Thousands of staff in public universities face job losses after National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich announced plans to restructure higher education.
Struggling due to shrinking numbers of students, the CS announced radical measures that will see some of the 32 public universities merged and satellite campuses closed.
The mergers will see some of the 27,000 staff in public universities, including 9,000 lecturers, rendered jobless.
“University reforms are critical at this stage. We shall review all the university public financial and management systems, appraise ongoing projects with a view to restructuring them and implement radical measures that will include the merger or closure of some universities and university campuses that cannot to sustain their operations against the number of students admitted or degree offered,” Mr Rotich said.
He further set aside Sh97.7 billion to support university education and Sh12.6 billion for the Higher Education Loans Board.
It’s a blow to many universities, which have been on an expansion spree.
The universities have been unable to pay Sh9 billion in statutory deductions and another Sh9 billion in pensions.
This has seen staff being denied medical services and also being blacklisted by financial institutions for not repaying loans.
Last month, Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha asked universities to consider sacking some of their non-essential staff and merge academic programmes.
Prof Magoha also wants universities to merge.
Those that have shut some of their campuses include Kisii, Laikipia, Moi, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Kenya Methodist University, Catholic University of East Africa (CUEA) and University of Baraton.
Others are Cooperative (Meru), Kabarak (Nairobi) and South Eastern Kenya University (Nairobi).
The government also want universities to specialise in academic programmes in which they are relatively strong at as well as strengthen academic programmes that greatly contribute to the national and global development agenda, through increased provision of resources, including finances, facilities, equipment, infrastructure and human, for their support.
Commission for University Education (CUE) is already preparing a report and which it is expected to submit to the government next month.
“I would expect to see a proposal on how we rationalise the existing universities so that we can have universities that are of high quality, providing the necessary student support for learning, are involved in relevant research, and are globally competitive,” said Prof Magoha.
Last year in May, CUE in its report submitted to then Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed proposed the merger of several universities or closure of some since many they had become unsustainable.
The commission also proposed that public universities be allowed to raise fees to reflect the market realities, arguing that the current rate is unrealistic.
CUE also proposed creation of a regional university system by merging universities within the same geographical locations and converting most of the existing universities into constituent colleges or campuses.
The report titled “Policy Advisory on Rationalisation of Universities and Programmes in Kenya”, said the creation of the campuses from existing universities should be based on national development needs, existing infrastructure and resources, and regional balance.
Vice-chancellors Committee Chairman Prof Francis Aduol said universities are suffering because of the volume of universities and students adding that the funding from the government is not coping with that at all.
Prof Aduol said student staff ratio is also worrying noting that in some cases a lecturer is teaching more than 70 students which he said cannot ensure that there is quality education.
The government recently declined requests by universities for more funding insisting that they must live with what they have been offered.