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MPs say university selection criteria and funding model unfair

 Higher Education and Research PS Dr Beatrice Muganda Inyangala and Higher Education Loans Board CEO Charles Ringera before the National Education committee at Continental House on June 13, 2024. [Elvis Ogina, Standard] 

Members of Parliament have poked holes in the government’s university placement system and funds allocation.

They argue that the system is unfair in terms of selection and, in some instances, students from vulnerable families don’t get any slots.

Similarly, the MPs claim that several learners from marginalised regions are unable to access higher education due to the stringent cut-off points required for university admission.

Education Committee Chairman Julius Melly highlighted the unfairness of expecting students from hardship areas to compete with those from other regions perceived to be favourable.

“You cannot compare a student sitting an exam in an unfavourable situation and expect them to compete favourably,” Melly said.

He pointed out that regions failing to meet the required cut-off points for specific courses are disproportionately affected.

“If this trend continues unchecked, learners from marginalised regions will suffer the most,” he added. 

He used a medicine course as an example which requires a mean grade of A plain, noting that it will exclude students from marginalised areas since they might not meet the threshold.

For this reason, Melly said places like North Eastern may go for decades without producing a doctor.

Malava MP Malulu Injendi criticised the university placement trend, noting it increasingly favours wealthy families.

Higher Education Principal Secretary Beatrice Inyangala, while addressing the committee regarding university placements and funding model, emphasised that the current policy bases student selection on performance.

She urged MPs to develop policies that provide equal opportunities for marginalised groups.

“We appeal to honourable members to assist us in creating policies that support equal opportunities for marginalised students. The current policy, based solely on merit, appears skewed,” Dr Inyangala stated.

MPs also raised concerns about the university funding model’s reliance on data from sources such as the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), and mobile network providers.

The legislators argued this could disadvantage students from rural areas and those in informal employment sectors where formal registration is limited.

Lugari MP Nabii Nabwera questioned the accuracy of data collection, particularly for students in rural areas with limited access to technology.

This was echoed by Kabondo Kasipul MP Eve Obara who questioned the withdrawal of affirmative action policies that previously favoured female students.

However, Dr Inyangala explained that the new funding model assesses students and places them in financial aid bands.

This, she said, determines the percentage of their university fees covered by scholarships, loans from the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb), and household contributions.

Helb Chief Executive Officer Charles Ringera assured the committee that multiple data sources are used to verify applicants’ information.

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