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The emergence of private university education in Kenya: trends, prospects, and challenges

International Journal of Educational Development Volume 24, Number 2, ISSN 0738-0593 Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


The first step towards the introduction and development of university education in Kenya was a private initiative. Although the initiative was rejected, it led to the establishment of the Royal Technical College in Nairobi. The Royal College, Nairobi was elevated to university status under a special arrangement with the University of London in 1961 and changed its name to the University College of Nairobi. In 1970, the University College of Nairobi attained full university status, becoming the first institution of its kind in the country. Over the past three decades, public universities have grown to six, accomplished their initial mission of developing human capital, and supplying manpower to the civil service. They have also helped foster an intellectual community in the country. But public universities have also faced new challenges such as enrollments beyond their capacity to plan and finance; fiscal challenges beyond their control; and a decline in quality beyond their anticipation. To help solve some of these problems, the Kenya government has encouraged and facilitated the establishment and growth of private universities and colleges. This article provides an overview of Kenya’s private higher education over the past two decades. It discusses the forces behind its expansion and questions its ability to design and offer quality education. It concludes that the government should provide some assistance to the private universities and colleges but restrict their establishment and growth to those that can provide new programs in areas of critical need such as technology, economics and sciences.


Oketch, M.O. (2004). The emergence of private university education in Kenya: trends, prospects, and challenges. International Journal of Educational Development, 24(2), 119-136. Elsevier Ltd. Retrieved November 21, 2019 from .

This record was imported from International Journal of Educational Development on January 29, 2019. International Journal of Educational Development is a publication of Elsevier.

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