Poor scores threaten parallel degree programmes
A state sponsored student in a public university pays about Sh17,000 per semester. In comparison, a privately sponsored student in the same institution pays upwards of Sh70,000 a semester while fees charged in private universities vary. At Daystar University, a first year at their Athi River Campus, for instance, will pay at least Sh99,200 in the first semester alone.
Prof Aduol says that the parallel programmes which were introduced in the year 2000 were started with good intentions.
“One cannot deny that quality has been compromised because every university took its own road because of greed when universities realised there was a demand,” he says.
“It will bring some order and universities will have to think of other avenues they can exploit in order to attract students, like by improving the quality of education they offer.” he adds.
Currently, the country has 33 public universities and 35 private ones, out of which 17 are fully chartered with a combined total of 539,749 students, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. About two-thirds of these are self-sponsored and the Commission for University Education (CUE) has declared that they will all share the 88,000 students this year.
“We cannot change that unless the government directs so,” CUE chief executive David Some says.
“This would enable us implement the programme where university students get loans depending on their courses, known as Differentiated Unit Cost (DUC), which will be rolled out in July to address some of the shortcomings in funding,” he says.INCREASE FUNDING
Universities last year proposed an increase in funding to students from the current Sh32 billion per year to Sh65 billion. A report by vice-chancellors led by Prof Aduol said it costs Sh600,000 to train a dentist, medicine costs Sh576,000, veterinary medicine Sh468,000, pharmacy
Sh432,000 and a general art degree Sh144,000. Under the current funding formula, the government provides Sh86,000 to public universities for each student in public universities.
But while public universities will have the consolation of getting a huge chunk of the government sponsored students because of the low fees they charge, private universities will most likely struggle to get the required numbers due to the cost factor.
Last year, they managed to lobby the government to admit 12,000 of their first year students but the National Association of Private Universities in Kenya says their annual enrolment capacity is 20,000 students. Mr Simon Gicharu, who is the association’s chair, says they have to re-engineer their business models in order to survive.
“The problem is that most private universities only offer art-based courses which puts them at a disadvantage and because the meat is now too small to share, those that do not change their business models will not survive,” he says.
“A good way would be strengthening the diploma courses and introducing science-based courses like medicine and engineering,” he says.
Private universities depend entirely on student fees for their upkeep are already struggling to exist as demonstrated by a report released in August last year by CUE which said they are indebted to a tune of Sh7 billion.
State owned universities receive up to 50 per cent of their income from the government.
“The university sub-sector is spending more resources than what it receives from the various income streams. If this trend is not remedied then the universities may not meet their obligations as mandated in law,” said The State of University Education in Kenya report.
It added that a number of institutions were on the verge of folding up.
Sunday Nation - Sunday 1st January, 2016