Monari: New varsity funding model will boost education quality

By - Sep 25th 2023

The government is implementing a new model for funding university education based on the cost of the programme, unlike the previous one based on Differentiated Unit Cost. Universities Fund CEO GEOFFREY MONARI tells MIKE KIHAKI how the system will not only help get the institutions out of debt but also improve the quality of education:

Briefly enlighten us on the new University Funding Model:

We are coming from a mixture of funding models where we were funding students depending on Differentiated Unit Cost (DUC), which came in place in 2016. After 1989/1990, the fees were pegged at Sh16,000 which students have continued to pay to date. Under this, we had four cluster programmes with each cluster having programme cost. The government was supposed to fund students at 80 per cent for each programme cost with students expected to fund the remaining 20 per cent through the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) or household. However, it continued to reduce to 48 per cent and this year students were to get 34 per cent.

What is the genesis of the current problems in universities?

Universities were facing several challenges undermining the quality of education that the students were getting and hence could not fit in the job market according to feedback from the industry. This was brought about by accumulative debts amounting to Sh61 billion in statutory deductions. Universities were not even able to pay their lecturers with some facing closure and legal charges. Students, on the other hand, demanded enhanced loans from HELB for upkeep. 

What is the way out?

As the enrolment to universities increased, the funding remained static. The government realised that if we continued with the same model, we were going to face more challenges. Through the Presidential Working Party (PWP) recommendations, we needed to find a way to support these students.

The PWP recommendations were to see the quality of university education go up, universities’ debt to be revised so that they could service suppliers, and pay lecturers who were going on low per cent salaries. The committee came up with a new funding model.

Take us through the new funding model

The new funding has four components. Most vulnerable students will get 82 per cent of scholarships and 18 per cent of loans while the very needy will receive 70 per cent of scholarships and 30 per cent of loans.

The two categories will be fully funded by the government. Needy cases will receive 40 per cent scholarships and 53 in loans while less needy will receive 38 per cent scholarships and 55 loans. The two households will pay five per cent. 

How can this model prevent universities from sliding back into debt?

The implementation targets both universities and TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) with a total of 265,000 students, 140,000 being university. We have already registered 170,000 applicants for the funding and started the process of categorising them which will take two to three weeks maximum. The government plans to enhance this amount in the supplementary budget to enable all students to be funded. 

What are some of the reforms that come with the new system? How is it different from the previous one?

We are moving from funding students based on quantity to funding based on equity. We are looking at the level of need. Previously, the grant given was based on you being admitted to the university, not on need. We have also de-linked placement from admissions. You can be placed but if you don’t want funding, we will not fund you.

The new model is based on the cost of the programme, unlike the previous one which was based on DUC. We are disclosing the full cost of the programme, which was not the case before. This gives students a choice based on what they can afford and on merit.

Students will be required to apply for funding and like before, where, once you are placed it is a must you get funds.

What are some of the achievements made?

We now have inclusivity. There is increased funding since the government has set aside Sh15.9 billion for scholarships and Sh29 billion for loans to first-year students. This is an increase of Sh10 billion from last year’s disbursement.

This will enhance quality education since universities will be forced to offer better quality service to attract students. This will also bring in performance-based funding, where universities must be able to perform well so that graduates are endeared towards the market than previously.

What are some of the challenges faced?

System failure because of the validation process. Technology challenge for those who did not understand how to apply. Some students did not take time to read as they assumed it was the same as the previous one - you have applied for both scholarships and loans. 

Opening dates came very soon after the report was released. Students are reporting when validation is just beginning. There are administrative challenges in understanding the formula. Many students are not conversant.

What are you doing to mitigate the challenges?

The misinformation reaching the ground has forced us to hit the ground to pass the correct information. We are working on sensitisation across the country using vernacular radio and TV stations and social media to try and assist the students.

The Education CS has written to his Interior counterpart to use administrators to disseminate information. We are also using the education system through the teachers’ unions to pass on the information. 

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