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The East African : October 21st 2013
16 OCTOBER 19-25, 2013 CELEBRATING KENYA@ 50 #WeAreOne The EastAfrican By FAITH NYAMAI Special Correspondent A fter Independence Ken- ya placed considerable importance on the role of education in promot- ing economic and social develop- ment. This resulted in the rapid ex- pansion of the education system to provide qualified persons for the growing economic and ad- ministrative institutions. But there was a key challenge with the provision of university education. The University of Nai- robi being the only public univer- sity then was overwhelmed by the number of students seeking admission. Many students who attained the minimum grade for admission were forced to seek costly foreign alternatives or forego university education altogether. But before long, private uni- versities started setting up to fill the void. Private universities in Kenya fall into three categories; chartered, registered and those operating on letters of interim authority. Private higher education in Kenya can be traced to the co- lonial period when missionaries established schools and colleges for their converts. The first pri- vate institutions of higher learn- ing were St Paul’s United Theo- logical college in 1955 and Scott Theological College in1962. Later in 1969, the United States Inter- national University (USIU) was established making it as the first institution of higher education after Independence. It was fol- lowed by Daystar University in 1974 and the Nandi-based East African University, Baraton, in 1978. Private universities’ enrol- ment picked up in the 1980s and 1990s when the policy shift emerged promoting recognition of private universities. With the exception of some institutions such as USIS, most private uni- versities in Kenya were church- sponsored and controlled By late 1980s and early 1990s other private universities came into being. These were the Cath- olic University of Eastern Africa, Africa Nazarene, Methodist Uni- versity (Kemu), Mount Kenya University, Aga Khan University, Public universities admit about 10,000 students annually out of over 50,000 qualifying secondary school graduates P≥ivate unive≥sities step in to abso≥b mo≥e unde≥g≥ads Strathmore University, Kabarak University and Kiriri Women’s University of Science and Tech- nology. However, these institutions had limited admissions, ranging from 500 in the smallest to 2,000 in the largest. Their curriculum was also largely geared towards the arts and commercial courses. Today, many of them have improved greatly and are attracting large numbers of students with major- ity of the students being female and the quality of education has improved making their gradu- ates much sough after. But since most private insti- tutions depend on tuition and other fees for their revenue, coupled with lack of al- ternative income sources have made them expensive and thus unaffordable for most Kenyans, in effect, limiting their services to the children of the middle income and rich fami- lies. In order to provide legal en- vironment and institutional framework for the regulation of higher education in a liberated manner, the government enact- ed the Commission for Higher Education (CHE) Act in 1995. This provided a much desirable incentive for growth of private universities in Kenya. These universities are estab- lished through institutional Acts of Parliament under the Univer- sities Act, 2012 which provides for the development of university education, their establishment, authorisation and governance. The rapid growth of private universities in Kenya has been triggered by several factors in- cluding limited admis- sion to public uni- versities, the FOR PURPOSES OF ADMISSION, THE PRIVATE UNIVERSITIES USE THE NATIONAL MINIMUM CUT- OFF POINTS OF GRADE C+ (PLUS) IN THE KENYA CERTIFICATE OF SECONDARY EDUCATION (KCSE) CRITERIA Graduates of St Paul’s University, Limuru, follow proceedings during the university’s 28th graduation ceremony. A number of students opt for private. Pic: File regular interruption of learning at public universities and the de- sire to supplement government- managed institutions. Since most private universi- ties are run by religious organi- sations they tend to make theo- logical courses compulsory. It was until the introduc- tion of the new Constitution in 2010 that some of the uni- versities had to admit stu- dents without discrimina- tion based on religious beliefs. The perception that private universities were academically inferior to public universities has since ended. Today, they are seen as mainstream institutions offering instruction of compara- ble or even higher quality than public universities. The question of whether this is true has been reflected in many of the compa- nies in Kenya preferring gradu- ates from a particular private universities. Despite the high demand for university education, public universities admit about 10,000 students annually out of over 50,000 qualifying secondary school graduates (according to the Joint Admissions Board, 2003). This means over 40,000 students have to seek higher education in either tertiary col- leges, opt for parallel degrees or join private universities. For purposes of admission, the private universities use the national minimum cut-off points of grade C+ (plus) in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary education (KCSE) examinations for Kenyan students and for non-Kenyan students; the mini- mum university requirements in their own countries. They have also expanded their space of admission to students who attained a mean grade of C (Plain) through provision of pre- university programmes. The admission to private universities is also determined by the student’s ability to meet the cost of their education and accommodation although some universities have come up with sponsorship programmes that help students from poor back- grounds. Currently, Kenya has 17 char- tered private universities, five private university constituent colleges, 12 private universities operating with letter of interim Authority and two registered private universities.
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