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Agency fails to explain varsity placement rule

Higher Education Principal Secretary Beatrice Muganda. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The Commission on University Education (CUE) was at pains to explain the criteria it uses to determine the number of students a university can take.

A parliamentary committee Tuesday questioned the commission’s top management on its decision to authorise the placement of excess students in some universities during the 2024/ 2025 placement, despite the institutions not having the staffing capacity to cater for the high numbers.

The commission had appeared alongside the Higher Education Principal Secretary Beatrice Muganda to answer queries over the university education admission and funding model.

Documents tabled before the National Assembly Education Committee showed that Kisii University got the highest allocation of 16,000 students compared to institutions such as the University of Nairobi which was allocated 8,604 students and the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology 8,903 students.

Maseno University got an allocation of 10,821, Kenyatta University 10,211 students, Karatina University 9, 180, Maasai Mara University 8,490, Chuka University 8,290 while Tom Mboya University got 7,536.

Egerton University got an allocation of 7,400 students, University of Eldoret 7,228 and Pwani University 7,000.

Institutions that got the lowest allocations include Kenyatta University-Mama Ngina University College 1,174, Alupe University (1,420) and Koitalel Samoei University College (1,646).

Under the private institutions, Mount Kenya University got the highest numbers in terms of placement at 6,103, KCA University (5,911), Zetech University (4,140), Daystar University (3,746) and Kabarak University (3,430).

Private universities that got the least allocation of students include Riara University with 126, International Leadership University (300), and Uzima University (340), Marist International University (400), while Tangaza University College and AMREF International University got 420 and 565 placements respectively.

The committee chaired by Julius Melly pressed CUE Senior Assistant Commission Secretary and Head of Programme Accreditation Marcella Mwaka, to explain the rationale it used to place 16,000 students in Kisii University, for instance, yet it did not have the requisite staffing and infrastructure to accommodate the students.

“Our concern is Kisii University which received a higher enrollment allocation compared to other big universities. You should do a comparative analysis with five other universities and tell us why Kisii deserves the high allocation and not other universities,” said Siaya MP Christine Ombaka.

Melly accused CUE of “lying to Kenyans” and “misusing young Kenyans” by allowing them to be enrolled in schools with inadequate staffing.

“Are you sleeping on the job and aiding inefficiencies in our universities? It seems you are misusing young Kenyans if you cannot ensure that universities are adequately staffed,” he said.

Melly's sentiments came after the House team established that Kisii University had a total 317 academic staff, 91 lecture rooms and 18 laboratories. To effectively cater to the first-year cohort of 16,000 students alone, Mwaka said approximately 1,000 academic staff were needed.

The committee however questioned the head of programs and Accreditation at CUE demanding to know the considerations the agency employs before deciding on the capacity of an institution.

“We also want to know how many units a lecturer is allowed to teach in a university. We are aware that some are under teaching while others are over teaching,” said Kabando Kasipul MP, Eve Obara.

Mwaka explained that, “Kisii university has 60 per cent of the programmes in arts and humanities and they are not highly dependent on laboratories. Ideally in social sciences the ratio allowed is 1 is to 16 but at the moment we adopt a ratio of 1 is to 30. In this case however we would expect the university to have slightly over 1000 academic staff.”

She further submitted that the universities do declare their own capacities, but this only prompted the MPs to accuse the commission of not conducting due diligence.

The Public Universities Vice Chancellors Committee chairperson Daniel Mugendi, who is also the Embu Vice Chancellor, however explained that before CUE allows a university to admit students, they consider the available space, lecture halls, classrooms, number of lecturers, library, the books available as well as availability of laboratories for science subjects.

“There is a process we go through every year before declaring vacancies in our institutions. When we do that, we submit our data to CUE and Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS), once that is done, CUE then validates the numbers given and sometimes they even come physically to our institutions to confirm what we have given them is the true picture,” said Mugendi.

The House team, was however dissatisfied with the responses from CUE.

Kibra MP Peter Orero reprimanded Mwaka for her unsatisfactory answers saying, “I propose that we stand Mwaka down because she is very inconsistent. The facts she is giving us are at variance of all our questions.”

The committee chairperson stood down the witness and ruled that the CUE be summoned to appear before the committee over the issue next week. 

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