Licensing bodies 'too small'

August 20, 2004

EAST AFRICA. As the learning market looks set to go global, Times Higher writers check out how rogues are weeded out worldwide

The number of public and private universities in the East African states of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania has grown tremendously over the past 20 years.

In 1984, there were only four public universities - Makerere in Uganda, Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, Nairobi and Kenyatta in Kenya. Now there are 14, while the number of private universities has risen from two to about 50.

Demand for higher education has grown - there are more than 200,000 students enrolled at universities in the region - but admission to public universities remains competitive, forcing institutions to establish dual-track programmes for full-cost students. Overcrowding threatens academic standards in public universities, but the situation is worse in private universities that rely on part-time lecturers.

Apart from a handful, the region's private universities are in effect commercial colleges concentrating on classroom-based programmes.

But the accreditation bodies responsible for licensing and quality assurance remain underdeveloped despite the expansion. Kenya's Commission for Higher Education was set up in 1985 but has no capacity to regulate the universities and their programmes. Similar bodies were set in Uganda and Tanzania two years ago.

Senior education officials from the three countries met recently to establish guidelines on accreditation of universities across the region.

They also directed foreign universities interested in establishing campuses in East Africa to register with the Inter-University Council for East Africa and to seek accreditation status with the local regulatory bodies before they enrol students.

This has not stopped foreign diploma-mill colleges and universities from establishing clandestine links with small commercial colleges in Nairobi, Kampala and Dar-es-Salaam. The high value being placed on university education has also given rise to criminal syndicates printing and selling fake degree certificates from leading public and foreign universities.

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