Have varsities become degree mills?

In the past three years we have witnessed proliferation of universities and constituent colleges and an unmatched scramble for the many able secondary school graduates. A step towards maturity in our education system it may be argued had it not been for the commercialisation that has become inherent in it.

Public universities have taken a profit-making route and are thus driven more by the need to self-sustain and have surplus. As a result they are expanding their scope and the expansion has become an obsession and it is threatening the very ideals that it should be advancing.

The folly of the university growth is that instead of them moving to build their own constituent colleges, they are taking up already existing mid-level colleges as captured by The Standard columnist Okech Kendo on September 28.

The danger is we are losing these key institutions that provide the best technical minds crucial for the growth of emerging economy. This kind of labour is just as essential.

We also need to understand not everyone’s destiny is the university. Some Form Four leavers are just good materials for technical careers, which are best nurtured at the mid-level colleges. The cost of university education is also higher than that of mid-level colleges thus the craze for university degrees effectively kills the dream of innocent young people from poor family backgrounds.

Pursue interests, talents

The Ministry of Education need to come up with measures that would save our technical and mid-level colleges and in the process give all students a fair chance to pursue interests and talents in the amplest possible way.

Commercialising of education is also raising concern in the manner and rate universities are dishing out MBAs. It seems we are too much money-minded at the expense of quality. This way we seem keen to develop a ‘semi-literate’ society that would, no doubt, lead to a dip in economic advancement.

Varsities need to be put in check and education policies streamlined to ensure quality results.

{Bosco Gicheo, Via Email}

The fact that our universities are assuming accreditation procedures is not a secret any more.

Recently, press reports insinuated that a public university had been offering an illegal degree programme and had to recall its graduates to retake a course after getting approvals from concerned authorities.

Another university college was denied accreditation status by National Council for Legal Education, a body that approves law curriculum in universities, after admitting the students to pursue the course.

Last year, the Engineering Registration Board had also rejected some engineering degrees offered by some public universities after the ‘graduates’ of the unaccredited courses had joined the labour market.

The board cited substandard curricula and even threatened to deny graduates from the affected institutions a practicing license.

Instead of addressing concerns raised by ERB and restoring the faith of stakeholders on this quality hiccup, some universities started playing politics by accusing the board of having a hidden agenda.

Interestingly, the universities had the audacity to advertise these ‘illegal’ courses, enroll students, fleece them and award them ‘degrees’. Ironically, the institutions are headed by scholars who earned their degrees from reputable institutions in the land.

How can our institutions stoop so low to the level of becoming degree mills in disregard to quality accreditation procedures? How could they mount programmes first before accreditation? Or what comes first?

Accreditation process

We need to protect the integrity and the quality of our higher education system. We must act on rich quacks out to mount programmes, rake in millions for a year or two then apply for accreditation status. Is it because there is no effective oversight authority to partner with professional bodies in enforcing a accreditation before courses are advertised in the media?

The quality of higher education in any nation is a crude measure of the health and State of its economy. This is because of the cardinal role higher education plays in research and training of skilled personnel for the private and public sectors of the economy.

{Okoth Jawuor, Nairobi}

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