Expansion of Private Universities in Kenya and its Implications on Student Characteristics and Access: an Analytical Study


Benard Mwebi, Enose M.W. Simatwa and T.M.O. Ayodo

Access to University education was for a long time a preserve of some selected few who managed to pass the then Kenya Advanced Certificate of Education Examination and now Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education Examination. The competitive nature of the examinations locks out many candidates from pursuing University education. The emergence of Private Universities has provided reprieve that was for a long time overdue. That is, for students who qualify but fail to get admission into universities Private Universities have proved to serve Kenyans who miss chances in Joint Admission Board selection and need for higher education. However, a number of concerns have been raised regarding characteristics of admitted students and the factors influencing access. Therefore, the purpose of the study was to examine the expansion of private universities in Kenya and implications on student characteristics and access factors. The study populations were 24 Academic Registrars, 24 Deans of Students, 24 Student Leaders, 148 Lecturers and 4476 Students, The 2007/2008 academic year cohort. The study found that entry qualifications of the undergraduate students in the Private Universities were a Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education Examinations with at least a C+, Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education Examinations with a p1 certificate, diploma certificate and above, Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education with a pre-university certificate and Kenya Advanced Certificate of Education certificate. The main category of schools attended by the undergraduate students enrolled in the Private Universities were provincial boarding day schools which accounted for almost half of the students enrolled in Universities. Most students were enrolled in the faculties of education, business and computing science which accounted for over 70% of the total enrollment in the Universities under study. The modes of studying in the Private Universities were full time, school based, evenings and weekends. There were more females (52.22%) enrolled in Private Universities than males (41.78%) and more students who were not married (67.82%) as opposed to the married ones (32.18%). Many of the students were less than 30 years of age (56.96%). Factors that influenced access were: Newspaper advertisements, Cost/tuition of the programmes, Strict graduation schedules, variety of programmes, Pre-university programmes, Campus field trips by high school students (56.49%) ,high school visits by Universities’ representatives, Graduation ceremonies and Television advertisements. Good public relations, Pre-University programmes.

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