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Over 400 varsity students from Presbyterian University of East Africa to miss graduation

By Paul Wafula | Published Wed, November 19th 2014 at 00:00, Updated November 18th 2014 at 21:46 GMT +3

Some 427 students from Presbyterian University of East Africa who studied unaccredited degree programmes will be locked out of this month's graduation.

The Standard has learnt that an attempt by the church-sponsored institution to have the students graduate with degrees different from those they studied for backfired two weeks ago after the move was rejected by university senate and the Commission for University Education (CUE).

However, the institution's senate has approved the graduation of 200 students, who had taken courses with similarities to those that have accreditation.

The lucky students are those who pursued Bachelor of Business Information Technology and Bachelor of Education in Special Needs, who will now graduate with a degree in Business Administration and a basic degree in education.

"We have a credit transfer programme which allows us to audit the courses they had done. This is what we used to allow these students to graduate because they have more than 50 per cent of the required units," the university's Vice Chancellor, Prof Peter Kibas, who was recruited in May told The Standard. 

He added: "I took over an institution that was already offering these courses that had not been accredited. But my main job has been to fasttrack this process which is at an advanced stage."

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The Thogoto-based institution, which has been offering at least nine programmes illegally, had plotted to have all students in the unaccredited programmes "housed" under other legitimate courses ahead of the graduation at the end of this month.

The plan would have seen students receive degree certificates for courses they never studied as part of a strategy by the new administration to solve the accreditation scandal that it inherited from its predecessors.

Under the arrangement, a student who studied Bachelor of Arts in Journalism would have graduated with a degree in "Bachelor of Business Administration specialising in Communication". Similarly, a student who studied occupational therapy, a health programme, would have graduated with a "degree in theology", an Arts programme accredited by CUE.

The university had already communicated the new decision to some of the affected students, who quickly paid the Sh7,500 graduation fees in readiness for the big day. But things have now taken a different turn after CUE rejected the idea.

"I would like to inform you (students) that after consultations with CUE and the Senate, it was deemed necessary that graduation for unapproved programmes not to be held so that degrees will not be questioned in the marketplace," an text message from the university's head of Hotel and Tourism department to the affected students read in part.

Those locked out of graduation on November 29 include over 200 students who completed Bachelor of Science in Counseling Psychology, Bachelor of Arts Sociology, Bachelor of Science in Occupational therapy and Bachelor of Arts in Criminology.

Also to miss graduation are those who studied Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations, Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, Bachelor of Science – Hotel and Tourism Management and a Master's in Education Management. The courses are yet to be accredited.

Consequently, the students, who spent over Sh600,000 each in the four-year programmed, will now have to shoulder the ultimate burden of the academic mismanagement at the university. According to the university's fees structure, the institution charges about Sh65,000 per semester.

"We are traumatised. Some of our colleagues do not know what to tell parents because they do not understand why we will not be graduating," said another student.

After it's efforts to have students graduate with "alternative degrees" hit rock bottom, the university is now exploring other options of resolving the sticky problem. "When we did analysis of the courses, we realised the students may not fit in. Now we are left with the option of pursuing full accreditation or transferring the affected students to a different university offering similar programmes," said Prof Kibas.

And although the university administration says the total number of students affected are 427, insiders say the number could be much higher if those taking diploma courses and those who have already left the institution are factored in.

Yesterday, CUE said it did not approve the decision by the university to graduate students with alternative degrees as it does not 'interfere with academic freedoms of universities.'

"Such decisions and credit transfers are functions of the university senate. We really do not interfere with academic freedom. All we did is to stop the unaccredited courses," said the commission's CEO, Prof David K Some.