Vision 2030 recognizes that we need to greatly increase the number of engineers in Kenya if we are to implement the projects, which will make us realize the vision. At the same time, we have recently been reading in the press that some Universities have had to close because of students’ unrest due to polemics between the universities and the Engineers Board of Kenya.
To realize Vision 2030, we need more engineers. We need more innovation. We need more innovative engineers. What, therefore, is the problem? Why are the Universities and the Engineers Board of Kenya not agreeing? Who has the right to determine what universities teach, what is taught, how it is taught, to whom it is taught and who qualifies to be awarded a university degree? Who has the right to determine what a university degree is called? What is the proper role of a statutory professional registration body such as the Engineers Board of Kenya? What is the role of the Commission for University Education? Given the current challenges between the universities and EBK what is the best way forward?
To answer the above questions and to enunciate a just way forward, we need to examine the roles of the Universities and the Engineers Board of Kenya.
The Universities Act 2012 is an Act of Parliament to provide for the development of university education; the establishment, accreditation and governance of universities; the establishment of the Commission for University Education, the Universities Funding Board and the Kenya University and Colleges Central Placement Service Board; the repeal of certain laws, and for connected purposes.
The Act recognizes that a University, in performing its functions shall have the right and responsibility to preserve and promote the traditional principles of academic freedom in the conduct of its internal and external affairs.
Academic freedom is a prominent feature of the English University concept. It is the freedom to appoint faculty, set standards and admit students. This ideal may be better described as institutional autonomy and is distinct from whatever freedom is granted to students and academic staff by the institution. The Supreme Court of the United States said that academic freedom means a University can determine for itself on academic grounds: Who may teach; what may be taught; how it should be taught; and who may be admitted to study.
Academic Freedom means that a university may opt to offer an undergraduate degree programme called Bachelor of Engineering, B.Eng, and another one offer a similar programme called Bachelor of Science in Engineering, B.Sc (Eng)
A few years ago, the University of Pretoria had a department called Civil and Biosystems Engineering. At the same time, the University of Nairobi had a department called Environmental and Biosystems Engineering. It is prudent for a university to consult widely with industry and other stakeholders with respect to curriculum development, including development of new programmes and review of existing ones. However, the final decision on what to teach, who is to be taught, who teaches and how to teach must rest with the university.
The Engineers Registration Act 2011 is an Act of Parliament to provide for the training, registration and licensing of engineers, the regulation and development of the practice of engineers and for connected purposes. The Act creates the Engineers Board of Kenya. The Board is responsible for the registration of engineers and firms, regulation of engineering professional services, setting of standards, development, and general practice of engineering.
The Engineers Board of Kenya and the public university are public institutions. The Constitution of Kenya requires that they conduct their mutual relations based on consultation and cooperation. Chapter 6 of the Constitution requires state officers to: Exercise public trust in a manner that: is consistent with the purposes and objects of the Constitution; demonstrate respect for the people; bring honour to the nation and dignity to the office; and promote public confidence in the integrity of the office; and vest in the state officer the responsibility to serve the people, rather than the power to rule them.
Engineering professions arise due to historical necessity. Civil Engineering, engineering for civilians, arose at the dawn of the industrial revolution. Before this, engineers were, mainly engaged in the military; hence, they were mainly Military Engineers. From the original Civil Engineering, we now have branches of engineering which virtually cover all the letters of the alphabet. We have aeronautical, architectural, biological, biotechnical, ceramic, chemical, environmental, fire, pharmaceutical up to zoological engineering.
The universities, Engineers Board of Kenya and Commission for University Education need to dialogue. This dialogue must be informed by the fact that our universities must be centers of engineering innovation if we are to realize Vision 2030 and transform Kenya.
The Engineers Board of Kenya may wish to borrow from the registration process of the Council of Legal Education of Kenya. The Council of Legal Education, through the Law School, offers courses to graduates who wish to be admitted. Each graduate, from Kenyan or foreign universities, is assessed and is thereafter required to take courses as may be appropriate. The EBK may also borrow from the USA system of engineering registration. Graduates are required to take and pass a short examination to attain the status of Engineer in Training (EIT). After a period of practice, under the guidance of professional engineers, the EITs, or (Registered Graduate Engineers in Kenya), are required to take and pass a longer “open book” examination before they acquire the status of Professional Engineer,( Registered Engineers in our case).
Let us go forward with good faith, mutual consultations and the interest of students, graduates, parents, industry and the public being paramount.
Eng Prof Lawrence O. Gumbe has a Ph. D degree from Ohio State University, USA, an M.Sc degree from Cranfield University, England, and a B.Sc degree from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. He is a Registered Professional Consulting Engineer (P. Cons Eng.) with the Engineers Board of Kenya. Is a member of several learned societies including the Institution of Engineers of Kenya (IEK), Association of Consulting Engineers of Kenya (ACEK), the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK), the American Society of Civil Engineers(ASCE), American Society of Mechanical Engineers(ASME) American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE), the American Society of Heating, Ventilating and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Institution of Agricultural Engineers(IAgrE), UK, and Fellow Kenya National Academy of Sciences (KNAS).
He has had a long academic experience as Professor at the Technical University of Kenya, University of Nairobi and Kenyatta University.
As an Engineer, He has been the Chief Executive Officer of Log Associates, a firm of consulting Engineers, Economists and Planners from 1994. He has a wide consultancy experience in: Politics; economics; trade and policy analyses; feasibility studies; energy; water supply; valuation of machinery; design and construction supervision of factories; design, construction and testing of machinery; project appraisal, monitoring and evaluation of industries; and structural design. He has worked In Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Zambia, the UK and USA.