coming President William Ruto is set to merge three higher education agencies in attempts to streamline and increase funding of students in the institutions, according to his manifesto while he was vying for the presidency.
The institutions are currently grappling with cash crises, with five universities having already warned their staff earlier last week that they could not pay salaries.
In his signed education charter, Dr. Ruto pledged to increase the funding to the universities and also establish a council that will merge the funding released to the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb), Technical and Vocational Education Training (Tvet) institutions and the University Funding Board (UFB).
“To bridge the current higher education funding gap of up to 45 per cent, the Kenya Kwanza government will establish a National Skill and Funding Council that amalgamates Helb, Tvet and University Funding Board,” said Dr Ruto in the charter.
Currently, the government is funding university students at a rate of Ksh70,000 per individual. Those in Tvets get Ksh30,000 government sponsorship while Helb gives student loans of between Ksh37,000 and Ksh60,000 per annum. Those in Tvets get Helb loans of Ksh26,000.
However, due to a lack of funds in the National Treasury, the government is unable to release the full amount to universities and the institutions.
Dr. Ruto has pledged to address the financial crunch in public universities by putting in place legislative, policy and budgetary measures aimed at addressing the issue.
His government is further planning to double the current Helb funding from Ksh11 billion to Ksh22 billion and make the Helb loans interest-free.
The incoming administration has also promised to amend the Universities Act of 2012 to allow the transfer of management of universities, including the hiring of management, from the Public Service Commission to university councils.
The 12th National Assembly in July rejected a Bill that sought to give the office of the Education Cabinet Secretary powers to approve appointments of vice-chancellors and control the management of universities.
More reforms in the Kenya Kwanza government will include offering grants for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem), agriculture and any other strategic courses to drive the delivery of the bottom-up economic agenda, increasing research funding…,
…the establishment of a skills council and facilitation of universities to institute internationalisation programmes to attract students from neighbouring countries and other countries targeting at least 10% of university enrolment.
“We commit to establish a one-year paid national internship programme for all students graduating as teachers, technical, medical colleges and universities, by collaborating with industry players.
To this end, we shall constitute a team comprising public and private sector players to drive the programme,” reads Dr. Ruto’smanifesto in part.
Kenya Kwanza is promising to ensure that each county has a public university and also ensure institutions focus on the counties’ comparative advantage. He notes that the University Act 2012 provides that the government will establish at least one university in each of the 47 counties.
Kenya Kwanza also plans to set up a National Open University to increase access and reduce the cost of university education and implement a 100% transition to higher education institutions.