Universities Act threatening to split the KUCCPS board as Magoha stands firm on the placement of government-sponsored students to private universities
Cabinet Secretary for Education George Magoha has rejected a proposal to reverse President Uhuru Kenyatta's directive on the admission of government-sponsored students to private universities.
Prof Magoha stated that only the president has the authority to make such a decision and dismissed a statement by University Education Principal Secretary Simon Nabukwesi indicating that the Ministry does not support the plan.
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“I want to believe he was misquoted. If not, then he was speaking for himself because he is not in charge of policy. I am not aware of such plans as the Cabinet Secretary,” said Magoha.
When testifying before the Public Accounts Committee, Nabukwesi is quoted as saying that the ministry does not support student placement at private universities.
Magoha stated that the placement of students in private universities is also legal and that reversing such a decision requires the participation of stakeholders.
According to Section 56 (1) (a) of the Universities Act, the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) is responsible for coordinating the placement of government-sponsored students to universities and colleges."
Magoha said that admitting students to private universities is less expensive, less than half of what it costs to send students to public universities despite having the same level of facilities.
Nabukwesi argued in Parliament that money sent to private universities should be directed to underfunded public institutions.
Details show that since the program's inception in 2016, private universities have received approximately Sh9 billion.
In 2015, President Kenyatta directed KUCCPS to send government-sponsored students to private universities.
According to the president, the move will allow more students to pursue courses of their choice.
The presidential directive was intended to increase access to higher education, and it has resulted in the placement of approximately 60,000 students in private universities between 2015 and last year.
However, the PS told MPs in parliament that he had advised KUCCPS not to place students at private universities during this year's exercise.
PS's renewed push is now threatening to split the KUCCPS board, which includes representatives from private universities.
Vice-Chancellors Committee Chairperson Prof Geoffrey Muluvi, who also serves on the KUCCPS board, has stated that public university administration is opposed to the plan.
Prof Muluvi stated that the VCs of public universities want the placement of students to private universities to be stopped and the money used to sponsor the learners to be diverted to fill funding gaps.
“Let it go on record that we are opposed to this programme and we need a review,” said Prof Muluvi.
Prof Mumo Kisau of the Kenya Association of Private Universities (KAPU), who also serves on the KUCCPS board, stated that the placement is legal.
"The Universities Act requires KUCCPS to place students in universities and It doesn't say whether it's public or private according to Mumo
KUCCPS Board members state that the push to amend the Universities Act is at the heart of the renewed push to stop funding students to attend private universities.
The Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2020, significantly alters the composition of KUCCPS.
The Bill proposes that councils send a representative to the KUCCPS board in order to remove VCs from the crucial students' placement board.
The Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) and Kenya Association of Technical Training Institutions (KATTI) representatives will also leave the KUCCPS board.
KUCCPS, on the other hand, will sit on the board of the Universities Fund and anticipates smooth coordination between the two agencies on student funding.
“The amendment seeks to drop some representatives to cut down number of board members because, as it is now, it is bloated. Some of those who will be dropped seem to be pushing for a plan to stoke controversy,” said a KUCCPS board member.
Magoha affirmed that the placement of government-sponsored students at private universities will continue.
During the application and revision process, he stated that all students are free to select private universities.
According to KUCCPS data, a large number of students have enrolled in private universities to pursue programs such as medicine, law, nursing, public health, media, international relations, hospitality, and pharmacy, which do not have enough space in public colleges.
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