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Karatina University has highest percentage of lecturers with PhDs

UREPORT
By Lydiah Nyawira | July 6th 2017

Professor Mucai Muchiri served in Moi University for 18 years in various capacities before he came to Karatina University in 2007 as a Vice chancellor in what was originally the Mount Kenya Campus of Moi University. He was tasked with transforming the institution from a Kenya Tea Development Agency Training facility into what it is today. Prof Muchiri has a Doctorate of Philosophy from Leiceister University in the United Kingdom.

What has been your experience in establishing an institution from the ground up?
When I was sent here I knew immediately it would be an uphill task because was the institution had no students, staff or academic programs on which to build on. I had to be resilient in overcoming the challenges I faced, the location of the institution was the first concern. Karatina University was so far from the Moi University and getting things done required extra effort and patience.
I had to, for Instance, rely on lectures traveling all the way from Eldoret to come teach here before we could employ our own staff. Fortunately we had the backing of Moi University because in 2010 it became Karatina University College, a constituent college of Moi University. Finally, in 2013, Karatina University was awarded a charter and our own statutes allowing us to become autonomous in terms of management and administration.

What factors did you consider while establishing the academic courses?
Our key academic programs are based on adding value to the location and the region we are serving.

Since we are located just a few kilometres from Mt Kenya Forest, in the heart of an agricultural society, we focused on establishing the schools of Agriculture and Biotechnology and Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. You cannot have agricultural courses without applied sciences, so we also introduced Pure and Applied sciences.
We consulted the local community on what their needs were and they pointed out that introduction of Business, Education and Social Sciences was imperative.

What have been some of your key milestones as a university?Well, one of our biggest milestone is increased enrolment of students. When we started the first diploma class we had only 23 students; we are currently admitting up to 8,000 students.
Also, we have managed to maintain the highest quality of staff as we do not hire any lecturer who does not have a Phd, and those who come on board as tutorial fellows are encouraged to work towards furthering their education. I believe we have the highest percentage of PhD holders as members of staff compared to other universities.

What are the key pillars of academia you have established?We strive to ensure that we maintain the highest levels of quality in terms of education and examination of our students.
We do not compromise in our examinations and do not tolerate any shortcuts or cheating on examinations.

The workload for both lecturers and the students has to be re-examined by their peers to ensure we do no compromise on the same. Karatina University is also focused on encouraging research projects for our lecturers and tutor fellows for this reason is a key pillar of any reputable university.

We offer flexible schedules for staff who would like to pursue research projects and assist them in preparing fundable proposals so they can further research in their fields of academia. So far we have had four project proposals from our staff which have been funded by the National Research Foundation.

We encourage our staff to publish research papers as often as possible which we review annually. One of the most encouraging accomplishments of our university is the fact that we have graduates who are marketable in the current job environment. I often come across students and employers who commend me and the institution for preparing them for the job market.

The fact that the institution had very limited Infrastructure when we came on board, there has been a push to expand the facility to accommodate the growing student population.
We have a tuition building under construction as well as hostels, which will increase our capacity to hold more students within the campus.
Our most ambitious project is a multipurpose resource centre which has partially been handed over by the national government to the university which cost Sh625 million.
By the end of December we hope it will be complete. Also, we have a new hostel which will accommodate 920 students which will be ready for use by the beginning of the next academic year, which starts in August this year.


What is the key lesson you learnt have since the establishment of this institution?
Never underestimate the impact of an institution of higher learning in any community, I say this because I have witnessed first-hand the changes that Karatina University has brought to this community and its people.


There is a thirst for education and knowledge and once the university reached out the community and gave them a chance to understand that it would serve them both economically and intellectually, the locals started to accept and welcome us.


In the beginning there was an air of fear and distrust towards strangers because this was a close knit society. I have learnt that no institution can thrive without close cooperation and support of the society it works in.

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