The University of Nairobi has announced a fresh plan to trim courses a year after it scrapped more than 250 units, signalling layoff of lecturers amid a cash crunch at the institution.
Vice-Chancellor Stephen Kiama said that the university will restrict hirings to critical departments and trim more courses from the current 324 with more focus on engineering, medicine and IT.
He did not reveal the courses to be shed in a plan aimed at reducing operational costs. The UoN’s staff count is estimated at 4,000 following the closure of eight colleges last year.
The moves are aimed at easing the university’s cash-flow hitches that have seen it default on statutory deductions like Pay As You Earn (PAYE), NHIF, NSSF and payment of insurance premiums for its staff with debts surpassing Sh34 billion.
“We were offering more than 500 courses but we cut these to 300 but we can still push them down. Senate is engaging to see which ones we continue to downsize so that we focus where we have a competitive edge as a university,” Prof Kiama told Business Daily.
“We cannot just do what everybody else is doing, we must stick to where we know we are the best.”
The sharp reduction in courses could see the university drop some lecturers and non-teaching staff from its payroll.
“The university has decided to take drastic action to cut costs to ensure that the University of Nairobi is not removed from the map of Kenya. We must try as much as possible to live close to our means and improve our revenue,” Prof Kiama said.
He revealed that the university will only hire staff for critical departments where current staff cannot be retrained to replace those who retire or exit on health grounds.
Plans to further trim courses come less than a year after the UoN scrapped 255 courses, scaling down the number from 579.
The institution said that the scrapped courses admitted fewer students while some did not have applicants despite the university allocating funds for the courses.
Prof Kiama added that despite last year’s move to reduce the number of courses, the university is incurring more costs than it is generating by offering the degrees.
UoN reduced the courses through the closure of eight colleges, collapsing of faculty functions from 35 to 11, abolishing offices, merging functions and creating new posts in a move to eliminate duplication.
Further, all positions of principals and their deputies were terminated and roles reorganised under new positions of executive and associate deans.
UoN had a deficit of Sh2.17 billion in the year to June, up from Sh1.62 billion a year earlier.
Public universities have found themselves in deep financial woes blamed on falling student enrolment, mismanagement and low State funding.
The student population at UoN dropped from 70,515 in 2019 to 58,488 in the year to June last year, reducing fees revenues.
UoN’s failure to remit statutory deductions like pensions and tax has prompted warnings from the Kenya Revenue Authority amid fears of asset seizures.
The university more than doubled fees for postgraduate courses and parallel degrees to ease a cash crunch as a result of a dip in student enrolment.
It also increased accommodation fees by up to seven times per semester.
Public universities have come under financial strain in recent years as a result of rapid expansion amid a dip in student enrolment.
They are expected to undergo reforms to cut costs and make them financially viable.