EA Universities Guide

Flexible models have helped growth of higher education in East Africa

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Bio-systems engineering students in Gulu University, Uganda. Massive expansion has offered all -young and old- a chance to acquire university education. PHOTO | MORGAN MBABAZI 

By DAVID ADUDA

Posted  Thursday, April 14   2016 at  09:00

In Summary

  • Across East Africa, the universities have introduced flexible models of admission and curriculum delivery that have made it easier for learners to pursue courses of their choice and at a time of their convenience.

  • The diversification of admission models has seen significant increase in student enrolment.

  • In particular, the dramatic rise in the number of universities is attributed to investment by religious organisations and private entrepreneurs.

  • Even so, the expansion has not all been rosy. Many challenges exist.

East Africa has registered phenomenal growth and expansion of higher education in the past two decades and opened opportunities for high school leavers to pursue degree programmes.

The massive expansion has also given a second chance to adults, who had missed out on university education, to enrol for degree courses and obtain higher qualifications to enhance their skills and competencies and secure them a chance for career progression.

Across the region, the universities have introduced flexible models of admission and curriculum delivery that have made it easier for learners to pursue courses of their choice and at a time of their convenience.

The range of courses has increased, giving students more options than ever before. A number of universities have opened satellite campuses in a drive to take higher education to the localities.

Equally, some international universities have opened up campuses in the region, bringing quality education to the doorstep of East Africans and at fairly lower costs.

The use of technology has also become a common practice in higher education.

Records from the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), the regional organisation responsible for development and co-ordination of university education and research, indicate that the region had 361 higher education institutions offering degrees at the end of 2015. These range from full-fledged universities to middle-level colleges that collaborate with universities within and outside the region to offer degree programmes.

Kenya, for example, had 69 universities, among them 33 public with a student enrolment of about 500,000.

In total, more than one million students were enrolled for degree programmes in East Africa’s higher education institutions in 2015.

Collectively, the universities offer a wide range of degree programmes from bachelor’s to doctorate levels, offering many options for high school leavers or adults seeking higher and continuing education.

The universities have devised various models of admission, delivery and supervision of learning and teaching.

For starters, they offer regular admission to high school leavers based on their performance in the national examinations. However, the second module, popularly known variously as parallel, evening or modular, has gained traction.

Additionally, universities have gone big on online courses either directly from their campuses or in partnership with other institutions abroad. Open online courses (Moocs) are also available. Collectively, these allow students to access higher education and achieve their life goals in a manner they find convenient.

The diversification of admission models has seen significant increase in student enrolment.

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