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PROPOSAL: No Setting Up Of New University, Campus or College for 5 Years

If the government adopts the recommendations of a parliamentary committee, there will be not setting up of universities, colleges, or campuses in Kenya.

A raft of other reforms has been proposed with the intention of stabilizing the funding and provision of higher education.

The proposal is intended to curb spending on expansion and channel the available resources on existing programs and staff to reduce the financial pressure that many universities are experiencing.

In the proposals, “non-viable” campuses will be joined together and some programs removed.

University students will be happy with the news that the National Treasury, the Ministry of Education, and the National Assembly Education and Research Committee have agreed to improve allocations to the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) to support more students in universities instead of increasing fees.

“Any review of fees should consider the performance of the economy at that time, given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy,” the chairperson of the committee, Ms. Florence Mutua, said in a statement.

Students are opposed to a proposal by the Vice-Chancellors Committee to increase tuition fees in public universities threefold i.e. from the current Sh 16,000 to Sh. 48,000.

The fee structure has been in place since 1989. The VCs are also pushing for a differentiated cost formula, where fees and government subsidies would depend on the cost of offering the particular courses.

They argue that most universities that offer science, Mathematics, and technology courses have experienced more debts as they spend more to offer the courses.

Universities will also be happy if the Ministry of Education and the National Treasury agree to give them waivers on the statutory payments to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) such as income tax (commonly known as Pay As You Earn – PAYE), as recommended by the committee. The two are expected to present a Cabinet memo authorizing the waivers.

Staff Lay-Off

According to Mrs. Mutua, there is another proposal universities be provided conditional grants to support them clear outstanding debts such as a pension, SACCO, and National Hospital Insurance Fund deductions.

Even if the committee wants extra funding from the Exchequer, it is recommended that university functions and staff be restructured. This could lead to the loss of jobs in public institutions.

The United States International University – Africa is already planning to lay off staff due to a reduction in income.

At Egerton, 400 members and staff have been announced to be set for laying off.

Many institutions of higher learning are experiencing financial problems, are heavily in debt and have not yet remitted statutory payments, and are now under the watchful eyes of KRA and the office of the Auditor-General.

Universities so far have been surviving on money earned from Module II (parallel) programs that were popular with qualified students who missed out on government placement.

Since 2016, however, the Ministry of Education has worked to reduce cases of cheating in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations. Since then, there has been a reduction in qualifiers for university education.

At the moment, those who qualify are eligible for government sponsorship.

In the statement, Mrs. Mutua said that stakeholders who are involved in discussions unanimously agreed that the Ministry of Education should introduce a “five-year moratorium on the establishment of new universities, colleges or campuses as well as explore the possibility of merging non-viable campuses, rationalization of programs and institutions to create centers of excellence.

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