Universities regulator has urged the government not to fund degree courses that have not attracted enough students.
Commission for University (CUE) Chairman Chacha Nyaigoti also said lecturers who teach such courses must now look for jobs elsewhere.
“There are so many degree titles where students are not interested and we cannot continue to pump resources there.
“It will also be expensive to teach one student or less than 10 students because each course will have several units taught by qualified staff who are paid highly by the university,” said Prof Chacha.
He was reacting to an exposé by The Standard on courses that attracted few students in the 2022 KCSE placement by the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS).
The shocking details revealed that some 18 degree courses attracted only one student each. Another 104 academic programmes attracted a maximum of 10 students each.
Among them were Bachelor of Science courses that include Food Security, Horticulture, Soil Science, Forestry, Dryland Agriculture, Biological Sciences, Geophysics and Mineralogy, Aquaculture and Fisheries Technology, and Environmental Chemistry.
Other courses that got only one student placed nationally are Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management, Bachelor of Science Networks and Communication Systems, Bachelor of Industrial Technology, Water Resource and Environmental Management, Environmental Resource Management, Library and Knowledge Management, and Bachelor of Arts Chaplaincy.
Speaking to The Standard, Chacha said some academic programmes qualify to be mere course units.
The nature of programmes offered in various universities is largely determined by the nature of the institution’s establishment, market forces, availability of resources, controls by professional bodies, availability and adequate space, facilities and teaching staff.
Chacha said the revelation that nearly 200 courses attracted less than 10 students is a wake-up call for all stakeholders in the higher education sector.
“We must all wake up and re-plan how we offer degree programmes in universities. This is what we have been advising the universities and this reality is now home,” said Prof Chacha.
“How do you offer a degree in biblical studies? This is a small area that can be taught under theology as a course unit. What area does a Bachelor of Sociology and Technology or Bachelor of Agriculture with IT cover? Some of these are too narrow and can be taught as course units within a wider scope of an academic programme,” said Prof Chacha.
He said it would be expensive to teach these courses that attracted less than 10 students as each of them will have many units that will require teaching staff who are remunerated.
Speaking in Naivasha last week during a media sensitisation workshop on the new funding model, KUCCPS Chief Executive Mercy Wahome questioned the rationale of some university courses that had an overload of staff but did not attract enough students.
Dr Wahome said the new funding formula might force universities to reassess if it is cost-effective to run such programmes.
Chacha said the universities might have been well-meaning in crafting the academic programmes, but advised that they must go back to the drawing board.
“Some courses are too narrow that when students apply for international jobs, they spend so much time explaining the scope of their degree programmes,” he said.
It has now emerged that private universities might lose a sixth of their staff as a ripple effect of the new funding formula.
This will include the administrative staff has to go, non-teaching staff, some teaching staff.
Kenya Association of Private Universities chairman Professor Stephen Mbugua says that each institution could be forced to lay off at least 20 members of staff in the first year of the implementation of the funding model.
He predicts that 10 universities that got less than ten students will be the most affected.
Meaning if they will lose 20 staff each, some 200 staff might be layed off in the first year.
“Most of these universities have at least seven faculties but more than 10 have less than 20 students. This means some three or four faculties will not have any students. In the short run, the staff that will be handling those in the first year will not have any work thus could lead to job losses,” Prof. Mbugua said.
Prof Mbugua says some universities might be forced to increase fees while other cost-cutting measures could include reducing perks of their staff such as the amount of medical cover and allowances.
“I would dread for that to happen but some of these universities especially the faith-based institutions do not have any other source of revenue and will be forced to employ some cost-cutting measures, which have a ripple effect to the household and the economy,” he added.