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Anxiety mounts over approval of degree courses

Winstone Chiseremi and Robert Chiseremi @PeopleDailyKe

More than 500 Engineering students at the University of Eldoret are celebrtaing after the engineers’ professional body accredited one out of three engineering degree courses offered at the institution.

The elated learners have welcomed the move by Engineering Board of Kenya to approve engineering degree course in Agricultural and Biosystems, saying it will now guarantee them jobs after completing the five -year course.

Speaking to Scholar on the campus last week, the students asked the regulator to move with speed and accredit the remaining Mechanical and Civil engineering courses to avoid anxiety and panic among the learners. They said the slow pace at which the board was taking to register the two engineering courses was a major concern among final year students at the institution.

“Some of us have just a year to clear engineering studies at this university. We do not know whether the board will have approved them ahead of our graduation,” said their spokesman who declined to be named for fear of reprisal.

Confirming the good news, EBK Deputy Registrar (Compliance Standards and Enforcement) Okere Makokha said the course was approved effective March 2018 but to be reviewed next year.

Approval process for the other two courses is ongoing. “I can’t say when EBK will accredit civil and mechanical degree courses…several  things need to be put in place by the university..there are requirements to be met; it all depends on the institution,” he said.

A Second Year student said when she enroled for his degree course in civil engineering at the university, he was not told that it was among those not recognised by the regulator. “I learnt the course is one of those not  yet accredited by EBK after my parents had paid all the fees,” she said.

The students said the accreditation of Agricultural and Biosystems degree course has given them hope that things are now moving in the right direction. Efforts to get comment from the university Vice Chancellor, Prof Teresa Akenga over the pending approvals were futile as she was said to be away.

However, a senior lecturer in the affected departments who declined to be named said the institution has been engaging with the regulator to address the panic that has gripped the students.“We are happy with the process is moving since the top management and EBK started talking over the matter,” he said.

Last year, scores of engineering students at the university disrupted learning activities after learning that their degree course programme had not been approved by the regulator. Fearing destruction of property during the strike, management called for police reinforcements.

The monthlong standoff forced EBK board members to visit the campus to calm students before conducting an inspection of the engineering faculty’s learning facilities, curriculum, infrastructure, staff capacity and programmes. Led by EBK chairman Maina Wanjau, the team told the students they would come up with a final report and recommendations on accreditation status of the affected courses.

Wanjau, however, lauded the university for making significant improvements in the areas of infrastructure citing the construction of a Sh72 million state-of-the art engineering complex and a library. He warned heads of colleges against admitting students for courses that have not been approved by EBK.

The news comes amid reports that more than 10,000 students enrolled in bachelor’s degree courses in 26 universities risk getting “worthless” certificates because the programmes are being offered illegally.

According to a report by the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (Kuccps), the Commission for University Education (CUE) has not approved the courses. The commission had raised quality issues with 133 degree programmes after Kuccps requested it to validate undergraduate programmes offered at all public and private institutions.

However, CUE last week extended a lifeline to the students after it declared the programmes valid. However, Chief Executive Officer Mwenda Ntarangwi ruled out approvals for new programmes, saying the process has been suspended until next year. He said the institutions which have been offering the courses, most of which are clustered under bachelors of Arts and Sciences, could admit new students into the programmes.

CUE’s hasty retreat a public outcry amid fears that affected students might instigate strikes in their campuses. Angry vice chancellors also criticised CUE for ‘publishing false information’.   

Kisii University Vice Chancellor Prof John Akama denied reports that the institution is offering five unapproved degree programmes by CUE. He said the institution is not offering Bachelors of Arts in applied Linguistics, Peace Education, Translation and Interpretation, Business Management and Bachelor of Science as indicated.

The don told Scholar in his office that the college is offering Business Administration Degree and not Business and Management as shown in the press.  “The information was false and misleads the public. Our university is offering 205 courses and not 285 as indicated in the report,” said the VC.

The VC said Kisii University’s programmes are accredited by CUE and the information is available in the commission and university’s websites. “Professional programmes offered at the institution are also accredited by relevant professional bodies and regulators,” Akama said.

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