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How universities fuel fake degrees crisis

Education
 Dr Alice Kande, acting Director General of Kenya National Qualifications Authority, at a past function. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The fight against fraudulent academic papers in Kenya is facing a major roadblock: the failure by universities and colleges to upload graduate information to the national database which makes it difficult for employers to verify their credentials.

Established in 2016, the database was designed to empower employers to easily confirm the legitimacy of job applicants’ degrees, thereby curbing the use of fraudulent certificates.

However, despite regulations requiring institutions to upload the data within 90 days of graduation, only 32 institutions, colleges and technical schools, have complied.

“We are trying to enforce that and we are seeing several institutions complying with that and I believe in one year or two to come, all institutions will have uploaded their data into the system,” Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA) Director General Alice Kande told the Standard on Wednesday.

Only 10 out of 39 registered public universities have uploaded the data, it has emerged.

Kande attributed the slow adoption of the database to the volume of historical data some universities possess, creating logistical challenges.

However, she emphasised that the responsibility lies with these institutions which are expected to ensure the integrity of their qualifications.

“It is very painful to see people who have not gone through the right process are the ones getting opportunities using fake and fraudulent certificates,” Kande said.

The lack of complete data creates a ripple effect, making it difficult for employers to verify the authenticity of presented certificates. This not only undermines fair hiring practices but also raises concerns about the credibility of Kenyan universities and colleges globally.

“Let’s give justice to people who have gone through the process and have the skills and competencies and even certified that they have the right certificate,” Dr Kande said.

While Kande acknowledges the challenges, she remains optimistic about the future. She said uploading data to the database is a continuous process and that they are conducting sensitization to ensure all players understand their roles.

“Currently not all the institutions have given us all the data,” she said, acknowledging the relative newness of KNQA, established in 2014 and fully operational since the 2016 /2017 fiscal year. “We are still at that point where we are still trying to get all the players to understand their role.”

The consequences of this incomplete database are significant.

With limited information available, employers are left struggling to verify the legitimacy of academic credentials presented by job applicants.

This creates a breeding ground for individuals with fake degrees to gain employment, potentially jeopardizing professional standards and undermining the value of genuine qualifications.

Kande further revealed that despite KNQA holding the role of flagging suspicious qualifications, the onus falls on employers to take action and report fraud.

The revelations come just days after the Public Service Commission flagged over 2,000 civil servants with fake academic qualifications.

Universities have been asked to step up and fulfil their obligation to fill the database, empowering employers to make informed decisions when hiring and safeguard the integrity of Kenya’s academic landscape.

Among the institutions that have complied and uploaded their data on KNQA database include Nyeri National Polytechnic, Meru National Polytechnic, Kenya Coast National Polytechnic, Kisii National Polytechnic, Sigalagala National Polytechnic, Eldoret National Polytechnic, Kisumu National Polytechnic, and Kitale National Polytechnic.

On the other hand, two universities have successfully navigated the rigorous qualification process—Mount Kenya University and Meru University of Science and Technology.

Other verified institutions include the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital College of Health Science, Kenya Medical Training College, Kenya Red Cross, Kenya School of Government, Bandari Maritime Academy, Kenya Institute of Supplies Examination Board, and Human Resource Management Professional Examination Board.

Others are Kenya Accountants and Secretaries National Examination Board (KASNEB), Kenya School of Revenue Administration, TVET Curriculum Development Assessment and Certification Council, and the National Industrial Training Authority.

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