I am delighted to join you today as you discuss a very important subject, the accreditation of engineering programmes. Let me from the onset thank you for finding it worthwhile to convene this very important meeting and for inviting me to speak. I believe that at the end of your deliberations today you will find a common approach in accelerating accreditation of engineering programmes in your respective universities. In this pursuit, the Commission will always be an enabling partner, for with you, we have a common aspiration and agenda, QUALITY.
Ladies and gentlemen, as you may be aware, access to university education was a major challenge the country faced a slightly over a decade ago. At the height of it, the minimum entry grade in some of the degree programmes was as high as grade A minus. However, the country has, in recent years zealously pursued expansion of university education to a level where access to university education is no longer a major challenge. With 70 universities currently and over 1000 academic programmes, any Kenyan who desires to acquire university education would not be limited by access. The module two programmes have opened innovative ways of improving access. With these developments the issue of access has less prominence while the issue of quality and relevance of university education has taken a centre stage.
I am happy to note that the main agenda of this meeting is to enhance quality and relevance of engineering education and training. This cannot have come at a better time. At the end of your deliberation, it should be possible to upscale the quality enhancing mechanisms you are going to come up with and apply them to other programmes and ensure that there is quality and relevance across board. Perhaps, the meeting of today is the catalyst we need as a sector in order to refocus our efforts to assuring quality and relevance of our university education. It reminds me of the subject meetings which used to be held by Deans of East African Universities under the auspices of Inter University Council. Unfortunately these meetings dwindled and finally vanished. It is a high time these subject meetings were revived across our various Universities in Kenya.
Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to mention one or two issues with respect to accreditation of engineering programmes. As you are aware, Engineering is one of the academic fields that is subject to dual accreditation as per the existing regulatory and legal framework. The Engineers Board of Kenya is mandated to approve and accredit engineering programmes, in universities, by Section 7(1)(l) of the Engineers Act, 2012. The Commission for University Education is also mandated to regulate university education in Kenya by Section 5(1) by the Universities Act, 2012. These legal provisions have resulted in unnecessary confusion as to who has the final say in the accreditation of engineering programmes. The situation has been made worse by the removal, from the purview of the Commission, of the provision to accredit academic programmes of chartered universities, through the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 2014. This situation calls for a sober interpretation and application of the law to make sure that the interests of all stakeholders, students included, are taken into consideration. The matter of dual accreditation is a good practice and benchmark across many professional programmes globally. Let me point out that even with these conflicting legislation it should be possible for the two regulatory agencies to work together to ensure seamless accreditation of engineering programmes. The Commission has taken this route of constructive engagement with professional bodies even as a legal solution is sought through the amendment of the relevant laws to institutionalize dual accreditation. I am aware that that the Universities Act, 2012 is undergoing amendment and the amendments may cure some of the current problems being experienced in programme accreditation.
Even with the challenges we have been facing as universities, I want to remind ourselves that quality should be the agenda of all the stakeholders in the university sector. To the Commission, it is the only agenda. It is therefore incumbent upon universities to ensure that there is quality and relevance in all academic programmes, with or without the watching eye of the regulator. If every institution was to take this proactive approach to quality, and entrench a culture of self-evaluation, then the requirements of the various regulatory bodies will just augment an already working system. As Deans of your respective schools you will play a very critical role in ensuring that the culture of quality is cultivated and sustained in your respective schools and the entire university. To this end, the Commission has come up with Regulations, Standards and Guidelines to act as a compass that will guide institutions towards quality. The Universities’ Standards and Guidelines, 2014 have been in operation for the last two years and I hope that you have found them useful in quality enhancement. We are open and ready to engage with all stakeholders to address any outstanding issues in quality enhancement and implementation of the 2014 standards and regulations.
As I conclude, let me recognize the proactive approach you have taken, as universities offering engineering courses, in trying to accelerate efforts towards full compliance of your engineering programmes. It is commendable. I am aware that this is happening against the backdrop of disquiet in the profession characterized by contested registration of engineering students, litigation pitting stakeholders against each other and at times closure of engineering schools. I believe these are challenges consistent with a developing system and are not insurmountable. As professionals and academicians in our respective disciplines, we should not tire in looking for a lasting solution, for it is in scholars that societies look up to for solutions to intractable problems. Let me assure you that the Commission will continue to play a leading role in making sure that accreditation of engineering programmes, and indeed all programmes, is easy and friendly without compromising on quality.
Today, I would like to recognize the appointment of Prof. David Some , the CEO of CUE to two important organizations, namely PASET (Partnership for skills in Applied Science Engineering and Technology and ACE II-African Centers of Excellence 2 for East and Southern Africa Region ) as Kenyan representative.
Fellow scholars, ladies and gentlemen, let me take this opportunity to wish you fruitful discussions and assure you that we are together in this journey towards quality and relevance.