The 118 PhD’s of JKUAT

On Friday June 21, 2019, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology Chancellor, Prof. Joseph Mathu Ndungu conferred degrees and awarded diplomas to 3545 grandaunts during the institution’s 33rd graduation ceremony, where 118 were awarded doctorate degrees.

The number 118 aroused public outcry with some people, including renowned professors in the legal profession, concluding that the degrees must be fake therefore effectively making a conclusion by literary, “judging a book by its cover”

In reaction to the said outcry the Commission for University Education (CUE) constituted a team to investigate the degrees. The team took two days to do the investigation covering three graduations spanning over five years.

The findings were made public and aired in virtually every media locally and some abroad before they were discussed by the investigator and the “investigatee”, if there is such a word.  There are some people who would have thought that given the impact the findings can have on all the stakeholders of the institute including grandaunts, parents, employers, and indeed the CUE itself as the regulator, the CUE should have invoked the appraisal approach where the report is either discussed with the “investigatee” first or subjected to an expert stakeholder interrogation before going public but that is now neither here nor there.  

The author of this critique has looked at the report and interviewed a limited number of experts and acknowledges the findings which could go a long way to improve the PhD education process at Kenya’s universities. The author has a feeling that such important undertakings if done professionally and objectively can greatly help add value to the education system in the country.

In the spirit of value addition, the author went ahead to critique (NOT CRITICISE) the report with a hope that this would improve future similar undertakings.

THE CRITIQUE

  1. COVER PAGE OF THE REPORT

The cover page tells the reader that the investigations that led to the 22-page report covering three graduations spanning 5 and more years (a PhD programme takes about 6 years to complete) was undertaken in 2 days on 25th and 26th June 2019. This casts doubts about the “depth and width” of the investigations given the short period undertaken for the same.

  • INTRODUCTION OF THE REPORT

One of the functions of the CUE listed in the introduction is to undertake or cause to be undertaken, regular inspections, monitoring and evaluation of universities to ensure compliance with the provisions of “The Act or any other regulations made under section 70.”

This function implies proactivity on the part of the CUE to regularly guide universities. The investigation undertaken was reactionary and not proactive. CUE was reacting to opinions raised by the public which seemed to equate quantity with quality to conclude that since numbers were too large, quality was poor. Words like “fake” degrees were also used.

One unfortunate message given is that the CUE does not perform its function of regular inspections but waits to put out “bush fires”

 An excerpt of the report closing section 1.1 states that, “This report is on an Audit of the Quality of PhDs awarded during the 31st, 32nd and 33rd Graduation Ceremonies of JKUCAT.”. This confuses the reader as to whether the report is about JKUAT or JKUCAT. One could be tempted to conclude that this is a cut and paste report which was about JKUCAT and not JKUAT. There is a whole world of difference between the two. Is the CUE as a regulator aware of this!!!

An unfortunate lesson to learn from this is that the CUE lacks seriousness in matters of cross-checking and stating facts. One would be forgiven to quote the bible’s Mathew chapter 7 verse 3 on Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” an equivalent from the Quran would be 61:2, “O you who believe, why do you say what you do not do?

  • SCOPE

The CUE rightly investigated the JKUAT 31st, 32nd and 33rd graduation ceremonies because the regulations under investigations came into force in 2014. It would have added value to this report if the rationale of those regulations was explained. What was happening before 2014 that necessitated the regulations and what is the output, outcome and impact of the regulations 5 years down the line. Thorough monitoring and evaluation (and not a mere reactionary response) based on project management evaluation guidelines of relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, impact and sustainability would have laid out lessons learnt. These do not seem to be in the vocabulary of the CUE or are simply ignored.

  • QUANTITY/QUALITY NEXUS

 An excerpt from section 1.2 of the report says, “The inordinately high number of PhD awards, particularly in the College of Human Resource Development (COHRED) became a matter of public interest.” The impression given is that the CUE agrees with the public who consider quality to be indirectly proportional to quantity or is it “the less the numbers the better quality?”

It is unfortunate that as the number 118 is criticized no guide is given as to what is considered the right number. The report is silent on this one. Interestingly 2 months earlier than JKUAT the Lagos university in Nigeria had graduated 150 PhDs repeating the numbers it had graduated the previous year and just a month after JKUAT in July the Wits University in South Africa (second in rank of continental universities in 2019) had graduated 117 PhDs. The highest-ranked university in Africa, the University of Cape Town graduated 112 at their 2019 winter graduation. Apparently the criticisms leveled at JKUAT did not find a way to the said universities on the continent but that is outside this critique.

About the author

Dr. Muchelule

Dr. Muchelule has a Doctorate degree in project management,
masters in project management, with another ongoing Ph.D. in
management information systems, Bachelor of Science in computer science, ISO certified systems auditor, IT Governance as well as a child protection certified expert from Harvard University, Microsoft Certified IT, professional expert, from Microsoft U.S.A., Certified senior management expert as well
as strategic leadership development expert from Kenya School of Government with over 15 years of experience in ICT, project management, and Monitoring Evaluation. Currently, he is ACCA Strategic Business Leadership National Award-Winning Mentor (2022), Grasshoppers Global Award-Winning ICT Mentor, Florida U.S.A (2019), and IBM Research Africa Emerging Technology Mentorship Award (2018). Dr. Muchelule is a key facilitator in the Office of Registrar of Political Parties(ORPP), Kenya on its mandate, As well as lead trainer/facilitator to Kajiado County Ward Managers on Monitoring & evaluation, Gulf cap top management facilitator on project design, monitoring
& evaluation on Buxton Point Affordable Housing Project Mombasa County, Kenya, Key technical member on monitoring & evaluation of Kenya Judiciary, Co-Consultant with Africa
Population & Health Research Centre (APHRC) on the development of Kenya National Sanitation Policy, Lead consultant in the Development of Monitoring, Evaluation, And Learning (MEL) Plan For National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ)- Court Users Committees (CUC), Lead consultant on the development of Gender Policy for the Kenya Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU); lead consultant on Systems Analysis and Design For Projects Information Management System for Kenya's national water harvesting and storage authority(NWHSA), Team member in the development of Kenya judiciary strategic plan, lead consultant Kenya National Treasury in the Development of Standard Methodological Manual for Project Level Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting, ICT authority Technical committee member on Digital Literacy Program Implementation among Public Schools in Kenya, lead consultant in Mennonite Economic Development Associates of Canada (“MEDA”) on Equitable Prosperity through Private Sector Development (MSAWA Project).
He is among the Founder and Executive Director of the MettaMetta Foundation western region of Kenya, Technical Projects Advisor at The Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya (APDK), An adjunct Lecturer at Kenya School of Law, a lecturer in both public and
private sectors in Kenya namely Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Moi University, Umma University an External Examiner at Azteca University Canada & Mexico, External curriculum reviewer for Daystar, Kenya & South Eastern University of Kenya, a grasshopper’s faculty member in the U.S.A, PMI certified member U.S.A. With
working experience in development partner agencies like ACORD, MUBADIROON in sub-Sahara Africa, AMREF-Maanisha programme-Kenya, Mumias Muslim Community Programme (MUMCOP)Kenya, Technical and Financial Audit for a Safe Programming in Kakuma & Dadaab Refugee Camps by International Rescue Committee. Dr. Muchelule has published more than 100 scientific peer-reviewed journals articles in various fields of applied, social & management sciences as well as on societies issues with applicable solutions to their problems through research; currently, he is a member of the community of Researchers for Global Journals for UK and USA and a Fellow Reviewer for both International Journal for Economics, Commerce, and Management, as well as an editorial research board member of Lakenya University, Kenya, and a coordinator of the
incubation hub as well research committee board member Umma University, Kenya; as well as a committee member of the ICT master plan for Kenya Vision 2030.

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