Nairobi Professor: How Universities Set Up Graduates for Failure

UoN graduates celebrate during the 57th Graduation Ceremony held at the institution's grounds on September 22, 2017.

Professor Alfred Omenya, a professional architect, has shared intrigues into how tertiary facilities create controversial degrees that disadvantage graduates seeking job opportunities. 

Omenya is a former lecturer at the University of Nairobi (UoN) and Technical University of Kenya (TUK) in addition to being the Chief Executive Officer of Eco-Build, an architecture firm.

The scholar detailed how new universities tended to create strange degree names which are unknown in the market. He cited that he once reportedly disagreed with TUK management over the issue. 

Omenya stated that, as the founding Dean of the School of Architecture and the Built Environment, he stuck with global norms. The professor stated that in architecture, there are only three types of degrees recognised globally.

Computers in a laboratory

These are BSc Architecture which is a six-year course, Bachelor of Architectural Studies is attained after four years and Bachelor of Architecture or M.Arch -a professional degree attained after two more years of study. 

“There is an appalling proliferation of names for engineering degrees in Kenya, like Bachelor of Technology in Engineering; Bachelor of Engineering Science (is there Engineering Art?); Bachelor of Engineering in Structure and Construction. Buyer Beware!

“I refused to start a programme on Bachelor of Infrastructure Planning. I also refused to start a Bachelor's Degree in Tropical Architecture/ Environmental Design. I told the management that this is akin to becoming a Pediatric Cardiologist without being a Medical Doctor/ General Practitioner first,” Omenya tweeted. 

He argued that some of the ‘degrees’ are just topics in the main courses. For example; Environmental Planning, Infrastructure Planning, Rural Planning, are areas of study in Urban and Regional Planning which one can specialise in later years.

“While innovation is important, new universities should start from the known to the unknown. If they start from the unknown, I am telling them for free, nobody will want to be associated with their products! 

“This puts their students at a huge disadvantage. That is the way the world runs,” he cautioned. 

Compensation of TUK Students

On Wednesday, July 28, the High Court awarded Ksh15 million compensation to 75 graduates who sued Technical University of Kenya (TUK) over the quality of degrees.

The applicants lamented that their degrees were not recognised by the Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK) rendering them unemployable.

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Education CS George Magoha at KICC on Tuesday, February 9, 2021.
Former President Uhuru Kenyatta with the late Education CS George Magoha at KICC on Tuesday, February 9, 2021.

Magoha’s plan to scrap off degrees

In April 2019, Education CS George Magoha cautioned students against enrolling for 98 courses that risked being scrapped.

A year later in June 2020, he ordered an audit into 10-degree courses he wanted to be dropped. This was after fewer candidates applied for the courses while others attracted zero placements.

These courses included Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurship, Theology, Bachelor of Science (Energy Technology), Bachelor of Science in Automotive Technology, Bachelor of Technology in Building Construction, Bachelor of Technology in Renewable Energy and Bachelor of Technology in Mechanical Engineering.

Others were Bachelor of Science (Aquatic Resources Conservation and Development with IT, Bachelor of Science in Animal Production and Bachelor of Science (Oceanography). 

With the enforcement of the Competence-Based Curriculum (CBC), a number of degree courses may be scrapped to align with the new education system. The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) scrapped the Bachelor of Education Degree in May 2021, directing teachers to pursue a Bachelor of Arts course or a Bachelor of Science. 

After graduation, they will enroll in a one-year postgraduate course before they are cleared to apply for a TSC number. CS Magoha supported the move.