The University Funding Board has proposed that government stops funding most students in private universities.
The sponsorship of students in private universities was introduced in 2016 when government decided that all students with entry grades over C+ would be sponsored yet there were not enough places in public universities. So far 47,548 sponsored students have been enrolled in private universities.
Losing government-sponsored students will be a hammer blow to private universities since as many as half of their student body are on sponsorship.
But in a time of financial hardship, public universities must take priority. In general, they are older, more prestigious and tend to have higher academic standards. Students prefer them because they are more affordable.
While in principle the state should favour public universities, they should not eliminate support for private universities entirely.
As the UFB suggests, the state could partner with private universities on certain agreed programmes. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration wants universities to place special focus on science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).
The state could then choose to sponsor students at a private university to support, for instance, specialised courses on biotechnology or nuclear science.
The UFB has also proposed funding 5,000 girls a year to do STEM, 1,500 masters students and 500 PhD students annually. Students at private universities could also be made eligible for these stipends so long as their area of studies met government requirements.
Private universities that qualify in future for government-sponsored students should clearly demonstrate that they are not-for-profit institutions, like Strathmore University.
In conclusion, government should switch the bulk of its student sponsorships to the public universities but it should not eliminate support for private university students entirely.
Quote of the day: “I’m not afraid of the bullet with my name on it, but I don’t want the bullet that says ‘To whom it may concern’.”
The Kenyan cameraman was born on August 29, 1943