua, vice chancellor of Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA).

He spoke on the sidelines of the eighth edition of the Catholic Schools Principals’ Association Conference at Catholic University of Eastern Africa.

Prof Mbugua further called on the government to reconsider reviewing the funding model so as to save the private institutions from imminent collapse.

“We have already appealed to the government. I have already sent on behalf of the private universities a letter to the Cabinet Secretary, the Higher Education PS, even to the chair of the education committee in parliament to reconsider this decision,” he argued.

Since 2016, the government has sent over 100,000 government sponsored students to private universities.

A document by the Kenya Association of Private Universities submitted before the National Assembly committee on education in 2021 revealed that private universities hosted 15 percent of the total population of government-sponsored students.

In 2016, the institutions admitted 10,984 students, (17,363) in 2017, (12,656) in 2018, (17,511) in 2019, and (27,756) in 2020. In 2021, the universities received 28,063 students.

In this year’s placement, some 140,107 students who sat the 2022 KCSE exams were placed in public and private universities to study undergraduate degrees.

Out of this, 130,485 Students placed in public universities will get scholarship and loans while  9,662 students will join private universities but will only get student loans to support their education.

Prof Mbugua said should the new model continue in the same fashion, private universities will sink in financial constraints.

He further argues that there’s a deliberate effort to promote admission to public universities because students were promised scholarships.

“This model has come out of an onslaught of private universities. A number of universities got less than ten students,” Mbugua said.

He argued that the model is in contrast to the Kenya Kwanza economic government economic model to promote increased jobs both in private and public sector.

“We know this government promised to increase employment but by withdrawing students from the private sector means that they are doing the opposite,” he said.

The Education ministry in 2016 rolled out admission of government-sponsored students to private universities following a directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The introduction of government-sponsored students to private universities was first proposed in 2014 through a sessional paper looking to reform the financially troubled university sector.

The Sessional Paper No. 14 of 2012 identified the expansion of government student sponsorship to private universities as one of the key ways to address challenges facing university education in Kenya.

However, it was not until 2016 that the programme came to life after President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the placement of government-sponsored students in all universities.

The President said investment in higher education by the public, private sector, and religious organizations should be looked at as one to see how to leverage investments to train more Kenyans.