Kenyan students’ demand for courses that are considered prestigious continues to grow despite the limited slots set aside by the 32 public universities.
In September, 67,790 first-year students reported in public universities for the 2015/2016 academic year.
One-third of university applicants missed their first choice of study course.
According to the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Services (KUCCPS) chief executive officer John Muraguri, some courses, such as medicine and architecture, are popular because they are considered prestigious and, therefore, the competition for admission to study them is usually cutthroat.
The majority of the 2014 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination candidates desired to study architectural studies, actuarial science, computer science, civil engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, mechanical engineering, dental surgery, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, medicine and surgery and law.
But only 3,362 students were admitted to study these courses. The available slots for these courses were 3,194 this academic year and the capacities were filled in the first revision of courses that was done in May this year.
Statistics from KUCCPS, a statutory body tasked with placement of students in universities and colleges, indicate that only 28 students will be taking dental surgery in the whole country.
The available capacity for training in dental surgery in two public universities — University of Nairobi and Moi University — is 18 and 10 respectively.
Another 131 students will take pharmacy in four public universities — University of Nairobi, Maseno University, Kenyatta University and Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and technology — which have 133 slots.
Those admitted for Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery are 320.
The University of Nairobi which had the capacity of 110, was allocated the highest number of students — 120.
A total of 101 students will study veterinary medicine, with University of Nairobi admitting 84, and Egerton University 17.
A total of 108 students were selected to study architecture in three universities: University of Nairobi, Technical University of Kenya (TUK) and Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (JKUAT). University of Nairobi admitted 38 students, TUK 37 while JKUAT has admitted 33.
About 35 students have been admitted at JKUAT to study landscape architecture and which had the capacity of 35.
A total of 698 students were selected to study actuarial science, with Jaramogi Oginga University admitting the highest number at 115. Another 606 will study computer science while 329 will take civil engineering in eight public universities. At the University of Nairobi, 32 students have been selected to study geospatial engineering.
About 289 students will take electrical and electronic engineering across the eight universities. University of Nairobi admitted 67, Kenyatta University 32, Moi University will get 24, JKUAT 43 and Masinde Muliro University 3.
Others are TUK (48), Technical University of Mombasa (44) and Dedan Kimathi University 48.
A total of 324 students were admitted to study law, with the University of Nairobi taking the highest number at 201; 71 students joined Kenyatta University and 52 Moi University.
Some 367 students have been admitted to nine public universities to study mechanical engineering: University of Nairobi took 72, Kenyatta University (32), Moi University (23), JKUAT 36), MMUST (32), TUK (51), TUM (43), Dedan Kimathi University (47) and Machakos University College (31).
“We offered the chances on merit. Top performers definitely were given priority for the courses they had chosen,” said Mr Muraguri.
Liberal arts and environmental courses were least preferred because candidates felt they offered fewer openings in the job market.
Education experts say there is a need to change students’ attitude towards arts subjects. Moi University lecturer Prof Okumu Bigambo said that arts courses are about life and therefore students should be encouraged to pursue them.
But he said universities need to review such courses from time to time in order to match the demands of the market.
Similar sentiments are shared by university education regulator, Commission for University Education (CUE), which is asking parents to help in career counselling.
CUE chief executive officer Prof David Some said: “We have to look at the benefits of non-science courses so that we can have a balance. The sciences cannot exist alone.”