The Commission for University Education (CUE) has recently scrapped a number of university courses citing various reasons. This move has elicited mixed reactions from students, parents, employers, job seekers and a plethora of other stakeholders.

Students who had enrolled in the courses will have an uphill task in switching to other courses which may already be flooded. Nobody will compensate them for lost time and fees paid for unmarketable courses. Parents will be at pains on where to take their children for new courses, not to mention the money lost in those thrown out. They will not be sure whether the other new courses will face the fate.

Most people must be looking for whom to blame and seeking long-term solutions to avert a similar occurrence in future. I want to look at the part universities, CEU and the Ministry of Education played in this educational misgiving.

Universities have a key role in developing curriculum for degree courses that meet the labour market demands. They are expected to engage the industry and other stakeholders in the process. When stakeholders are left out of the curriculum development process, the result is irrelevant courses that are rejected before they even arrive in the labour market.

The existing poor or weak interfaces between the universities and the industry need to be strengthened for the production of market driven degree programs.

Universities have administrative procedures for recommendations and final approval of new courses. It is possible that some procedures are defective to the extent of allowing a topic within another course to become a full degree course. The matter is worse when the degree course imparts skills that employers do not require.

It is time the university senates reviewed existing education administration systems to either overhaul them or strengthen them with modern practices. Before approving the courses, the senates should demand a labour market report for proposed degree programmes.

Some cash-strapped universities could have rolled out some of the rejected courses to generate revenue instead of meeting the students’ search for employable skills. It is sad that the government reduced funding to universities without providing guidelines on financial sustainability. Reviews of university income and expenditure budgets should be done to solve existing financial problems.

Besides content of the courses, CUE should broaden its mandate to include the marketability of the degree courses

Poor remuneration of university lecturers is a factor that adversely affects their productivity. The lecturers find their pay is not adequate to meet living expenses. The salary negotiations that UASU made with the government are either not implemented or delayed until they resort to strikes. Time spent in fighting for agreed pay deflects the lecturers from their responsibilities such as curriculum development. The government should honour its obligations on Collective Bargaining Agreements with UASU

CEU is mandated to approve degree courses from universities before they are implemented. For the scrapped courses to have passed through CEU approval, it puts the oversight capacity of CUE on the spot as well. Besides content of the courses, CUE should broaden its mandate to include the marketability of the degree courses before giving a blanket approval.

The Ministry of Education is responsible for ensuring that that quality university education is offered in institutions of higher learning. The ministry has delegated the day-to-day aspect of this responsibility to CEU. If the delegated responsibility is not adequately monitored and evaluated, the Ministry will end up with wrong courses in the market. The Ministry’s direction and oversight role over CEU should be strengthened to elevate the standards of university education in Kenya.

First appeared here