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What education reforms mean for universities, students

By Brian Guserwa | January 13th 2017 at 15:13:13 GMT +0300

In January, fresh from overhauling the systems in primary and secondary school education, Education CS Fred Matiang’i turned his attention to universities.

Standards of university education have been on a free fall —for a long time — an opinion shared by many Kenyans and referred to repeatedly by the Cabinet Secretary. In his letter to the Council for University education, he highlighted the quality of degree programmes, the admission criteria for universities and qualification of students as key areas that needed to be looked into. Subsequently, Matiang’i promised reforms that would be ‘painful and difficult to accept’.

But what exactly do these reforms entail? The release of the 2016 KCSE results marked a departure from the high scoring that had become the norm. In 2016, only 88,929 candidates out of the 577,253 that sat the examinations attained a C+ and above. This is in stark contrast to the 169,492 candidates from 2015.

The first significant change is the increased admission cutoff point, as well as the fact that all qualified candidates will gain admission into university. The biggest casualty of this will be institutions offering parallel programmes. Further, the Commission for University Education, at the instruction of the Cabinet Secretary, has moved to revoke any degrees held by individuals who did not qualify to attend university in the first place.

Anyone who attained lower than a C+, therefore, is in possession of an invalid degree, provided they did not first do a three-year diploma course.

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For university students, change may not be immediate, but it is looming. Already, all bodies that regulate university education and accreditation have been deregistered, except The Kenya National Examinations Council and the Commission for University Education. A review of degree programmes at all our universities is underway. Once it is done, courses that do not meet standards will be scrapped.

Comrades can expect tougher measures put in place to curb examination cheating. This in particular has become so common that it is now considered necessary. It has led to the perception that university students are half baked and incapable of real life application.

As promised, the reforms are already proving difficult to accept; a section of students from The Technical University of Kenya last week demanded a solution from their student leaders in the event the institution was shut down.


Brian Guserwa

Education CS Fred Matiang’i University Council for University education
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