The decision by Kisii and Maasai Mara universities to close down five satellite campuses each in compliance with directive of the Commission for University Education (CUE) is a move in the right direction. Immediately he assumed the Education docket, Cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i raised concerns about the state of university education.
They included management approach which has almost brought paralysis to some universities, the tendency for ad hoc expansion, questionable human resource capacity, credibility of infrastructure, shallow ICT-driven facilitation, the preoccupation with quantity and lack of motivation.
A hallmark of Kenya’s development has been the rapid expansion of education from basic to tertiary levels. From a single university college at independence in 1963 to more than 50 private and public universities today, the rise is phenomenal and has meant exponential growth in human resource capital that is essential to boost development.
However, indications are that the rapid expansion may have also come with downsides, including compromised standards. Higher education presupposes attainment of specific benchmarks.
The pressure from mass education has had the impact of pushing ever increasing bigger numbers from one level to the next, including higher education but against a backdrop of diminishing government funding.
The Module II concept was borne out of this necessity. Unfortunately, this was done without corresponding facilitation in terms of infrastructure, academic staff and resources to enable the varsities deal with numbers. And while the move has helped thousands attain academic fulfilment, it came with question marks over standards.
The failure of regulatory instruments to deal with shortfalls prompted alarmed professional bodies to intervene. It started with professional engineers body raising the red flag over capacity of certain universities to train engineers.
The Legal Council took similar measures over training of lawyers. The pain of closing institutions with registered students is heart-rending for the 10 satellite campuses for the two universities. But it is more painful to be saddled with questionable degrees.
Standards are a cardinal component of university education. Universities are expected to have certain hallmarks defined by such issues as who qualifies to join university, the environment, including facilities where credible academic discourse can occur, the ratio and level of academic staff to students etc.
Our own findings returned a verdict of worrying state in terms of scholarly attributes in a majority of the campuses earmarked for closure.