Treat university funding as a stand-alone program

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University education is essential to national economic performance and a major determinant of an individual’s social mobility. However, the cost of a university education is prohibitive for many poor families.

The financing of university education is a sensitive issue and, for this reason, should be treated as a separate program in education reforms.

At independence, university education was free, with the Exchequer covering both tuition and board. In the 1980s, when Bretton Woods introduced structural adjustment programs, the government drastically cut university budgets.

This was the genesis of universities’ financial difficulties and led to the introduction of cost sharing and user fees in institutions. Under the new policy, students were required to cover tuition fees and contribute to boarding costs, which proved onerous for the majority of parents.

The government created the Higher Education Loans Board to help students gain access to university education, but it never solved the problem – underfunding of university programs persisted due to budget cuts.

To alleviate the problem, in 1999 the government pushed universities to introduce a dual-track tuition policy known as the parallel study program (privately sponsored student program), but it was dropped. in 2020. Some have claimed that the program was dropped due to low enrollment. students.

It is important to note that for the 20 years of its existence, the parallel program has been the main source of income for public universities.

Given the complexities involved, the review of university funding should be treated as a stand-alone program and should not be treated as part of the generalities of the Presidential Task Force on Education Reforms.

In addition, education economists and other experts, including policy makers, should be brought on board to re-examine universities’ curricula, academic staff, student enrollment, degrees, income and spending, establishing local and international links and networks for the provision of financial resources. grants, scholarships and partnerships among other areas of cooperation.

Parliament’s Education and Research Committee got the ball rolling in 2018 after finding that not all public universities were adequately funded. The committee recommended that the government review funding criteria to ensure that public universities remain operational. The University Fund was supposed to play a central role in the realization of this initiative, but it never materialized.

Among other recommendations of the committee, since the Commission for University Education (CUE) and the National Council for Science, Technology and Innovation were involved in various revenue-generating activities, their budgets be cut by the National Treasury. and funds channeled to public universities. .

A CUE report, “The State of University Education in Kenya”, indicates that the university sub-sector spends more resources than it receives from various revenue sources. The situation is worrying because the sub-sector is not able to meet its needs with the resources it receives.

If this trend is not corrected, universities may not be able to achieve their goals as specified in Section 3(1) of the Universities Act (2012). Universities need to find innovative ways to fund their programs, including research projects.

The writer is a former general secretary of Knut

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