EXPERT OPINION

STEPHEN KIAMA: Public varsities are state property, should be treated as such, no funding freeze

State funding and own revenue generation can coexist.

In Summary

• Universities run using public resources and the most important thing is to ensure the institutions are generating value.

• The government should come up with a better module for funding students. 

UoN vice chancellor Stephen Kiama during an interview at UoN Towers on October 29, 2021.
VICE CHANCELLOR: UoN vice chancellor Stephen Kiama during an interview at UoN Towers on October 29, 2021.
Image: EZEKIEL AMING'A

The idea of freezing state funding to public universities will not be strategic for the country.

The country has invested to establish these public institutions and has an interest that the institutions offer success to those going through them.

Public universities are state property and should be treated as such.

The people employed in universities are employed through the government, university councils are representatives of the government, and their pay comes from the government.

Universities run using public resources and the most important thing is to ensure that the institutions are bringing value back to them.

This will be attained by making sure the scholars are given the opportunity to contribute to the agenda of the nation without interference.

The dangers of universities funding themselves is that they could settle for programmes in which they spend less in training and reap more.

Costly programmes like dentistry, medicine and veterinary medicine will be abandoned.

It will also be disastrous to students from poor backgrounds and little or no financial muscle to support their education.

However, the calls for universities to generate their own revenue is long overdue but it should not be done at the expense of state funding.

The two can coexist if we genuinely look into some factors.

First, government should devise a better module for funding students by strictly following recommendations on the cost of running an academic programme.

In the University Act, for example, institutions are expected to develop different pay scales for different courses.

However, that is yet to happen because we are linked with the SRC that issues advisories in disregard of or in conflict with the course requirements.

Second, the fees charged are far below the market rates. The fee is set at Sh16,000 and we are not allowed to increase it.

We must look at university governance.

This may involve removing structures that duplicate and overlap.

So we have to look at all the faculties, institutes and departments, what they need and don’t and the value proposition they bring to the table.

We have to look at the institution we have and reflect on how to make it more efficient, more accountable.

The writer is the University of Nairobi Vice Chancellor.

(Edited by V. Graham)