The University of Nairobi (UoN) has more than doubled fees for postgraduate courses and parallel degrees to ease a cash crunch brought home by a dip in student enrolment.
The university has increased fees for liberal arts Master’s courses like communication and MBA to more than Sh600,000 for a two-year programme from an average Sh275,000, reflecting an increase of 118 percent.
Degree courses like commerce, economics and law under the parallel plan have been increased by up to 70 percent to about Sh1 million for the four years.
The new fees will apply to new students joining the university from this month, marking the first major fees review for postgraduate courses and parallel degrees in nearly two decades.
The university is betting the review will lift revenues from fees, which have dropped in recent years and pushed Kenya’s leading public university to a Sh1.4 billion loss in the year to June 2018.
UoN settled on the easier target of postgraduate and self-sponsored students after undergraduate students under State sponsorship opposed proposals by vice-chancellors to have tuition charges tripled to Sh48,000 annually.
“The fees are up and they will apply to new students. It’s part of the restructuring plan that will lift the university from losses,” said a top official at the institution who sought anonymity.
The two-year MBA course will now cost Sh602,000 from Sh280,000, excluding project fees while MA in Communication fees has increased to Sh655,000, up from Sh273, 000.
The increased postgraduate fees are nearly half what top private universities like Strathmore are charging. Fees for a Master’s in Commerce at Strathmore is Sh636,720 annually.
Students pursuing medicine at UoN will part with Sh3.8 million for the five-year course, up from Sh2.35 million. Law is charging Sh1, 020, 000 from Sh715, 500 while engineering courses will average Sh2.1 million from about Sh1 million.
The push for review of the fees comes when the drop in the number of students pursuing parallel degree courses whose tuition charges are based on market rates, has hurt university finances.
This has forced the institutions like the University of Nairobi to freeze hiring and slow down expansion plans as they struggle with huge debts.
Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows its enrolment declined from 98,715 in 2016 to 62,963 in 2020, reflecting a drop of 36.2 percent or 35,752 students.
Admission to public universities of nearly all high school students who score C+ (plus) and above over the past four years has reduced the pool of learners available for private universities as well as parallel degree programme students in public universities.
The lucrative parallel degree plan became the universities’ money minting machines in the 15 years to 2016 as workers used the window to raise profile in the search for new jobs and promotions.
Official data shows that the number of students pursuing Master’s and PhD courses in the year to June 2020 stood at 44,657 from 67,407 in 2016.
The drop emerged at a time companies have frozen promotions and hiring due to the economic ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic, dimming the motivation for workers to read for higher academic and professional qualifications.
PhDs and Master’s degrees are viewed by many as a ticket to promotion at the workplace and getting new jobs, pushing the enrolment to the ceiling when courses such as MBA attracted students in thousands.
Cash-strapped varsities have been promoting PhD and Master’s courses in a bid to grow their revenues in the wake of the sharp drop in the number of students pursuing the parallel degree courses.
The institution’s financial woes have been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic which led to a five-month closure and partial reopening to combat the spread of the virus.
On Friday, the University of Nairobi announced a restructuring plan in which all colleges and some offices have been abolished while some functions have been merged around faculties.
UoN sank into a Sh1.4 billion loss in the year to June 2018 after overshooting its budget and failing to raise projected revenue, says the latest audit report that showed a surplus of Sh583 million a year earlier.
A report from the Auditor-General showed that the university was unable to meet financial obligations worth Sh2 billion in the year to June 2018, as the cash crisis worsened.
Critical statutory deductions such as Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax, National Social Security Fund (NSSF), National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), Higher Education Loans Board (Helb), pension and sacco deductions went unpaid, the report reveals.