Postgraduate enrolment in public universities fell by more than a half last year, piling more financial pressure on institutions already struggling with strained cash flows following a dip in private undergraduate student and State funding.
Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data released Thursday shows 32,977 students are registered to pursue masters and PhD courses, down from 67,407 students in 2016, reflecting a drop of 51.07 per cent.
This marks the first time in more than 15 years that postgraduate enrolment has dipped as universities promoted the courses in the search to grow their revenues.
Enrolment grew on the back of acquiring a master’s degree that many viewed as a ticked to get a job in an economy generating fewer formal jobs and gain promotion at the work place.
Postgraduate students increased 317 per cent in the five years to 2016, putting pressure on universities facilities like lecture halls and libraries as well as lecturers in a market with high tutor, student ratio.
“Drop in enrollment would be affected by finances where prospective students may lack the kind of financial support or strength to pursue their studies,” said Mwenda Ntarangwi, CEO at the Commission for University Education, the varsity regulator.
“But much more research needs to be carried to provide concrete answers.”
The dip in postgraduate students comes in a period when universities have also seen a drop in undergraduate self-sponsored students, who over the past 18 years been a key source of revenue for the institutions because they pay nearly three time the rest of the students.
Admission to public universities of nearly all students who scored C+ and above over the past two years cut the pool of learners available for private programmes.
This has cut the cash flow of universities such as the UoN, which announced layoffs and cost cutting plans to keep afloat.
University of Nairobi postgraduate students dropped from 16,639 in 2016 to 10,357 last year, a 37.7 per cent drop.
Maseno University’s fell to 114 last year year from 1,937 in 2016 while those of Moi University were 322 down to 2,556 students.
Kenyatta University was the only public university with a marked growth of 2,952 in new registration of postgraduate students to 14,879, while enrolment at Egerton rose marginally to 206 from 114 previously.