The turf war between the Commission for University Education (CUE) and professional bodies over the approval of academic programmes has resurfaced with the regulator for higher learning warning universities against using private entities to approve courses.
Professional bodies are reportedly still pushing to approve academic courses, the CUE says, despite a court ruling in June last year, which reserved that responsibility for the Commission for University Education. Court of Appeal judges Mohammed Warsame, Daniel Musinga and Fatuma Sichale ruled that CUE is the only body mandated to regulate standards and accredit courses in consultation with individual universities.
A number of professional bodies including Kenya Medical Laboratory Technicians and Technologists Board, Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board, Kenya Pharmacy and Poison Board, Nursing Council of Kenya, Kenya Nutritionists and Dieticians Institute and Public Health Officers and Technicians Council, had challenged Section 5A of the Universities (Amendment) Act 2016 that empowers CUE to accredit, recognize, license, index students and approve programmes offered in universities.
In a letter dated 23rd June 2021 to Vice-Chancellors and Principals, CUE Chief Executive Officer Prof Mwendwa Ntarangwi protested against the non-compliance, warning that courses already approved by professionals could be withdrawn and further applications declined.
“It has come to the knowledge of the Commission for University Education that professional bodies continue to purport to accredit/approve academic programmes in universities,” Prof Ntarangwi writes. “This process continues despite the High Court pronouncing itself on this matter vide the judgment issued in NRB HC Petition No. 37, 49 and 106 of 2017 issued on 11th June, 2020.”
He says CUE had shared the judgement with universities vide a letter dated 13th August 2020 and expected them correctly interpret it as far as accreditation, licensing and recognition of university education, including accreditation and approval of academic programmes.
“As much as the Commission is open to working with the few professional bodies that have taken this route, universities are hereby notified of the consequences of disregarding the court directive and guidance of the regulator,” the letter says.
“In this regard, any university engaging anybody….not within an agreed framework with the commission, the commission will decline to accredit/approve such programmes. For programmes already accredited/approved by the Commission and where universities continue to engage anybody without due consideration of the Commission, the accreditation/approval will be withdrawn.”
Prof Ntarangwi clarified that in cases where there’s a conflict with the professional bodies, the provisions of the Universities Act prevail. He said CUE has been working with some professional bodies with a view to forging a common approach to accreditation and licensing of university education in universities.
Even then, and despite the Court judgment, some professional bodies continue to engage universities with little regard to the commission. “This is not only contemptuous, but disregard to the sub-sector regulator,” Prof Ntarangwi says.