Transforming Higher Education in Kenya

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A paper presented for
Theme: Transforming Higher Education: Opportunities and Challenges Sub Theme: Access and Equity in Higher Education

HD334-033-0234/ 2008

Email address: atienowino @
Postal address: 13091, Nakuru.
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In the last decade, a great transformation has been witnessed in terms of access to opportunities for higher education. This is evidenced by the rapidly growing number of colleges and universities offering degrees, diplomas and certificate courses. Enrollment levels in institutions of higher learning have increased. There’s competition between colleges in setting up campuses away from the capital city to far flung districts. All parts of the country have been catered for. Accessibility has cut across all ages. Fifty year olds graduating are no longer a strange phenomenon. Gender parity has also been catered for. More women can now get access to higher education than any other time in our history. Access is likely to increase even further with the shifting trend towards distant learning through the internet and virtual learning centers. In spite of the increase in accessibility, equity is still a challenge. While each of the above issues serves to address equity, pertinent issues still need to be addressed. They include the high costs of tuition and other fees. This continues to lock out a large number of potential students who are still grappling with “unga” issues. The opportunities also lock out a large proportion of Kenyans who dropped out of school at primary level since the KCSE certificate is an entry requirement. Most colleges have located their campuses in urban areas locking out the rural folk. The number of Kenyans pursuing higher education in neighboring Uganda is also of great concern. It is a case of missed opportunity, loss in revenue as well as possibility of brain drain. The government needs to address these issues urgently in a bid to achieve Vision 2030.

Access and equity are major concerns in the provision of higher education in Kenya. This is in light of the fact that in achieving Vision 2030, the country needs highly qualified manpower. This is the kind of manpower that will spur innovation and creativity resulting in industrial development. Only then can Kenya compete with emerging technological giants such as China. Indeed Kenya has made commendable strides in provision of higher education in the recent past. Initially degree programmes were restricted to the four main University colleges. Recent statistics reveal an upsurge in the number of colleges offering such courses. Access has improved with the emergence of extra mural centers in most Kenyan towns. This has ensured that most Kenyans now have a college in their vicinity offering either degree, diploma or certificate courses. Equity in provision of higher education has greatly improved. Traditional African non equity areas such as gender have improved and more ladies can now access tertiary institutions. Courses that were initially male domains are now being accessed by more females. However in spite of all the aforementioned achievements, access and equity are still far from being achieved. The country needs to urgently deal with challenges of the poor transition rate from primary to secondary school, the high costs associated with the parallel programmes, as well as the influx of large numbers of Kenyan students in Uganda institutions of higher learning. (Mbalu, 2007) Provision of quality education and training has been a central policy issue in Kenya since independence in 1963. This has been mainly due to an increasing demand for more education and training opportunities for a fast growing population. Besides, the demand for qualified human resource to meet the...
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