Ramped up bid to end placement of govt-sponsored students in private universities

Members of Parliament have recommended that the government halts placing government-sponsored students in private universities starting from the next intake of 2023.

The recommendation is part of four changes in the education sector included in the 2023 Budget Policy Statement.

According to a statement seen by NTV, public university lecturers are also supporting the move, claiming that the funds sent to private institutions should be used to cushion public universities from financial crisis.

Even so, it is feared by some educationists that the end of the placement of government-sponsored students in private universities could see thousands miss direct entry to universities because of limited slots determined by bed capacity.

A report tabled in parliament in 2021 showed the government sent 86,270 state-sponsored students to private universities in a six years period. 

According to data from the Universities Fund, 271,446 public university students were funded with KES 41.9 billion in 2020-2021. On the other hand, private universities received KES 2.7 billion— 61,541 students were funded in the same year.

“Some private universities have been receiving a high number of state-sponsored students, more than even UoN (University of Nairobi) and other public universities. What logic is that?” said Universities Academic Staff Union organizing secretary Onesmus Mutio.

The move, if approved by Parliament, will spell the end of private universities that have been relying on state capitation to stay afloat amid financial turmoil in institutions of higher learning.

In one case, the government was asked to pay KES 250 million to Uzima University as pending bills.

MPs have previously questioned why the state is funding private universities yet the institutions are not open to audit by the nation’s Auditor General. In a previous meeting, Education committee chairman Julius Melly questioned why the state was still placing students in private universities.

“We used to admit students in private universities because of space but now that the issue is over, are we still processing students to private universities and if yes, what’s the basis?” Melly asked.

The policy programme was introduced in 2016 as part of the government’s strategy to ensure that students who score the university minimum entry grade of C plus are absorbed and funded by the state.

“The State Department for Higher Education and Research, through the KUCCPS (Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service), should not place new government-sponsored students in private universities,” reads the report tabled on Wednesday in the National Assembly by the Budget and Appropriations Committee chairman Ndindi Nyoro.

The government has been struggling to fund public universities choking on debts amounting to more than KES 60 billion.

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