NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 6 – The government is now reaching out to private universities to enroll government-sponsored students in a bid to increase access to higher education which is often limited by space in public universities.
Higher Education Minister William Ruto made the ambitious partnership call on Monday, saying it could result to a double intake of the government-sponsored students which currently stands at 24,000 per year.
He made the appeal when he met Vice Chancellors and Council Chairmen of the 25 registered private universities in the country for a consultative meeting at the Ministry\’s Jogoo House headquarters.
"If private universities can match the unit cost of courses that are paid for by the government in public universities then there is no reason why they should not accept government-sponsored students."
"We could easily double the intake next year if we could utilise the extra capacity we have in our private universities."
Government-sponsored students currently pay an average of Sh35,000 annually for both tuition and accommodation as the government foots most of the tuition bill.
While the minimum qualification for university enrolment is a C+ at the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exam, most students are locked out of the government programme owing to the constraints of bed and tuition capacity in public universities.
The chairperson of the Kenya Private Universities Association Fridah Brown welcomed the proposal and indicated that they would be willing to partner with the government in expanding the education access to a ripe market.
Ms Brown proposed that the State introduces a voucher system where qualified students would be allocated a certain amount of money after which they can enroll at their university of choice.
"If the government is willing to fund students then I am sure many of the private universities would be willing to even offer their various financial aid programmes," she said.
The meeting and another one with officials of public universities which is scheduled for this Friday is expected to come up with a way forward on the matter and other challenges affecting the industry.
While opening the meeting Mr Ruto pin-pointed ethnicity and lack of course relevance as key challenges in the higher education sector that need to be addressed urgently.
"Education that does not help us to increase our productivity, enhance the competitiveness of our industries and knowledge that does not enhance the efficiency of our private sector is not quality education," he said.
In the meantime the Minister said various colleges were rushing to the Ministry in a bid to comply with the stringent requirements after he issued a 21 day closure ultimatum a week ago. Mr Ruto said that there will be no exemptions on the requirements or extension of time for institutions.
"Many of them have written letters to us and tried to meet some of the requirements but when the deadline comes and they have not met the requirements we will close down those institutions," he said.