The Process of Accrediting Academic Programmes in Kenyan Universities by Prof. Atieno A. Ndede-Amadi
Guidelines for accrediting university academic programmes are ingrained in Kenyan laws as provided for in the Universities Act 2012.
Prior to 2016, the general guidelines in the Universities Act 2012 provided that a Chartered University can launch academic programmes approved by its Senate before the programme is fully accredited, provided that the accreditation process begins within the first six (6) months of such launching. The law provided further that full accreditation of such a programme had to be complete before graduating the first cohort from the programme.
Sometime in 2016, the law changed to require that for any programme approved by Senate, the university has to take it through the complete accreditation process before it can be launched. Under this new law, there was no requirement to close programmes that had been launched earlier under the old law.
Then sometime in 2017, universities received a circular from the Regulator that stated specifically that any academic programme approved by the University Senate within specified dates between 2014 and 2017 can be launched before full accreditation.
Implications of these three guidelines are that, at any point in time, a university:
1) May have programmes launched that are still undergoing accreditation with the goal of completing the accreditation process before graduating the first cohort;
2) May have accredited programmes with no students in them as it awaits official launch of the same;
3) Will have several programmes running that were approved by its Senate within the specified dates between 2014 and 2017, that are still going through the accreditation process.
Accrediting a university academic programme is a lengthy, expensive process that may take anywhere from six (6) months to several years, and may involve the following steps:
1) Development of the Curriculum by the academic Department;
2) Approval of the Curriculum by other organs of the university such as Schools and Faculties;
3) Approval of the Curriculum by the University Senate;
4) Sanctioning of the Curriculum by the University Governing Council;
5) Application to the Regulator for accreditation of the Curriculum;
6) Payment of Accreditation Fees to the Regulator;
7) Review of the Curriculum by the Regulator through panels of subject matter experts;
8) Examination of the university’s physical facilities and resource sufficiency by the Regulator;
9) Registration of the Curriculum with the relevant Professional Body (where applicable);
10) Payment of Accreditation Fees to the Professional Body;
11) Inspection of physical facilities and audit of resource sufficiency by the Professional Body; and
12) Obtaining full accreditation from the Regulator.
While the period of taking one programne through successful accreditation is quite lengthy, costs can also be an inhibiting factor. For instance, accrediation costs range between Kshs. 320,000 and 640,000 per programme, payable to the Regulator. Having the same academic programme accredited by the Professional Body (where applicable) costs another Kshs. 320,000 to 640,000. For every student registered in any university programme, whether accredited or not, the Regulator charges the university between Kshs.1,000 and 1,500 per student per year.
While it is the duty of the Regulator to monitor university compliance with regulations, informed by legal requirements, it is specifically the responsibility of the Regulator to undertake audits informed and regulated by the very guidelines it provides to universities. Since laws, policies, and rules change all the time, any compliance audit undertaken should be informed by a specific policy. For example, if a university is offering a programme that has not yet been accredited, it is important to determine if it might be compliant either under any former accreditation policies or under some Regulator guidelines.
The relationship between the Regulator and a university is a fiduciary one, defined as a confidential relationship hinged on trust. It is similar to a lawyer-client relationship. Under this relationship, it is the duty of the Regulator to continually guide the university towards compliance. Thereafter, it becomes the responsibility of the university to continually strive towards compliance within provided timelines. At every point in this fiduciary relationship, the university avails information to the Regulator in trust, which the Regulator also receives in trust. Again, throughout this fiduciary relationship, the understanding is that there is need to protect both the integrity and image of both parties to the relationship. Most importantly, however, there is an implicit understanding that the going concern (continuity) of the parties, but especially that of the university, is paramount, needs to be nurtured and protected, and is actually the substance and reason for the engagement.
In summary, suffice it to say that every Kenyan university is in the business of building the intellectual capacities of Kenyans. In appreciation of these goals and objectives, the Kenyan Government has put in place mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating the performance of universities through both a Regulatory Body and many Professional Bodies. For effective performance of these regulatory organs then, there is need for them to be systematic, procedural, and professional in dispensing their responsibilities and to be prudent and judicious in their approaches, execution, and dissemination of their work and results. This is important because in the final analysis, Kenyans desire competent universities that give them and their children quality education that allow them to compete effectively in the 21st century global economy.
The author is the Vice Chancellor of Great Lakes University of Kisumu (GLUK) and can be reached at email@example.com.