Commission for University Education is to blame

Between January and December 2015, the Commission for University Education (CUE) in its first satellite campus accreditation exercise, inspected a total of 56 campuses in Nairobi, Lodwar, Western, Nyanza and Rift Valley. During the time, it identified 8 campuses for closure in Nairobi and 11 in Western, Nyanza and the Rift Valley regions, a total of 19 representing a high of 34%. The commission is, currently, in the process of inspecting campuses in Eastern, Central and the Coastal region, its third cluster region according to the commission’s Chief Executive Officer, Prof. David Some.

Kisii University bore the brunt with barely three months to lose its 10, out of its 13, satellite campuses of Eldoret, Eldama- Ravine, Nyamira, Kabarnet, Migori, Ogembo, Keroka, Kehancha, Kapenguria and Isebania. Its other campuses of Kisumu, Kericho and Kitale were not closed. According to the commission, campuses that obtained a score of less than 50 percent on the evaluation criteria or scored less than half on campus organization into tuition, administrative and residential areas were identified for closure.

Others are those located in environments incompatible with learning such as near bars, casinos, brothels, bus parks, markets, airports, quarries, dumpsites or factories. The commission chaired by Prof. Henry Thairu also announced on the Friday January 22nd 2016 that they do not recognize five PhD degrees Kisii University awarded in December 2014 and the degrees of two students in their Master Degree programmes, reasoning that, “student admissions were highly irregular based on post-graduate credit transfers policy that is not provided for in either the Kisii University statutes or the Universities Standards and Guidelines, 2014”.

Students registered in an educational institution in Kenya and intending to conduct field research should be introduced to the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI) by their head of college/institution. NACOSTI is a statute advisory institution of the Government of Kenya on matters of national science, technology, innovation and research. All post-study reports are submitted to NACOSTI. It is unclear the decision role of CUE in the matter of the postgraduate degrees, at Kisii.

Kisii and Laikipia Universities, await audit reports in two weeks. Laikipia University lost its Nyahururu town campus and has three months, from January 14, 2016 to relocate the students in its Nyahururu town campus much as Kisii has to do the same to its surviving three campuses. Kisii University has vowed to defy the order to close its campuses. Last year, the commission raised queries about the University of Nairobi’s law faculty at Kisumu campus, and some Moi University’s law school faculty, among several other satellite campuses including those of the quickly expanding private Mount Kenya University (MKU), Nazarene University, Maseno and Egerton Universities.

The demand for university education in Kenya has significantly increased. The government of Kenya, in its own policy statement, advocated for a double intake of university students in the 2011/12 academic year. The very government has a policy of admission to university pegged at C+ for self-paying students while the B grades have their education subsidized considerably under ‘regular’ entry. When public universities get into haphazard expansion, through market penetration tactics, the twin questions of what markets they are competing for and the basic essence of a university become imperative. Facilities, spaces and teachers, to match the implementation requirements of these policy guidelines, rivet the quality equation clearly in regulations.

The Commission for University Education was established by Universities Act, and No. 42 of 2012 as the successor to the Commission for Higher Education of Universities Act Cap 210B of 1985. This was to address the need to regulate, coordinate and assure quality, in university education as a result of growth and expansion of the university sub-sector in Kenya. The Commission was established as a body corporate to make better provisions for the advancement of quality university education in the country. In its strategy statement the commission recognizes its mandate to promote the objectives of university education, by regulating and accrediting universities and programmes, among other functions, with a vision of accessible, relevant and sustainable quality university education. In its quality statement, the commission is committed to ensuring increased access to sustainable quality university education and training through planning, coordination, resource mobilization, quality assurance enhancement and information service with a commitment to understand customer requirements and their challenges.

On the Universities Standards and Guidelines, 2014, to register a university satellite campus the applicant makes application for authority to establish a university campus under regulation 43 and attach therewith the campus profile required by regulation 43 (c) of the Universities Regulations 2014. The regulation has the following key components in its eight schedules: Institutional standards; standards of physical resources; standards for an academic programme; standards for open, distance and e–learning; standards for university libraries; standards for technical universities; standards for specialized degree awarding institutions; and the eighth schedule on commission forms. CUE Chairperson, Henry Thairu, says they took the decision to carry out an audit, after closing 10 out of 13, of Kisii University campuses.

Where did these campuses, originally, get authority from? What happens to a rented second floor campus where there is no land space, a major university requirement? When students see the list of accredited universities by CUE and join the unlisted satellite campuses, on advice of these parent universities, where does the following advice from Prof. Thairu fall? - “Students should be careful as to where they go to university; to go to accredited institutions. If you don’t do then you take the responsibility of only having a paper certificate”. What is the position of CUE, to the public, on the accredited satellite campuses, about the responsibility of the students? Where do we want students and the affected community of stakeholders to stand amid such a chaotic administrative flop of poor customer and public relations experience strategy?

In a shopping center what is the manageable campus distance away from the ‘bar’, the ‘brothel’ and the “dumpsite”? Never mind, that the commission on Redhill Road does not have a single name of these satellite campuses, it’s ‘auditing’, under its list of ‘authorized universities to operate in Kenya’ pursuant to section 28 (4) of the Act. Prof. Thairu’s commission is a complete case of strategic leadership, structural and cultural inertia, reeling under the weight inability to conform to environmental realities of a quick challenging higher education environment. Clearly higher education failure resides at the CUE.

The writer, a PhD Candidate, is a Part-Time Lecturer and a Management Consultant in Strategic Management   Policy (E-mail: [email protected])