Saturday, 18 March 2017

Credibility of 120,000 degrees issued since 2012 in doubt; 18.02.2017

Commission for University Education Chief Executive Officer David Some. (Photo: Tabitha Otwori/Standard) 

Universities will be blocked from admitting students for one year if they fail to explain how they will address the quality mess in their operations within 30 days. Commission for University Education (CUE) Chief Executive Officer David Some said each university had been given a status report detailing quality standards breaches. “All universities have been given their individual reports and are required to respond with corrections of factual errors and to provide, to the commission, a road map on corrective measures within 30 days,” Prof Some said Friday. This follows damning findings of a CUE quality audit inspection report released on Thursday by Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i. The shocking report revealed several breaches, including flaws in meeting minimum admissions requirements, missing marks, abuse of executive masters degrees and academic theft. Also revealed were major abuses on credit accumulation and transfers, skewed progression records, unmerited award of honorary degrees and sub standard thesis or research projects. The Standard on Saturday has learnt that the findings of the Exit Report were so damning that the ministry censored the main report, only making available a deeply edited and summarised document. The audit covered the period after the enactment of the Universities Act (2012) and 2016. A cursory analysis of graduated students between 2010 and 2014 shows about 120,000 graduated. And if the universities are accused for having tolerated serious academic quality breaches, questions are raised as to whether the degrees acquired within the said period met the strict standards set by CUE. ALSO READ: Matiang’i’s new broom should sweep all corners This implies that the credibility of up to 120,000 degrees issued during this period is in doubt. It’s important to point out that not all students engaged in malpractice or did not merit to be admitted, however the quality of education hinges on the integrity of academic and governance structures. If one is breached, even by a handful of students, the entire cohort is affected. That’s the fundamental challenge of integrity and credibility of students, courses and certificates facing the universities today. Speaking Friday, CUE chairperson Chacha Nyaigotti-Chacha and Prof Some announced that a joint quality assurance working group had been set up to monitor the progress of the implementation of the recommendations of the audit report. The team comprises vice-chancellors and chancellors, raising the question as to whether the very people indicted for overseeing mediocrity can preside over higher education reforms. The members are Prof Raphael Munavu, Dr Catherine Kimura, Dr Florence Nyamu, Prof Ratemo Michieka, Prof David Serem, Dr Ruth Nduati, Prof Peter Mbithi, Prof Mabel Imbuga, Prof Philip Maiyo, Prof Leah Marangu and Prof Some. They said institutions that will not comply with the set corrective timelines will be penalised. “The Charters or Letters of Interim Authorities (LIA) will be suspended for one year forthwith,” said Prof Some. This means during the period, no university will admit students or undertake any of the functions listed under their charters. He said the universities have been told they must come up with a status report on how they will address each of the issues raised against them complete with timelines. Prof Some Friday said the ‘roadmap reports’ must be approved by CUE and will be used by the joint committee to assist on evaluation. “If we feel that something is not adding up on those reports, we shall take action,” said Some. Factual matters Sources who attended the closed-door meeting during the launch of the report said each university was asked to respond to ‘factual matters contained in their reports’ within a week. “They were also given one month to respond to areas of improvement,” said the senior university management official who attended the meeting. On Thursday, the commission released a damning report with 11 quality and standards breaches that it said revealed a number of pertinent issues. The audit disclosed that in some universities, there were missing marks, delayed completion rates, and unaccountability for students at all levels. The audit also revealed that the quality of school-based programmes was wanting. ALSO READ: Some university courses are not approved, says report Meanwhile, the government has tightened university admission rules. Measures listed in the CUE report has sealed major loopholes exploited by students to access university admissions. The move has also closed gaps used by institutions to shore up student numbers. Ordinary diploma papers, bridging courses and foreign qualifications will no longer be guarantee for university admissions in Kenya. And those who score lower grades and seek to pursue diploma programmes as gate pass to university admissions have also been locked out. The audit revealed that the greatest admissions breach has been listing candidates who have not met the minimum entry grade of C+. For instance, a student who sat KCSE in 2010 with a D+ graduated with a bachelor’s degree in less than two years. The report further reveals that some universities were also reported to admit students with credits and distinctions in diploma courses into degree programmes with entry points of second, third or even fourth academic years. Only Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) diploma certificates will be recognised for admissions to university. P1 certificates Pre-university courses, bridging courses and P1 certificates will no longer be used to gain admissions. This means teachers who graduated with P1 certificates will not gain admissions to universities anymore. “Universities should also desist from using entry examinations to compensate for shortfalls in minimum entry requirements into university academic program,” reads the report. Those with Executive Masters Degrees will not be allowed to register for PhD programmes while those who have already completed doctorate programmes will have their qualifications recalled and barred from teaching in universities. In addition to these, persons who have not pursued bachelor’s degrees will not be allowed to enroll for master’s degrees. ALSO READ: Cash crunch threatens to halt public universities “Universities should take necessary steps to rectify the situation for the affected students which will include such actions but not limited to cancelling such admissions or recalling such awards,” reads the report. And once students have been admitted to the various programmes, CUE says, they must complete the set study period. “Data provided by universities has shown that on average 80 per cent of slightly more new entrants into undergraduate degree programmes complete their studies within the prescribed time frame. About 20 per cent fail or drop out of their courses for varied reasons. Similarly, less that 50 per cent complete masters degree programmes and less than 20 per cent complete their PhD studies, often not on time,” reads the report. Another sealed loophole that universities and students exploited for admission is credit accumulation and transfers. And on examinations, the government now says all examination results for students must be electronically captured to track the grades real time. Commission for University Education Kenyan universities Fred Matiang’i

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