A parliamentary committee has rekindled pressure to merge public universities to reduce the operational burden of cash-strapped institutions on taxpayers.
Florence Mutua, chairman of the National Assembly’s education committee, urged lawmakers to review the merger plans that would lead to 27,000 job cuts.
The National Treasury first announced plans to merge financially struggling public universities in June 2019, but plans met headwinds after the Education Ministry said it would pursue comprehensive reforms .
“As a country, we need to have a serious conversation about whether we need the many public universities given the limited resources,” Ms. Mutua said on Wednesday.
“This is a speech that needs to be reopened for members to discuss,” she added.
The plans will lead to the merger and closure of some of the 74 universities and their campuses as the state strives to reduce the burden on institutions with billions of shillings in debt, back taxes and statutory deductions. not delivered.
Two years ago, the education ministry asked rectors and the University Education Commission (CUE) – the state agency that accredits and oversees universities – to separately prepare merger proposals.
Vice-chancellors of public universities have in the past opposed merger plans, saying they were undertaken without their participation.
But Education Secretary George Magoha did an about-face on the planned August 2019 merger and told parliament the ministry would instead be implementing comprehensive reforms, the nature of which he has not disclosed.
Public universities are stuck with more than 34 billion shillings in national hospital insurance fund, national social security fund, pension plans, insurance premiums and Sacco contributions.
Last December, the institutions asked for a 20 billion shillings bailout from the national treasury, underlining their dire financial situation.
Some of the universities that requested additional funding included the University of Nairobi, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Kisii University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology, Egerton University and Kabianga University.
A drop in the number of students enrolled in the parallel degree program has added to the financial difficulties of institutions which are also grappling with budget cuts from the national treasury.