EA Universities Guide

Market survey: Quality of learning declining as universities expand

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Ndejje University students. The number of female students registered for science, engineering and technology courses has increased remarkably in recent years following massive expansion. PHOTO | MORGAN MBABAZI  

By DAVID ADUDA

Posted  Thursday, April 14   2016 at  09:00

In Summary

  • With the rapid expansion, universities have introduced new courses, changed modes of admission and teaching and learning programmes to suit the needs of diverse groups seeking higher education.
  • These are some of the findings of the study entitled: “Market Research Survey: East African University Guide” that was commissioned by the Nation Media Group and conducted by Infotrak. The study was conducted in October and November 2015 and targeted university managers, employers, professional bodies, students and recruitment agencies.

The number of female students registered for science, engineering and technology courses has increased remarkably in recent years following massive expansion of universities in East Africa, a new study reveals.

With the rapid expansion, universities have introduced new courses, changed modes of admission and teaching and learning programmes to suit the needs of diverse groups seeking higher education.

Many universities have introduced online, modular and evening courses that allow flexibility and encourage more deserving students to register for programmes of their choice. Technology and innovation have emerged as key elements of university education in the region.

These are some of the findings of the study entitled: “Market Research Survey: East African University Guide” that was commissioned by the Nation Media Group and conducted by Infotrak. The study was conducted in October and November 2015 and targeted university managers, employers, professional bodies, students and recruitment agencies.

It focused on five distinct areas: policies on university education, academic programmes, career choices and employment opportunities, student life, research and innovation.

Despite the growth, the study shows that the old public universities, namely, Dar es Salaam, Makerere, Nairobi and Rwanda are still held in high esteem by students and employers. But others such as Kyambogo, Kenyatta, Busitema and Jomo Kenyatta University are equally regarded highly.

A number of private universities have also evolved as high quality learning centres and take credit for providing relatively better facilities and offering market-driven courses. For example in Kenya, Strathmore, United States International University, Kenya Methodist University, Mount Kenya, Baraton, African Nazarene and Presbyterian University are regarded highly by employers.

However, the study indicates that the expansion has come at a cost. Quality of teaching and learning has declined because of large numbers of students, shortage of lecturers and lack of equipment and other resources. Even worrying is the report that cheating has become rampant in universities while at the same time students take shortcuts like paying lecturers to pass practical projects and assignments. Also, graduate unemployment has risen considerably either because of lack of jobs or sheer unemployable skills.

Career choices

In terms of career choices, the study established marketable and non-marketable courses from the perspectives of students, universities, recruitment agencies and employers. Thus, some of the courses classified as marketable by the respondents included business administration, accounting, information technology, engineering, law, medicine.

Conversely, the following courses were listed among the least marketable: anthropology, theology, philosophy, geology, fisheries, disaster management, natural sciences and criminology.

Although there was broad consensus, there were also areas of variations among the five East African countries in terms of the marketability of courses. For example, education, and agriculture were found to be popular in Tanzania while journalism, tourism and sociology the least marketable. Yet the reverse was the case in Kenya, where education and agriculture were among the least marketable courses.

In Kenya, education graduates took up to five years to get jobs because of a government freeze on teacher employment. Equally, the agriculture sector has a low absorption capacity even though it is the country’s economic mainstay.

Kenya’s most marketable courses are medicine, computer science, statistics, communication and social media, electrical and electronic engineering, law, nursing, architecture, aviation, real estate, finance, actuarial science, oil and gas engineering.

The soul of university education

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