University education is at a crossroads and radical measures must be taken to clean up the mess and restore sanity to the sector. An audit report released on Thursday makes horrifying reading. Many universities have lost direction and sold their heart for money. A number of others have defied admission criteria and brought on board people who should never have entered a lecture hall. The quality of teaching is wanting due to a shortage of qualified lecturers.
Some campuses do not have any permanent academic staff; relying on part-timers who moonlight in a dozen other colleges. The ratio of students to a lecturer is extreme, creating a situation where the academic staff cannot effectively teach and mark scripts. Degree awards have been abused. First, some students graduate without complete marks. Quite often, marks go missing, either because the lecturers did not do their work, or sheer carelessness. Second and more depressing, some students who fail exams end up graduating even against the advice of external examiners. Third, honorary degrees, which ideally should be awarded to individuals who have excelled in professions or public service, are liberally dished out, demeaning the titles.
Some of the programmes on offer are questionable, including the so-called school-based degree programmes where working adults, mainly teachers, register and go for degree courses during holidays, many of them offered in schools – not university setting. The quality of teaching and the way the programmes are organised defy established rules. The rot is attributed to the exponential expansion without proper supervision. The growth was necessitated by the rising demand for higher education, but things went overboard. Political considerations also influenced decisions and all these have brought us to where we are today. Arising from the audit, Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and the CUE have pronounced some sanctions, among them, suspending executive degree programmes. We urge the minister and the commission to enforce stringent measures to redeem the universities and higher education, in general.