The University Education Landscape is Shifting

As it appeared in the Daily Nation on April 30th 2019
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu

In the last one and a half decades, university education in Kenya has been marked by mammoth growth. The number of both public and private universities grew, the student population diversified and multiplied. As a result, some of the universities opened campuses in towns across Kenya while others expanded their reach through a variety of new approaches. Online, evening and school holiday classes to reach out to non-traditional students were introduced. In addition, the quality of education in a few universities has gone up while in others it has deteriorated. Further, we have had cases of missing marks, exam cheating and collusion in earning a degree certificate. As a country, we have produced high quality, half-baked as well as amateurish graduates at the same time. Although some of our university graduates have been absorbed into industry, several grumble with unemployment and others have realized the need to be entrepreneurial.

Today, university education is taking a different turn. Qualified high school students are spoilt for choice. Consequently, universities are labouring for students and some have shut down the satellite campuses due to dwindling enrolments. This shift in number of students versus the available spaces must make universities rethink their approach. It is not enough to make expensive advertisements on television; universities must be intentional about being different and attractive to parents, students and employers. In addition, students’ expectations are on the rise. Therefore, those joining universities today are on the lookout for an education that will have results. I believe that the universities that will live though the shifting landscape are those that will focus more on the quality of their offering, the industry fit as well as the overall student experience.

Another major transformation being experienced in our universities is change in teaching methods. Today, information is readily accessible; as such, it is not enough to lecture. Those teaching at our universities need to invent creative ways to inspire a learning attitude, and give university education a more practical approach. Further, technological advancements have radically changed the way students learn. It is therefore important to blend technology with traditional teaching methods. How innovative is your university in its approach to learning? Is your university using any digital teaching tools?

Moving into the future, I believe that university education in Kenya will never be the same again. We should expect more and major changes in the sector. The University education is likely to transform for the better of the country producing students that are more employable and supporting them throughout their careers. With the new education Cabinet Secretary, we should also expect to see more changes driven by the ministry and through the Commission of University Education (CUE). It is unlikely that universities that choose to remain traditional in how they interact with their students will endure the shifting landscape. To survive, universities must provide a holistic student-centred approach to learning and aim for outstanding student experiences. Is your university doing anything to remain attractive to students, parents and employers? Smart universities just like smart companies prepare well for the future!

Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy

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