The calling of a stakeholders meeting to discuss university education could not have come at a better time.
Similarly, it has been called by the right person: Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha was once a successful university administrator.
Some years back, the universities were what they are supposed to be: centres of excellence and research. But this has changed with the rapid expansion of higher education.
Based on demand and a desire to make quick money, many schools, technical training institutes, polytechnics and institutes of technology were quickly upgraded to universities.
To remain relevant and draw numbers, they came up with attractive names for courses, whose graduates remained irrelevant to the labour market.
Some years back, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology had issues with the Engineers Board over its engineering graduates.
More recently was the case between the Council of Legal Education and Moi University over the latter’s Bachelor of Laws course.
Then came the news that a number of courses would be scrapped for either being meaningless or having attracted no applicant.
Besides, the quality of some of those who have been given “the powers to do all that appertains” cannot write a simple application letter or, if they do, it will be incomprehensible.
There are also those who will never perform the tasks that they were at the university to learn.
Similarly, don’t be surprised to come across a PhD holder who cannot remember their research topics or teach an undergraduate class with their eyes off their notes, which are often borrowed.
Then comes the soft skills (morality, presentability and adaptability) and our universities score very low.
No wonder some employers will never touch graduates from some universities with a ten-foot pole. Besides their poor quality, they cannot be in charge of their own emotions.
So, as the CS sits the stakeholders, some bold steps need be taken and hard decisions made. First, strengthen mid-level colleges, market them thoroughly and align their courses to the labour market then have them admit quality students.
Secondly, as has started, audit the relevance of the courses then strengthen those that will take us to Vision 2030 and beyond and discontinue the useless ones.
A thorough audit of the university teaching staff should come next. Let each lecturer must defend their worth.
Review the courses to conform to the demands of the society and entail necessary soft skills.
Let every university be synonymous with particular fields. Raise the entry point, admit fewer numbers through KUCCPS and allow them to feel the sense of pride.
Have universities fund and conduct research, whose findings they can patent for financial gain.
Finally, close down all those schools, colleges and institutes whose physical facilities do not meet the requirements. Let universities be universities.
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