Kenyatta University – a 21st century university

Family photo

Family photo

During the first day of our study visit to Kenyatta University we had the opportunity to get to know vibrant campuses and the ambitious future vision of this institution. Under the leadership of the Vice-chancellor Olive Mugenda, Kenyatta University (KU) is putting into practice a visionary growth and expansion programme, aspiring to become in short the best ranked university in Kenya and being situated among the best universities on the African continent.

KU experimented, like many other higher education institutions all over the world, a huge growth in their student population. Attending around 15.000 students in 2006, KU has today more than 60.000 students. Also at postgraduate level, the student numbers have being growing much over the last years. Unfortunately, the number of faculty did not grow on the same pace. Furthermore, there’s still quite a big percentage of faculty that does not have a PhD. One of the biggest challenges is therefore to upgrade faculty, facilitating to do their PhDs.

To respond to the increasing academic needs, KU invested and keeps investing in infrastructure on all its campuses. We visited some of the impressive buildings that have been constructed over the last few years like, for example, the Post-Modern Library, the Amphitheatre or the Business Innovation and Incubation Center and saw many other buildings currently under construction like the new School or Law of the Graduate School, just to mention a few.

Photo of the New School of Law, Kenyatta University

New School of Law, Kenyatta University

Photo of the Post-modern Library, Kenyatta University

Post-modern Library, Kenyatta University

In order to be able to invest in this ambitious future, KU’s strategy is to rely less and less on scarce government funding, diversifying their income sources. One source, for example, is the recently created Foundation of KU with its head office in the United States, formed by alumni of the institution. The planned Uni City which will offer retail stores, a convention center, hotels, etc. will be another source for income.

KU is also innovating at management level, creating directorates that depend directly from the Vice-chancellor. These structures help to move faster, putting into practice new projects without interfering the academic activity.

During the visits we learned that there exist already different initiatives at KU to make use of ICT for teaching and research. At the City Campus, for instance, some programmes use e-supervision through email in order to attend students from outside Nairobi. At the School of Law, Facebook and an adapted platform are used to keep in touch with the students. Matching the needs of supervising more and more students, some of who live far away from the university, with these incipient online tools showed us that there could be a good basis for introducing e-supervision in postgraduate studies.