The future of diploma and certificate programs in Kenyan universities hangs in the balance as the Kenyan landscape of higher education could undergo a significant transformation if a bill proposed by Embakasi Central MP Benjamin Gathiru, alias Mejjadonk, comes to fruition.

The Universities (Amendment) Bill 2023 proposes a bold move: the scrapping of certificate and diploma programs from university curriculums.

"I have introduced a new bill before the house proposing that universities deviate from offering certificates or diploma courses," Gathiru said.

This shift, according to Gathiru, aims to streamline the academic landscape and elevate the focus on degree and postgraduate studies.

"Universities are intended to be institutions of higher learning and academic research," stated Gathiru, emphasizing his vision for these institutions.

"In this regard, they should focus on degree and postgraduate programs as opposed to certificate and diploma courses." 

His reasoning hinges on the notion that universities, with their established infrastructure and faculty, should prioritize advanced academic pursuits.

The bill proposes a two-pronged approach.

Firstly, it seeks to bar the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) from assigning students to diploma or certificate programs within universities.

This effectively removes these pathways from the formal university application process.

Secondly, it empowers Chancellors to solely award postgraduate certificates and diplomas, effectively eliminating the offering of basic certificates and diplomas within the university system.

This proposal, however, is not without its nuances.

Recognizing the predicament of existing students enrolled in these programs, the bill ensures they can complete their studies uninterrupted.

Additionally, to address concerns about potential workforce gaps, Gathiru suggests a shift which will see certificates and diploma courses being limited to technical and vocational colleges to increase enrollment in these institutions.

This aligns with the existing mandate of these institutions, which are specifically designed for practical skill development.

The argument for streamlining the system rests on concerns about duplication and confusion.

Gathiru points out the existence of two separate bodies certifying these programs: the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TVETA) for technical and vocational colleges and the Commission for University Education (CUE) for universities.

This, he argues, creates inconsistencies in course content and duration, potentially hindering student mobility and career progression.

While the bill has yet to be debated or voted upon, it has sparked discussions across the education sector.

Proponents see it as an opportunity to elevate university standards and enhance the value of degrees.

Critics, however, raise concerns about potential job market disruptions and the impact on students seeking shorter, skills-focused programs.

The coming months will likely see lively debates as stakeholders weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks of this proposed shift in the Kenyan higher education landscape.