Challenges of Government-Financed Public Universities. A Case Study of Moi University, Kenya

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2018

24 Pages


Table of contents






In education finance, the sources of funds and the size of the resources are key determinants of quality education. In view of this, there is limited information about and to determine the challenges facing effectiveness of government financing public Universities education in Kenya: a case study of Moi university. Many research studies have been done in relation to the funding of universities in Western countries but limited studies have been conducted in non-Western countries particularly Kenya. Despite general recognition of the impact of funding sources on the management of public universities, there is a gap in knowledge of basic learning resources and teaching staff, (library resources, sporting facilities students’ agitation, laboratory equipment and computing infrastructure, insufficient), effectiveness of faculty members in performing their duties, delivery of services and quality of physical learning facilities. Therefore, this study is design to determine the challenges facing effectiveness of government financing public Universities education in Kenya. The data will be collected through questionnaires and interview guide. The data will be analyzed with the help of statistic package for social science (SPSS) to facilitate answering the research objectives and questions. Data will be collected from January to December 2017 in the case Moi University from a sample population of 10 top university management staff, 36 heads of department (HoDs) and 36 undergraduate students. The validity and the reliability test of the questionnaire will be based on cronbach alpha. This was done using descriptive statistics. The results of the data showed the challenges facing effectiveness of government financing public universities includes: inadequate funding for capital development and infrastructure; higher education facilities, including research laboratories and university libraries, fell into disrepair; challenges like failure to pay lecturers on time, underfunding of research, crumbling physical infrastructure, strikes by lecturers and students and a lack of teaching materials among others; challenged by government interference that influenced university governance; political model and bureaucratic model of administration play a more prominent role in government financing of public universities. As shown in the study, the most cited strategies measures by the respondents were: establishing lean & efficient management systems & cutting of waste; encouraging universities to be more ‘entrepreneurial’ in providing their services and seeking contracts for research and consultancy; effective communication between policy makers and implementers; designing or improving systems of student support including grants, scholarships, and student loans. The study recommends the adoption of performance based funding to enhance quality in higher education. The study adds knowledge to the area of educational policy, which would reveal other areas that might require further study.



African Governments emphasize and encourage the growth of higher education on the basis that higher education is a potentially transformational area of investment. This is because higher education has far reaching social and political impacts in terms of creating policies and implementing projects that will drive the nation's development agenda. This is only attainable if universities produce the intellectuals and the research findings of the highest calibre, which is why public universities need adequate financing. The Association of Africa Universities pronounced at its meetings in Mbabane in 1985 and in Harare in 1987, that heads of higher learning institutions should commit themselves to the pressing need to promote and enhance higher learning in Africa (AAU, 2007). This commitment followed in the footsteps of the policy of the then Organization of African Unity, which articulated similar goals in the 1981 Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa: 1980-2000, and Africa's Priority Programme for Economic Recovery: 1986-1990; and in the World Bank framework for higher education, which promoted university education for the future of Africa (World Bank, 1988).

However, in most African countries higher learning institutions rely on the government for most of their financing (Psacharopoulos, 1982). Consequently, the funding and quality of universities in these countries is closely linked to the performance of the national economy. Indeed, this was demonstrated in the 1980s and 1990s as many African countries went through phases of rapid population growth, coupled with economic slowdown, which led to the prioritization of more pressing needs such as healthcare, housing, food and primary education. As a result, higher education lost out in the extreme competition for financing. This wasn't helped by the frosty relationship between academics and governments at the time (World Bank, 1988). Governments and foreign donors began to insist that African universities' justify their reasons for existence and that they account for the large sums of public and private money that was allocated to them (World Bank, 1988).

By the beginning of the 21st century, the university funding situation was so acute that governments could not bear the strain of funding higher learning institutions. This was due to the growth in enrolment numbers in higher education during the 1990s, with global enrolments growing from 68.6 million in 1990-91 to 110.7 million in 2001-02, which included growth in developing nations, from 29.3 million to 58.3 million over the same period (UNESCO, 2004). However, despite this impressive growth, the developing nations still had a Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of 11.3, below half of the global average of 23.2, and far below the GER of developed nations which stood at 54.6. To catch up, developing nations, including those in Africa, would have to greatly expand higher education, which would mean more financial burdens on governments. Other factors, such as the introduction of free primary education, would also contribute to more graduates from secondary school, putting further pressure on higher learning. Therefore, higher learning would have to expand at a greater rate than national economies. This called for a revolution in the way in which higher learning would be paid for and implemented, according to Sachs (2005) who stated: “the technologies are known and the strategies proved; what is needed is simply the political and the financial will to implement them.” To keep up with academic progress in the developed world, the nations of Africa have no choice but to expand their university education, despite funding constraints and despite the priority that had been given to primary education under the ‘Education for All’ programme (UNESCO, 2004).

Nevertheless, the financing problem remained more acute than ever. Therefore, beginning in the 1990s, there was a concerted effort on the part of states to shift the burden of university financing from the government to other stakeholders, such as students themselves and the private sector. This is because governments were concerned about the increasing costs, coupled with what they considered a low rate of return on investment in university education (World Bank, 1994).

Kenya was no exception, as the demand for higher education increased drastically, as the number of high school graduates increased, yet public universities did not have the funds to enrol the majority of the qualified students, with the Gross Enrollment Rate (GER) at university level standing at only 9.8% (KNBS, 2009). Kenya also finances universities mainly from public funds, (Psacharopoulos, 1982; World Bank, 1988) so increasing budgetary allocations were made to keep up with enrolment. Therefore the recurrent expenditure for public higher education increased from KES 9.7 million in 2004/05 to KES 14.1 million in 2006/07 (KNBS, 2009). However, when further increases were no longer tenable, the figure dropped to KES 11.8 million in 2008/09 (KNBS, 2009). Even these budgetary increases could not bring down the cost of higher education per student.

Numerous authors, such as Adeniji (2008) and Yusuf (2010), concur that the funding gap between higher education needs and government expenditures increased steadily during the 1990s and 2000s, and that students would have to bear the full cost of university education unless creative means could be found to fill the gap. The aforementioned finance gap is closely connected to the social, economic and political structures within a country, and the world view of its people, as cited by Wangenge-Ouma et al., (2008) and Johnstone (1998). Therefore, a country's education system cannot be isolated from the surrounding social and economic influences, and university financing has to take this into account. From an economic development perspective, higher education and training is the motivator of economic growth, which is why countries will use great amounts of public funds to support universities (UNESCO, 1991). Alongside the growing enrolment, governments are exhorted, first through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and more recently through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to increase education expenditure and to attain Education for All (EFA) (UNESCO, 2004).

Ultimately many students who could not get into government funded public universities resorted to private universities. The cost of these private institutions is prohibitive, so the government came up with a plan that would simultaneously address the enrolment and funding challenges; it introduced Privately Sponsored Student Programmes (PSSP; also known as Module II) in which students who had qualified to join public universities, but were not funded by the government, could pay for themselves. They would thus be studying in public universities, but paying as much as students in private universities would. This arrangement helped to boost enrolment numbers in the mid-2000s (KNBS, 2009) and also provided public universities with badly needed alternative sources of funding.


The majority of public universities in Kenya and Africa are state-funded (Psacharopoulos, 1982). In the years immediately after independence, with low Gross Enrolment Rates (GER), the government had no problem funding higher education. By the year 2000, the enrolment had increased to the point where the government was unable to adequately finance higher education (Otieno, 2008). The government resorted to a system of semi-privatization in order to match enrolment and funding (Otieno, 2005). While this may have helped to slightly reduce the enrolment-funding gap, public universities in Kenya still suffer from funding constraints, and this has an impact on the quality of the programmes they offer and on the effectiveness of their management (Mwiria et al., 2007).


This study sought to challenges facing effectiveness of government financing of public university education in Kenya. It discusses how each of these factors influence the effective management of public universities, and seeks to offer solutions that may be implemented in future to improve both financing and management in university education


Despite the landmark initiatives in both primary and secondary sectors, the bulk of the government spending on education is on recurrent expenditure leaving little funding for capital development and infrastructure. This has left parents with little choice but to increase household education expenditure. Higher education institutions in several African countries struggled to maintain even low student enrolment rates (which in 2003 stood at less than one per cent of school leavers for many countries) (Bloom et al., 2006). Countless higher education facilities, including research laboratories and university libraries, fell into disrepair because of a lack of funding. Research too was hard-hit (Wangenge-Ouma, 2008). African research output declined in the 1990s — when the rest of the world was moving ahead — and remains among the world’s lowest to date. In view of the developments in donor involvement in higher education the sector is still trying to recover from the neglect it has had to undergo through the years. A lot is recommended in trying to improve the current state of higher education, but not much has been achieved.

Since 2004, a number of Ugandan universities have faced challenges like failure to pay lecturers on time, underfunding of research, high turnover of experienced professors, crumbling physical infrastructure, strikes by lecturers and students, poor international ratings and a lack of teaching materials among others (Kasozi, 2003). Universities in Uganda were also challenged by government interference that influenced university governance. This is in accordance with Chacha (2001) and Nadeem (2008) who state that lack of free internal participation leads to poor performance in universities while limited participation of employees leads to a lack of commitment.

Although there were structures and bodies in place for shared governance, little stakeholder participation occurred in universities, which is considered to be an obstacle to effective university governance. Gayle et al., (2003) are of the view that shared governance is at the heart of any great university in that it reflects a general commitment on the part of staff, students and administration to work together to strengthen and enhance the university. Shared governance also reflects and enhances mutual respect and trust in the university community for the contribution that all of its members bring to the educational enterprise.

The political model and bureaucratic model of administration play a more prominent role in university governance in Africa. The political model in particular reflects the dynamics caused by different groups who struggle for resources, recognition and influence within the universities. The political theory explains why university governance has to deal with different interest groups in the structure and balance of political interests before they become an obstacle in the effective governance of universities as revealed in this study. Furthermore, although larger universities reveal bureaucratic characteristics, an overemphasis of bureaucracy could be considered to be an obstacle to the effective governance of universities. Chandan (2005) argues that bureaucracy has become associated with red tape and excessive rules and regulations and hence delays in getting changes implemented. From this perspective, it may be argued that authority is an important factor that works in the political model, but that it could be an obstacle affecting governance of universities more especially by reducing internal institutional efficiency and effectiveness.

Conflicting values were a threat to university governance and reduced the interests and morale of staff, students and other stakeholders as confirmed by Kogan (2000). This was evidenced by the statement that there are conflicts between management and academic cultures which cause tensions and distrust within the staff and the administration. Conflicting views make it difficult for stakeholders to pursue and achieve educational goals in their institutions. These findings are confirmed by Chacha (2007) that conflicting values can lead to a great challenge in implementing effective governance in universities.

The findings are also supported by the political model that shows that the existence of sub-units in universities emphasises the political nature of universities because they are political and can affect the effectiveness of governance (Kezar and Eckel, 2004). As indicated by Kezar and Eckel (2004), although a political model can work successfully in one setting, it does not mean that the model will work successfully in another setting. Moreover, the authors show that stakeholders search for power because the group that possesses such power is assumed to have the ability to control important processes and activities (Gayle et al., 2003). It is argued that in a competitive global market, organizations need to move toward participative management, teamwork, employee innovativeness and creativity as revealed in corporate and collegial models of administration.


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Challenges of Government-Financed Public Universities. A Case Study of Moi University, Kenya
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George Kola Aduda (Author), 2018, Challenges of Government-Financed Public Universities. A Case Study of Moi University, Kenya, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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