World Bank urge state to merge public universities
Due to the financial difficulties that the country’s higher education institutions are experiencing, the World Bank is advocating for the merging of public universities.
According to a story published by a local media on Tuesday, November 17, the World Bank warned the government in an advisory that rapid reforms in the industry, which has been beset by debt over the previous few years, were required.
The top banking institution’s advice comes only months after the Treasury revealed that universities were facing a Ksh6 billion budget shortfall.
“Address the proliferation of state-owned companies (SCs) and rationalize commercial and non-commercial SCs. For example, measures to address overlapping mandates and consolidating SCs in the education sector could improve the efficiency of public spending on higher education and reduce spending pressures,” the World Bank cautioned.
There were also multiple cases of course duplication in universities, according to the global financial institution.
The World Bank explained its pressure by stating that certain universities had lost money for three years in a row and that the financial position of the country needed to be addressed immediately.
Furthermore, the institution stated that the merger would benefit the government because the institutions would move toward a financially self-sufficient model.
“Accelerating the commercial SCs rationalization agenda could help plug losses to the exchequer while increasing overall economic efficiency. A focus could be placed on systematically poorly performing SCs that have recorded persistent losses for an extended period of three years,” the World Bank advised.
The University of Nairobi (UoN), Kenyatta University (KU), and Moi University are among the universities that are facing serious financial difficulties.
The Treasury stated in a report to the National Assembly that out of the Ksh6 billion financial deficits in the universities, UON and KU had a deficit of Ksh2 billion. As a result of the budget shortfall, universities have been obliged to seek new sources of revenue.
There has been outrage in recent months after the University of Nairobi increased tuition fees for the majority of their courses, doubling the tuition fees for some parallel courses.
If the recommendation is implemented, it is unclear what will happen to the nearly 36,000 academic and support workers employed by institutions. The ballooning payroll of university workers has been blamed for the universities’ financial difficulties.
Lecturers at a number of public universities have gone on strike due to management’s refusal to implement the 2017-2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
In June 2019, the National Treasury revealed plans to consolidate the financially troubled public universities, but the plans hit snags after the Education Ministry declared it would instead pursue complete reforms.
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The plans would result in the consolidation and closure of some of the 74 universities and their campuses, as the government seeks to relieve the schools of billions of shillings in debts, tax arrears, and unpaid statutory deductions.
The vice-chancellors and the Commission for University Education (CUE), the state organization that accredits and oversees universities, were asked two years ago to develop separate merger plans by the Ministry of Education.
Vice-chancellors of public universities have previously rejected merger schemes, claiming that they were being carried out without their input.