That public universities have accumulated pending bills estimated at Sh19 billion on failure to remit statutory deductions should sound alarm bells over the state of their financial health and what this means for the overall welfare of their staff.
A report tabled in Parliament by the Retirement Benefits Authority (RBA) shows that the State-funded institutions of higher learning are in deep financial trouble and, as a result, are not in a position to meet their statutory deductions, putting the health and welfare of their staff in peril.
Remitting deductions for the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), pension funds and Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) should be automatic. Indeed, there are timelines by which this must be done.
As such, when the universities fail to live up to their obligations, it is a clear sign of insolvency that should be addressed fast to avoid a potential collapse of these institutions and to safeguard the interest of the affected workers.True, traditional revenue streams for universities and colleges are under pressure globally and it requires a strategic shift in how these institutions are manage.
Relying on tuition fee collections and government funding alone is no longer sustainable and the institutions’ managers should consider tackling the current financial challenges through strategies such as enhanced use of technology to cut costs, exploring new markets, improving efficiency in their operations, seeking partnerships and endowments and prioritizing what academic programmes to offer competitively.
Demand for higher education remains strong and the onus is on universities and colleges to provide value for money, which would, in turn, open room for funding and partnerships.
Globally, top universities are steadily reporting increased “other income” revenue from streams such as intellectual property rights and property deals. Many are also making money through research and innovation partnerships with the private sector.
These models ought to be replicated in Kenya to help universities and colleges break their long dependence on State funding and fees.
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