Magoha seeks appointing and management powers in running public universities
Prof George Magoha, Education Cabinet Secretary, wants broad powers in the management of public universities, including the appointment of vice-chancellors and control over councils.
Through continuous consultations, the CS seeks more influence in managerial decisions to ensure that institutions of higher learning run efficiently.
Prof Magoha lamented yesterday that the Universities Act of 2012 does not provide him with the necessary powers to adequately oversee the institutions.
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The VCs, councils, and senates are in charge of making key decisions, such as hiring staff and approving budgets. They are also in charge of any reforms or changes.
The councils have the authority to recommend the appointment of VCs and principals of constituent colleges, as well as to approve policies and statutes.
Prof Magoha, on the other hand, wants the authority to appoint VCs through a competitive process overseen by a panel he or she has appointed in order to ensure transparency and accountability.
The CS suggests that the names of the three top candidates be forwarded to his office for further consideration. The public service commission currently appoints them.
The names of the top three candidates are typically forwarded to varsity councils. Prof Magoha and Principal Secretary Simon Nabukwesi testified before the National Assembly’s Committee on University Education and Research in Mombasa, saying they needed to protect students’ welfare.
“Councils have been raising fees, restructuring staff and reorganising departments without consulting him. The University of Nairobi has increased tuition fees and others may follow suit,” said the CS.
Prof Magoha stated that the proposed Universities Amendment Bill 2021 will enable the Secretary of State to take appropriate action to ensure proper governance in these academic institutions.
If the proposed law is passed by Parliament, councils will only be able to make decisions in consultation with the CS. Prof Geoffrey Muluvi, chairman of the VCs committee, opposed the proposals and urged MPs not to give the CS such powers.
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He claimed that council members are not employees, but rather agents of the ministry with oversight authority and that granting the CS authority over them would jeopardize their responsibilities.
“The autonomy and oversight authority of the council vested by the respective charters will be in jeopardy. Also, it renders redundant the ministry’s representatives to the councils, since they are to guide them on the position of the government,” Prof Muluvi said.
The CS prefers that councils serve for only three years and that members’ terms be staggered so that their contracts expire at different times. Stagnant appointments will ensure continuity in the council’s activities.
The Act allows council members to vote on who should leave office.
Prof Muluvi argued that limiting the number of meetings that a council can hold without allowing for flexibility violates the law and impedes their operations.
He also argued against the proposed role of the CS in senior appointments such as VCs, deputy VCs, principals, and deputy principals. Such appointments, according to Prof Muluvi, should be made internally.
“It will also ensure the process of hiring the top management and university staff is done in a timely manner, devoid of interference from parties with no standing in the affairs of staff,” he said.
The public is being asked to weigh in on the Bill. The committee is expected to draft recommendations and present them to the House.
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