The Commission for University Education (CUE) has launched an inquiry into the 118 PhDs awarded by JKUAT during their 33rd graduation ceremony held on 21st June 2019. This was deemed to be a weighty matter that required urgent attention, particularly to assure quality of the PHD awards.
Machakos Governor Dr. Alfred Mutua addresses graduands during the 33rd ceremony at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Juja, Kiambu County, on June 21, 2019 (photograph courtesy of The Daily Nation)
The Commission immediately established a Committee of Inquiry to address the issues pertaining to the conferment of PhDs by JKUAT. CUE has met senior staff of JKUAT as well as key staff members of the Board of Postgraduate Studies (BPS) and perused critical documents to establish if due process was followed in the award of these PHDs. The Commission’s team of inquiry has visited JKUAT campuses where most of the PHD training took place and undertaken strategic engagements and site verification visits.
During this process, the Commission has set out to establish whether standard procedures were adhered to in regard to training, research, supervision and examination processes of the said PHDs as stipulated in the Universities Act, 2012; Universities Regulations, 2014 and Universities Standards and Guidelines, 2014.
At the conclusion of the exercise, the Commission will compile a comprehensive report to be submitted to the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Education and keep the public informed on the same.
This undertaking is part of a broader comprehensive audit on the quality of university education in Kenya, under the guidance of the Education Cabinet Secretary, which encompasses inter-alia:
a) The quality of doctoral programmes in our universities including student: faculty ratios;
b) Adequacy of teaching and learning facilities in universities;
c) Qualifications of faculty in our universities;
d) Quality of academic programmes offered in our universities;
e) Financial sustainability in public universities as presently constituted;
f) Duplication of academic programmes in universities; and
g) Staffing situation in public universities.
The Commission has engaged universities seeking their input towards the above issues and will use it to develop an advisory to the CS on quality of university education, by 30th July 2019. The Commission has already met with the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Education and briefed him on the progress towards achievement of this assignment as well as progress towards establishing authenticity of the JKUAT 118 PHD degrees.
The Commission for University Education (CUE) Commission Secretary and Chief Executive Officer, Prof. Mwenda Ntarangwi has called on players in higher education to inculcate a quality culture in all their undertakings to enhance relevance and sustainability in the sector.
Prof. Ntarangwi was speaking as a panelist during a live broadcast of Standard Media Group fifth edition of Transform Kenya held on 28th March, 2019 at Daystar University.
The CEO noted that it was a collective responsibility for all stakeholders to jealously guard, and institute mechanisms to sustain quality, to ascertain that the expansion in higher education does not compromise quality.
He said that the Commission in its regulatory role continued to put in place mechanisms to guide the provision of quality university education. He cited examples such as strategic stakeholder engagement, facilitation of the establishment of quality assurance units within universities, setting minimum standards and guidelines and research on vital aspects of university education to provide policy advisories to government.
Commission Secretary & CEO Commission for University Education Prof. Mwenda Ntarangwi in a past event in his Office
“Quality is not an event, but a process that requires continual improvement from all of us. The concept of quality should permeate right from basic education and go beyond academics to nurture other abilities in learners as espoused in the Competence-Based Curriculum”, Prof. Ntarangwi said.
He re-assured the public of the credibility of Kenyan education system which he said was acclaimed globally. He implored sector players to strive to improve on it and build capacity in those areas where gaps had been identified.
Dr. Lucy Wakiaga, a faculty member at Tangaza University College urged her fellow academicians to improve on their pedagogical skills to keep pace with the dynamism of the current learners.
Costantine Wesonga, a panelist who is Secretary-General of the University Academic Staff Union (UASU) called for the need to appropriately remunerate and apportion acceptable workload, for faculty in universities to deliver effectively. He called for the upholding of principles of governance and independence of the organs of university to live up to their respective delineated mandates.
“We have witnessed instances where university Senates members are appointees of individuals in Management and are as a result, thoroughly compromised and unable to provide the requisite academic and administrative leadership with the stipulated (as by Law provided) autonomy and objectivity.”, the Secretary- General said.
Other panelists driving the KTN News live broadcast annual forum were Chief Executive HELB, Charles Ringera, Prof. Laban Ayiro, Vice-Chancellor Daystar University and Akello Misori, Secretary-General, Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET).
Other stakeholders stressed the need to continually interrogate the impact of expansion of higher education on quality output.
Amos Kaburu from Twaweza East Africa said “We do not have too many universities, what we have is a case of universities steering away from the quality philosophy. This can be partly attributed to ethnicization and politicization in the appointment of holders of governing organs in most of the universities.”
Kaburu said there was clearly a need to define quality from the end-user perspective.
The expert panelists, stakeholders and live audience participants, collectively agreed on the need for inclusive regular multi-sectoral engagement for a lasting solution and sustainable transformation of the HE sector.
For Jane Ongong’a the 4th March 2019, served as an opportunity to finalize her clearance and settle outstanding matters in the Office of the Deputy Commission Secretary, Accreditation, as she prepared herself for retirement, having served as a Senior Secretary at the Commission for over 29 years.
Unknown to her, members from her Division had other plans. They called her for what was a “last” day treat in appreciation and to bid her farewell after exemplary service. The memorable event had been prepared by her colleagues, who invited staff from other divisions to witness this grand finale.
Retiring staff Jane Ongong’a (right) shares a cake with colleagues at the Commission Offices
Staff within and outside the Division who had had a long standing working relationship spoke fondly of Jane as a seasoned officer on matters quality assurance and having seen and fully participated in various milestones that CHE/CUE had achieved.
She was depicted as an astute professional with precision in her work. “I have known her as having multiple of skills and able to handle the demands of her office”, noted Dr. Beatrice Odera-Kwach with her statement corroborated by the Aids Control Coordinator (ACU) Ms. Elizabeth Onyango where she served as Committee member.
“As ACU we truly appreciate the work in the Committee noting her retirement was just a signifier of change of service into other capacities outside formal engagement”, the ACU coordinator encouraged.
“We have walked together with Jane, shared good times and also upheavals together and surmounted to this far”, noted Christine Muritu her counterpart and personal friend.
Mr. Joseph Musyoki, Head of Institutional Accreditation, recalled the invaluable contribution she made during demanding tasks such as keying in lengthy accreditation reports for universities prepared to be awarded Charters. Musyoki said that she demonstrated her prowess in coordinating and preparing the voluminous documentation.
The Deputy Commission Secretary (DCS), Quality Audit and Standards, Prof. Anne Nangulu noted there was need for a mechanism to tap into the wealth of corporate memory that long-serving staff went away with.
Prof. Nangulu said “The Commission should explore a way of establishing an Alumni Association to act as a vital pool that the institution could draw from and constructively engage retired staff even after they exited from the service”.
The DCS Accreditation, Prof. Grace Njoroge expressed her appreciation for the commendable work that Jane had done while in the Division. Prof. Njoroge had encouraging words that such a phase of life should be perceived as time to look after oneself and re-dedicate time to family and loved ones. She said “Jane offered me a soft landing when I first joined the Commission.” Prof. Njoroge summed her remarks with a reassuring biblical quote “Isaiah 46:4 says Even to your old age I am He, and to grey hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.
Fellow staff Daniel Ogutu comforts Jane Ongong’a as she breaks down in tears mid-way her final remarks
On her part Jane was filled with nostalgia recapping the moments she had. “As I exit and bid you all bye, I say to you, I have purposed to miss you, and I shall dearly do… but remember the biblical words in 2nd Timothy 4:7- ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” , She sentimentally highlighted. The two hour event was moderated by Mr. Daniel Ogutu of Quality Audit department.
The Commission for University Education has proposed the establishment of a mechanism for accrediting academic journals for universities in Kenya. On the 26th March 2019, the Commission hosted a stakeholders’ meeting for selected university representatives to deliberate on the best approach for reviewing and implementing this proposal.
Accrediting university journals falls under the provisions of Section 5 (m) of the Universities Act, No.42 of 2012, which confers power to the Commission to promote quality research and innovation in the universities licensed to operate in Kenya. High quality academic journals provide a platform for scholars to share their research findings and help advance knowledge in respective academic fields. Compared to other countries in Africa such as Egypt and South Africa, Kenya’s contribution to scholarly journals is very low.
Speaking at the consultative meeting, Prof. Jackson Too, Head of Research and Development said that there were a number of challenges facing academic publishing including, lack of clear guidance on where to publish, lack of motivation for faculty to publish in high impact journals and proliferation of predatory journals preying on unsuspecting scholars to publish their works.
He said the move to accredit academic journals was key to promoting a quality assurance culture and a desire to strive for best practices and ethos for scholarship in universities. In countries or regions which have managed to establish functional mechanisms for accreditation, the impact of those refined outputs has been phenomenal in influencing policy and development. The same can happen in Kenya and the East African region and hence this proposal.
Dr. Alice Kande (standing in front) chairs a session during a stakeholders’ workshop on accreditation of universities journals
“This endeavor is not by any means intended to infringe on university academic freedom, but seeks to embrace a collaborative approach to enhance research and innovation output emanating from our very own world-acclaimed scholars”, Prof. Too assured the participants.
The objective of the workshop was to create a platform for discussion on how the Commission and Universities can find common ground to manage this important aspect of university education. In so doing, the Commission does not intend to micro-manage this process but rather partner with Universities in promoting the quality of research and publication in university journals.
The move was well received, with many participants present acknowledging the need to have a nationally-adopted academic journal accreditation mechanism. “We need as academia not to engage in the rush to publish for promotion, but to establish a mechanism to sustain such initiatives. What research questions are we addressing for national development?” Dr. Romano Mwirichia, the Head of Research at the University of Embu posed.
Dr. Mwirichia noted the need for close interrogation on the status of publishing by asking critical questions from the onset. He proposed that academicians from different universities come up with joint intra- and inter-disciplinary research publications in order to improve Kenya’s position in world rankings. It will also serve as a strategy to attract funding.
The participants also noted the need for more government support especially in fully actualizing the National Research Fund mandate. “In a country like South Africa, there is a lot of support for research and publications. For instance, faculty are fully funded within universities and from government in presenting and publishing papers at fora across the world”, observed Prof. Fugich Wako of Egerton University.
The participants were taken through the process of quality research & publication of journals as presented by the Library and Information Services department.
As a way forward, the following steps were agreed upon by participants as important to concretize the initiative:
· Need to initiate professional societies or bodies of scholars based on the different disciplines to run journals. This would raise the impact factor and credibility of local journals.
· Need to enhance efforts to curb plagiarism by installing plagiarism detection software to improve on quality of articles published in University journals.
· Need for Internationalization of Journals by reviewing editorial boards and hosting journals in highly visible platforms such as online ones rather than print. Attracting international scholars to publish.
· The Commission to strengthen provisions regarding research and innovation (i.e. have a full Schedule) during the review of Universities Standards and Guidelines as well as engaging relevant Peer Reviewers to develop the criteria for review and in the actual phase of accrediting journals.
The workshop participants comprised of nominees in charge of research and/or editorial boards in their respective universities.