How students who fail KCSE end up on degree courses

Form Four graduates with grades as low as D are gaining express admission to some local private universities.

A Nation investigation has unearthed the serious breach in university admissions through which a candidate who scored a mean grade of D plain in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) can obtain an undergraduate degree in a record four years or less.

It means one who scores the grade can end up graduating at the same time as another who scores an A plain and is admitted through the Joint Admissions Board.

The investigation that is likely to give credence to employer complaints that institutions are churning out incompetent graduates found out that many of the 36 universities and colleges competing for students have devised a system through which those who failed are put through a three-month programme and afterward offered straight entry to an undergraduate degree programme.

However, Commission for Higher Education (CUE) secretary David Some said Tuesday that degrees obtained through such means were not worth the paper they were written on.

The commission, he said, was aware of many private universities that had admitted unqualified students.

Such graduates would be shocked when they seek jobs in public offices as their degrees would not be endorsed, he warned.


It means that those in universities studying for degree courses but scored C plain or below and did not first go through government-endorsed certificate and diploma courses are in for a rude shock.

"That is the law, that is the regulation, that is the standard and that is the policy, according to our Constitution and even international standards," said Prof Some.

The head of the education standards council said many institutions of higher learning had devised mechanisms of duping Kenyans that they can offer short pre-university courses for prospective students who scored less than C+.

"That is wrong because we will declare the certificates null and void," he said. “These are just ways of looking for money but then as a commission, we are guided by the law and as long as that is the case, then all those who did not meet the prerequisite conditions stand to lose.”

Prof Some was categorical that the only recognised path for those who did not score the minimum grade of C+ and wanted to pursue degree courses was to first undertake a minimum three-year diploma course, acquire work experience then proceed to undertake a degree course.

"Most Kenyans like taking short-cuts but it is only good that those who know this follow the rightful procedure to avoid future tears when one is seeking a public job," he stated.

Those who may want to become governors, MPs and President are among those whose papers could be rejected once the commission’s turn to vet them comes, he said.

"Anything less than the required route is a total waste of money that will later come to haunt many of us."

With a KCSE certificate of C- the Nation was offered a chance, for a former candidate, in most of the private universities.

All that the candidate was asked to pay was Sh50,000 to gain admission to a three-month programme.

Most of the private institutions asked for a Sh1,000 admission fee and in less than five minutes, the candidate would be on the route to acquiring a university degree in less than four years.

This was possible due to the pre-university programme for those who failed to reach the direct university entry grade of C+.

At Presbyterian University, armed with the C– KCSE certificate, the Nation was advised that the student we were applying for would be admitted despite the low marks.

He would be required to go through the pre-university course at the institution’s Kikuyu campus and then join a one-year diploma course before proceeding to a degree course for two years.

The pre-university course entails tuition on Mathematics, English, two science subjects and a bit of introduction to psychology.

At Mt Kenya University, a student with a C – is required to undertake a certificate course for six months. On completion, the student is admitted for a diploma course which takes one year.

The learner will then join an undergraduate course of choice for two and half years.

In total, therefore, a student who failed in KCSE is able to have a degree in four years.


At Kenya Methodist University, all the Nation investigators needed was to apply for the pre-university course.

The United States International University would only admit a student with a C– for a degree course after he or she has undertaken a pre-university course from a number of universities they recommend.

Most of the institutions agreed to admit a C– (minus) student on condition he or she completes the pre-university course and scores a GPA mark of above 2.5.

That guarantees admission on the spot. However, in one of the colleges, the student would still be ineligible for admission to sciences like medicine.

"You can take the other business related programmes like Bachelor in Business Management or art-oriented programmes just like any other," said an official from one of the universities who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Recently, employers complained that students coming out of universities in Kenya were half-baked and could not perform essential functions of the course they studied in the university.


CUE chairman Henry Thairu said the agency was faced with a delicate balancing act between ensuring that quality education was available in Kenya without denying people the right to pursue their dreams.

Those who have not managed to score the requisite grade of a C+ or above should not be condemned entirely but should be afforded the opportunity to access higher education, he said.

"Access and relevance are really the universal benchmarks of a mature education system and as an institution, our intention is really to ensure even the pre-university programmes are not diluted only to serve the cause for money," said Prof Thairu.

The charges for this pre-university course ranges between Sh55,000 to Sh60,000 at different universities.

A student with a GPA score of more than 2.5, the equivalent of a C + is guaranteed a place in the undergraduate class despite the KCSE grade.

Daily Nation, Tuesday February 4, 2014.

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How Can I Get a Degree If I Have Failed
by: Peter

You only talked about those who have a C- having a chance to get a degree. What of those of us with a D+. Please assist!

crash programs
by: Anonymous

I think the timing is on crash programs for beginners and it makes sense.

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