Private universities want the government to stop offering automatic sponsorship to all students who score a C+ and above in their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams.
While meeting the National Assembly’s Education and Research Committee, the Kenya Association of Private Universities said some students have the capacity to pay for their university education.
“Private universities humbly request this honourable committee to order the development of a sustainable criteria for determining who deserves government sponsorship,” said the association’s acting chair Prof Philip Maiyo, who is also the Vice-Chancellor, University of Eastern Africa-Baraton.
He added that instead “students joining universities should apply for government sponsorship just like they apply for Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) funds.”
Prof Maiyo was speaking in Mombasa during a two-day retreat with the parliamentary committee chaired by Busia Woman Rep Florence Mutua. The meeting also brought together all vice-chancellors from public universities, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha and University Education and Research Principal Secretary Simon Nabukwesi.
The private universities argued that the current sponsorship methodology is not sustainable in the long run since some have the ability to pay. Should the proposal be accepted, the universities said they will be happy to contribute and to spearhead such a discourse.
Sponsoring all students who score a C+ and above is believed to have contributed to the financial constraints in both private and public universities as it led to the reduced numbers of self-sponsored students, who were a major source of income for the institutions.
Before, the government used to only sponsor students who score a minimum of B (plain) and would sometimes lower this to a B-for girls. However, in 2017, the government announced that it would start sponsoring all students who score C+ and above and also began allocating some students to private universities.
The private universities have also asked MPs to protect them by ensuring that a push to stop the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service from allocating students to them is not effected.
“This committee should protect and safeguard the freedom of Kenyan students to choose the programmes and institutions of their choice in line with the constitution and other statutory provisions,” said the association.
The association defended the placement of students in private universities saying it is enshrined in the Universities Act, and supported by Sessional Paper No14 of 2012 which seeks to promote private-public partnership in universities.
“The main driving force behind placement of government sponsored students is to promote equity and access to quality education as enshrined in the Universities Act, the constitution and other provisions,” said Prof Maiyo
Data presented by the association to the MPs shows that, the number of students placed to private institutions now stands at 86,270 (15 per cent) compared to the 492,200 ( 85 per cent ) placed in public universities. The budgetary allocations to the institutions stands at Sh2.4 billion compared to Sh41 billion for public universities
A week ago, Garissa Township MP Aden Duale argued that the government should not spend money sponsoring students in private universities when public universities do not have enough students and are in a financial crunch.