Ruto’s Mouth-Watering Promises to the Education Sector

Ruto: University Intake Will Be Based on Government’s Ability, Not Entry Grade

President William Ruto has revealed plans to change the funding model for public universities. The new model will see the universities admit students only based on the government’s ability to support them rather than their performance in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations.

Should the move be implemented, fewer students will get government sponsorship as opposed to the current case, where all students who score the minimum university entry grade of C+ are eligible for government support.

Consequently, this will cause a resurgence of the self-sponsored programmes, which attracted students who missed out on government sponsorship, and minted billions of shillings for universities.

“Funding for public universities remains inadequate, with multiple implications for their performance and capacity to contribute optimally to the national agenda.

“I want to commit that my administration is going to ensure that we create a framework that makes it possible for every university to admit students that the Government of Kenya can support,” President Ruto said on Thursday when he officiated at the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of tuition blocks at the Technical University of Kenya (TUK) in Nairobi.

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“We have received recommendations from different stakeholders and they are practical and workable. When we finally come through with the recommendations from the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms (PWPER), we’ll capture all the aspects so that the 50 per cent resources that are available to the universities at the moment, which is making it very difficult for our institutions of higher learning to carry out the courses and train our young people appropriately, we can close the gaps and ensure that we provide alternative sources of funding so that there should be adequate funding for all the courses,” he said.

According to Universities Fund (UF) Chief Executive Geoffrey Monari, the decision would get universities out of the financial morass they are in. Public universities are said to have cumulatively accrued debts totalling Sh56.1 billion.

Mr Monari explained that the fund has proposed three options for university funding: increasing fees paid by students; supporting only students the government can afford to; or supporting students based on their needs. He, however, ruled out increasing fees soon, saying that the timing would not be right because many families are struggling financially.

“Under the Differentiated Unit Cost arrangement (DUC) that is used for capitation, all students placed in universities by the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) are expected to be funded by government to the tune of 80 per cent of the unit cost,” Mr Monari said.

“However, due to lack of sufficient funds, the allocation started at 66 per cent in public universities in the financial year 2017/2018 and gradually reduced to 48.11 per cent in public universities and 21.94 per cent for private universities in 2021/2022,” he explained.

The total number of government-sponsored students in both public and private universities is 434,631 with a DUC requirement of Sh87.3 billion, but the available budget is Sh47.4 billion. This leaves a deficit of about Sh40 billion.

University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor Stephen Kiama told the Nation universities have a declared capacity of about 350,000, yet only about 140,000 qualify for university admission. He faulted the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) for “failing” to moderate KCSE exam results since 2016, which has seen fewer students qualify.

“Knec has to ensure that it does as is expected, to moderate KCSE results to reflect a normal distribution curve. C+ is about the median, which isn’t possible in a normal population. If Knec correctly measures the ability of students, we won’t have a problem with Module II. We’ll have more qualifying for university,” said Prof Kiama.

Mt Kenya University founder Simon Gicharu welcomed the announcement by President Ruto, saying the decision to support all students who scored a mean grade of C+ left few students for private universities.

“It was business death for private universities. To help the sector, there’s need to address that. It was a political decision that the President is correcting. UF should do calculations and give the number they can support,” he said.

A total of 78,650 government-sponsored students are currently admitted to private universities, with a DUC requirement of Sh12.3 billion. However, the government has only provided Sh3.4 billion.

Mr Gicharu said with the reforms, private universities would not need to be allocated government-sponsored students since there would be a “level playing field” for all.

The National Association of Private Universities in Kenya has also proposed that KUCCPS places students based on available funds and DUC as determined by UF.

“Government sponsorship for university education be formulated on the basis of deserving cases, affirmative action and in support of government national development agenda,” reads the memorandum presented to PWPER.

Vice-chancellors of public universities have been complaining about inadequate funding and are also opposed to government sponsorship of students in private universities when the public ones are in financial doldrums.

While at TUK, the President also announced that the charter establishing the university will be re-worked to make it a specialised technical university.

The university, which initially existed as Kenya Polytechnic before elevation to a university in 2014, is in advanced plans to establish an independent technical and vocational education and training (Tvet) institution in South C. The development will see the institution focus more on Tvet and also train instructors for other Tvet institutions.

“I’m aware that there is a misalignment between the ministry’s charter and the constitutive legislative instruments that affects the clarity of its mandate. After consultations with the council chair and the vice-chancellor, we will re-work and re-charter this university so that we can establish it as a special technical university. TUK should not just be technical in name. It should be a technical university by charter,” the President said.

President Ruto said the specialisation will make the university a centre of excellence for technical training and also support industry with requisite skills.

“It’s important that the institution maintains its core identity as a polytechnical university. This means that its mandate to train at the diploma level must be sustained. I’m aware that funding for this component has not been up to the appropriate levels. I have asked the CS (Cabinet secretary)  to make appropriate arrangements to ensure this university lives up to its founding mandate by providing funding to it to continue offering diploma programmes,” he said.

The President added that the Ministry of Education would make budgetary arrangements to provide resources for the construction of the Tvet college in South C to start immediately.

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