Public universities in Kenya will admit only 8,150 first-year students this year, just per cent of those who have attained the minimum entry qualifications.
However, about 1,200 students are expected to enter private universities. Raphael Munavu, chairman of the joint universities admissions board, advised students to seek admission in universities in neighbouring countries and further abroad.
For several years, universities have kept their annual intake below 10,000, as urged by the World Bank. According to Harold Wackman, the World Bank's representative in Nairobi, overcrowding, brain drain and poor resources have affected standards of higher education in Kenya. "We have advised universities to limit intake, improve institutional management and revitalise science and technology-based programmes as the way forward towards improving the falling academic standards," he said.
The bank also urged universities to reduce numbers of students taking courses in humanities and liberal arts.
Francis Gichaga, vice-chancellor of the University of Nairobi, said: "Effective cost-recovery measures have enabled universities to buy much-needed library books and laboratory equipment."
There is, however, public demand for universities to admit more students. Since 1990, about 180,000 students have failed to gain admission to public universities. This has led to a general disinterest in applying.
As to whether access to university education will be expanded, the joint admissions board said this will be determined by the country's economic growth.