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How Meru and Chuka universities raised income to beat tough times


As Kenyan universities grapple with financial constraints, some institutions devised ways of wading through the tough times.

Meru University of Science and Technology Vice Chancellor, Professor Romanus Odhiambo, says that since the national government funding was not enough, the administration had to develop innovative ways to generate revenue.

Prof Odhiambo said they came up with ways to raise revenue to survive the tough times, which includes farming.

"Universities for the last several years have had financial problems. Meru university is no exception," he said

However, he said, the university is able to pay staff and suppliers, through its various income-generation activities, including farming.

He said they put around 50 acres of land for agriculture where they grow potatoes, beans, maize and hay.

Prof Odhiambo noted that initially, the government was funding differentiated unit costs, at 80 per cent, but due to the economic crisis, they currently foot 50 per cent only.

"Because of tough economic times, the government is only able to raise 50 per cent. The question is where do you get the 30 per cent? We had to think outside the box," he said. He appealed to the community to take advantage of the self-sponsored programmes offered by the varsity, which is also a source of more funds.

"We have programmes from certificates to PhD. We plan to raise money through self-sponsored programmes," he said

Former Chuka University Vice Chancellor Prof Erastus Njoka recounted measures he took to earn the varsity additional income.

Prof Njoka, who resigned to run for governor in Tharaka Nithi, urged local universities to be innovative.

"Managing universities is not easy. It is a challenge because universities consume a lot of money," Prof. Njoka said.

He invested in a commercial building, agriculture, and research to earn the institution more revenue and complement the national government funds. "I was a very successful VC because I used the right methods. We bought the Sasini House along Loita Street, Nairobi. When I left the university I did not leave it with any debt. And I never borrowed any money for the construction. I was using the money we generated and made sure it was used prudently," Njoka said.

Njoka also established campuses at Maara, Igembe and Tharaka which have now been elevated to universities.

"In a year, I used to get around Sh850 million from the students. We have a 500-acre farm at Kairini with goats and cows and at the end of the year, we used to sell the animals and earn profits," he told The Standard during a tree planting exercise at Chogoria.

The varsity also sold bananas and tree seedlings from its nursery. "I was helping the community to plant trees and generating income for the university".

Njoka said research projects also earned the institution more money.

"We have several research projects which give the university a lot of money. There is one project that gave the university Sh50 million".

Njoka said initially, the universities were recognised as only places meant for teaching and research, which is not the case.

"If our universities are innovative they can sell their ideas to other countries. In Israel, we have universities which sell technologies," adding that universities need to invest more in manufacturing and innovation.

"Universities should invest in manufacturing.. It can be a great source of money. We can also innovate in the area of making computers and electronic facilities," he said.

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