Kenyan employers prefer graduates from private universities to public ones, a new study shows.
The research conducted by Moi University’s School of Education notes that graduates from private universities are more competent and exude high personal confidence as opposed to their counterparts in the public universities.
“Private universities seem to be more in touch with what employers expect from them, and they prepare their students accordingly,” Moi University’s Charles Mottanya told the 13th Conference of the Association of African Universities (AAU) in held Libreville, Gabon last week.
“Unfortunately, graduates from private universities are still very few, such that the labour force is largely populated with public university graduates,” says the research conducted among 350 employers selected randomly from a pool of 3,000 registered members of the Federation of Kenyan Employers (FKE).
The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry corroborated the information at the conference dubbed: ‘Transforming African Higher Education for Graduate Employability and Socio-Economic Development’.
At the same time, most employers do not prefer a specific degree while recruiting fresh graduates from the universities.
“They are increasingly viewing a degree, any degree, as the threshold for considering an applicant for recruitment. It doesn’t really matter what the specialisation is. Possession of a degree says I have the ability to learn, to manage myself, and grow.”
Self drive, creativity and innovation, ability to think and solve problems, leadership and willingness to continuously learn were ranked as the lowest attributes among Kenyan graduates.
However, the conference was told that the graduates scored highly in personal grooming, punctuality and time management skills, respect for authority and excellent communication skills.
Mr Mottanya noted that the graduates lacked self-drive because “the universities have perfected the art of academic spoon-feeding.”
“Students aren’t given ample opportunity to discover for themselves and beat new paths. They are content with the beaten paths. They become conformers. They have no personal initiative, nor are they intrinsically motivated to look beyond the horizons that delimit their immediate world.”
University of Nairobi vice-chancellor George Magoha who is the out-going president of the AAU challenged the institutions to continuously review their programmes to meet the demands of the job market.
There has been great concern in recent years over the nature of training that the universities have been offering in relation to the demands of the job market.
However, the conference heard that the universities are still lagging behind in meeting the needs of the industries.
A part of this reason, the scholars noted, could be attributed to the fact that “the level of technological infrastructure and technical know-how in private sector firms in Kenya is way far ahead of what even the best endowed local university can boast of.”
“The question then is are we producing graduates who will add value to the African continent? Are we producing graduates who are employable and can create jobs as well as employ others?” Prof Magoha asked.
“It is no longer enough to produce graduates who after four years just come out with a piece of paper. We need to produce multi-talented graduates who can fit in any situation and making Africa stop begging for everything including food!”
He added: “African universities cannot afford to stick to the status quo and fail to be innovative. They must adjust to the changing world.”