- University World News
Over 100 PhDs face review in single university (Kenya)
Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) has defended as “meritoriously earned” its doctoral degrees awarded over the past year – despite a recent report by the regulator highlighting inadequate supervision and other irregularities which has thrown the validity of up to 118 PhDs into doubt. The Quality Audit Panel of the Commission for University Education (CUE) conducted the inquiry over two days last month after an “inordinately high” number of PhD awards were made during the institution’s 33th graduation ceremony on 21 June – a number which had become a “matter of public interest”. The audit also included the 32nd graduation held in November 2018 and the 31st graduation in June 2018. The CUE report, a copy of which has been seen by this publication, found that many PhD supervisors had supervision loads way beyond the threshold of three PhDs and five Masters in an academic year as provided under the Universities Standards and Guidelines. One academic, for example, was found to have been the sole supervisor for 41 master’s students – across 10 disparate disciplines – and 14 PhD students. “… In the recent three graduations, three supervisors from CoHRED [College of Human Resource Development] each graduated: 41; 30; 33 PhD students, respectively. In addition, each of the three supervisors graduated 45, 106 and 72 Master’s students … The three graduations took place within a period of 12 months,” the report states. Over 73% of the doctorates awarded during the three ceremonies emanated from the College of Human Resource Development (CoHRED), while only 8% and over 4% came from the College of Health Sciences and College of Agricultural and Natural Resources respectively. It also found that in some cases there was no paperwork to prove supervision had taken place on a required three-monthly basis. “The compromised quality of supervision was evidenced by examiners’ reports and defense committees reports that highlighted fundamental issues in the theses … issues that ordinarily ought to have been identified during supervision,” the report states.
Other problems related to irregular constitution of the board of examiners and a lack of evidence of student seminar presentations. In one case, a student was found to have completed his or research, published, and indicated an intention to submit in less than 12 months following a successful defence of the proposal. The report also found that some Journals in which students had published (PhD students are required to publish two papers in refereed journals) were non-existent and there was “a likelihood of conflict of interest” where the editorial boards of a number of the journals in which students published included CoHRED faculty members.
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2. Africa News
Liberia president declares free tuition in all public universities (Liberia)
President George Manneh Weah on Thursday declared that all undergraduates public entering universities across the country will enjoy free tuition. “Today, I’m excited to announce that I have declared the University of Liberia and all other Public Universities in Liberia tuition free for all undergraduates,” Weah wrote on Facebook without giving any further details. Reports indicate that he made the declaration before students of the University of Liberia at the Capitol Hill campus located in the capital Liberia. The announcement was met with loud cheers and applause. An undergraduate is a university student who has not yet received a degree. The West African country currently has four public universities. Aside the main University of Liberia, UL, the Booker Washington Institute, Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law and the William V.S. Tubman University, complete the list. Students had recently protested against fee hikes accusing the UL administration of unilaterally hiking fees. The students eventually had the audience of the president who promised to look into the issue. It was at the same meeting that Weah announced that he will visit the school, a promise he kept and during which he disclosed the news. Many economic watchers are now waiting to see the costing mechanism and other fine details of the program. Most African countries are grappling with implementing free education even at the basic level. Ghana started an ambitious free Senior High School system which continues to be faced with challenges. Sierra Leone is also in the process of implementing free primary education. The former world footballer of the year won the presidency early this year after leading a coalition to defeat the then ruling party’s candidate, Joseph Boakai. Reports indicate that the University of Liberia took in about half of the expected 20,000 students for the 2018/2019 semester with the main reason pegged on the fee hikes.
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