JKUAT graduates risk losing PhD degrees


By OUMA WANZALA
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KARIUKI WAIHENYA

By KARIUKI WAIHENYA
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Hundreds of PhD graduates from Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology are at risk of having their degrees recalled after a government investigation revealed glaring anomalies in the processes leading to graduation.

The Commission for University Education (CUE) has given the university’s senate three months to review 118 PhDs awarded during the 33rd graduation ceremony on June 21.

It accuses the institution of violating the universities’ standards and guidelines, which came into force in 2014.

Further, the university has been stopped from offering PhD programmes in its satellite campuses for lack of capacity. Notably, it cites a campus such as Mombasa, which has graduated 23 PhD students in the past three years but does not have a single professor.

JKUAT has also been asked to address questions raised by the commission in the investigations or risk having the degrees recalled. It will also have to review all its PhDs awarded in the past three graduations.

A total of 327 PhD and 2,101 master’s degrees were awarded during the 31st, 32nd and 33rd graduation ceremonies held in June 2018, November 2018 and June 2019.

“The university should align their processes on PhD training to the University Statutes. The university should adhere to the standards and guidelines on duration of PhD and the research component,” reads the recommendations.

The university has also been directed to submit to the CUE evidence of the students’ publication of two articles in refereed journals for each PhD awarded since publication of the Universities Standards and Guidelines 2014, failing which the nonconforming PhDs will be recalled until the requirement is fulfilled.

CUE has also directed the university to adhere to guidelines on admission requirements for PhD.

“All the PhD students sampled were admitted into the programme on the basis of a master’s degree but in some cases some were admitted based on master’s degrees but without relevant academic bachelor’s degrees,” says the report.

The report indicates that of the 89 College of Human Resource Development (CoHRED) PhD graduates, 58 (65 per cent) were trained in the eight satellite campuses while the majority of qualified academic staff were based at the main campus.

The report reveals poor monitoring of students’ progress during training and non-adherence to the university statutes in allocating supervisors, formation of board of examiners, conduct of student seminar presentations and evidence of supervision. “There was non-adherence to the Universities Standards and Guidelines 2014 with respect to supervision load and duration of research component of PhD programme,” reads the report.

It adds that in many cases, the board of examiners that sat to consider the oral presentation had as few as four members, yet the rules provide for at least six, putting the validity of the degrees into question.

The report states that most of the examination reports submitted were not comprehensive enough to improve the quality of the students’ work.

“There was no evidence of meetings between supervisors and supervisees as no record of such meetings was produced,” reads the report.

It adds that the board of examiners’ reports for the oral examination identified fundamental weaknesses in the theses, yet went ahead to give a verdict not consistent with the findings.

“Most of the students published in journals hosted by AJPO Journals in which a number of academic staff of CoHRED had interests,” reads the report.

The report also shows that out of the 118 PhD graduates, 112 had been approved by the university senate and their names appeared in the graduation booklet.

However, the remaining six were administratively approved for graduation by Vice Chancellor Prof Victoria Ngumi on behalf of the senate and their names published in the graduation booklet.

“It was observed that some students submitted their theses based on research that did not meet the minimum requirements on research duration. A student completed their research, published, and gave intent to submit, all in less than 12 months following the successful defence of the proposal,” reads the report.

The probe team comprised six members, led by Prof Jackson K. Too.


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