Challenges facing university education in Kenya

I am a university student in Kenya, and I want to talk about the challenges that we face as students. The quality of education is going down largely because the government doesn’t provide enough money to fund universities and colleges.

I also feel that most of the content that is taught in universities is outdated ,or is not tailored to our career interests. It’s also difficult for students to get internships as well because the economy isn’t doing so well and companies only want people who have experience in their industry.

These are just examples of why higher education in Kenya needs help! Below are some of other challenges facing university education in Kenya.

Absent Lecturers

A majority of lecturers skip classes and do not attend the whole duration of the semester. And when lecturers are present, they only teach a few hours before disappearing again.

This affects our grades and demoralizes us because it is hard to keep up with our work when there is no consistency in teaching quality or subject matter mastery by professors.

This also makes students less likely to attend classes and puts them at a disadvantage in the course they are undertaking.

High University fees

University tuition fees in Kenya have been steadily increasing every year. Unless you are a government sponsored student, you can rake in hundreds of thousands in school fees.

This has led to a decrease in the number of students able to get higher education because they cannot afford it. Additionally, many people are unable to work or study while paying for university or college which affects their grades.

For example, a student undertaking a parallel degree in any of the universities in Kenya will cough out approximately Ksh 100,000 per term. This translates to over Ksh 1 million shillings over the course duration. This is an amount that not many Kenyans can afford.

Absence of student loans

The lack of availability of student loans such as HELB, not only to cover tuition fees but also other living costs such as accommodation and transportation is a major challenge faced by Kenyan university students.

Recently HELB announced that due to former students defaulting on their loans and some not repaying their loans promptly, the amount that will be disbursed this year will be significantly lower. This will affect the number of students that can access this loan in future years.

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For this reason, many Kenyan university hopefuls are forced to forego their aspirations because they cannot afford tuition fees or living costs.

High cost of living

It’s tough living on campus if you don’t have money to pay for food or accommodation. Due to inflation, the cost of living has risen tenfold over a span of a few years. This makes it difficult for us Kenyan students and is a major factor in the high drop-out rates of university comrades.

A classic example is where I school in Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. A one bedroom house in juja, ranges from Ksh 12,000 to Ksh 15,000 per month while a few years back the price for such a unit ranged from Ksh 7,000 to Ksh 10,000. This is an increase of 70%.

Lack of curriculum standardization

Students undertaking the same degree course in two different universities are taught different content, which is a problem considering that they will apply for the same job .

In addition to this ,there is lack of standardized assessment methods for assessing students in different universities, which leads to unequal grading and poor quality graduates who cannot compete with our international counterparts such as those attending USIU or Strathmore University.

My proposal is to standardize the content taught in different universities to give every student an equal opportunity to be able to compete in the job market.

Frequent lecturer strikes

Lecturers often strike to demand better working conditions, more pay and less work load. This means that they have no choice but to look for other part time jobs in order to make ends meet.

This affects students because we are not able to attend classes when the lecturers are on strike. This leads us spending more years in university in order to complete our education.

To solve this problem universities should increase pay, and provide better working conditions for lecturers and stick to their terms of agreement with UASU.

Frequent student unrest

The frequent student unrest is an indirect effect of the poor conditions in Kenyan universities. This means that students are often protesting about tuition fee increases, or other university policies such as no visiting of the opposite gender hostels past a certain time.

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This affects us as we have to miss classes sometimes as much as one full academic year.

The solution to this problem would be for the administration to engage students through our student unions by facilitating a dialogue with us, and listening to our needs.

Lack of Job opportunities

The country has been producing more graduates than the industry can absorb, and as a result many students graduate without gainful employment or any prospects for future success.

These grads are forced to take jobs that they do not want and at salaries which are too low for their qualifications, or they remain unemployed.

The solution is to create more job opportunities in Kenya by investing more heavily into the country’s infrastructure projects so that there will be a need for new employees with higher skills.

Lack of quality learning

Learning in universities has turned to just passing exams instead of learning practical skills that are required in the workplaces. Most students write ‘Mwakenyas’ for the sole purpose of passing exams. Once an exam is done. the course content is long forgotten and on to the next one.

The solution is for universities to offer courses that will equip students with skills that are needed in the real world. This can be achieved by:

  • Offering more practical, hands on learning opportunities and assignments
  • Sending lecturers into industry to gain experience which they then bring back into lecture rooms
  • Encouraging collaboration between universities so as to exchange worthwhile ideas.
  • Restructuring the curriculum so that it is more cohesive and includes all aspects of business, not just one discipline at a time.

The plans are quite ambitious as they require cooperation on an national level but if successful could be a key part in solving global issues such as unemployment.

Limited educational resources

Kenya’s universities are struggling to meet demand due to limited educational resources. In most universities, the country’s limited number of qualified lecturers are teaching up to six times the amount of students they were originally contracted for.

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The University of Nairobi is one institution that has come under scrutiny, with both staff and students criticizing its lack of resources and overcrowding which can push class sizes over 100 in some departments.

This is one of the most significant challenges facing universities in Kenya and it has been exacerbated by a lack of financial support for higher education from the government.

Social Vices

Social issues such as drugs and substance abuse and alcoholism have contributed to a higher drop-out rate of students, with some citing these as the reason for their poor performance.

This is an issue that can be addressed through counselling and awareness raising campaigns. University administrations must also be aware of this problem and put in place measures such as stricter drug policies or alcohol bans to curb its proliferation on campus premises.

Lack of internship

Before graduating we are all required to undergo internship or an attachment in a business setting. Unless you have connections this is hard to come by. This results to students not graduating on time.

A solution to this is to provide students with a list of potential places to do internships or attachments. The university can also set up partnerships with various companies and organizations so that they have an active internship program in place for their students.


With the future of our country at stake, we need to act now for a brighter tomorrow. This is not just an issue that universities have to deal with; it’s one that every Kenyan citizen should be invested in. Our government and private sector leaders must work together to address these challenges if we want Kenya’s next generation to enter into an economy where they can thrive and compete globally.

I hope you agree with me on this matter and will also do your part by becoming more actively involved in education policy discussions happening right here in your own backyard – even if it’s just sharing articles like this one with others who care about the future of Kenya!

Let us know how you feel about these challenges facing university education in Kenya.

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