A study commissioned by Madison Insurance last month in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa revealed that University of Nairobi is the most preferred learning institution by both parents and students in the county. Kenyan employers also prefer entry level graduate employees from the institution.
The survey’s results definitely beg the question, what then creates the spark or the force of attraction between the country’s top university (and/or any other top tertiary learning institution) and its three critical stakeholders in the education and employment sectors?
Understanding this question is critical in knowing what factors would make a Kenyan tertiary learning institution woo students to its lecturer rooms, give parents the comfort that their sons and daughters are getting quality education that will transform them to be the solution to societal challenges today and in future and also give the Kenyan and global employers much needed confidence that they can get all rounded employees from such learning environments.
The following list of factors play a critical role to the image of any Kenyan University hoping to win the hearts and minds of potential students, parents and employers at large. They help the institution stand out in the academia universe.
Research, creativity and innovation
A top notch university should create an environment that fosters competitiveness, unrestrained scientific inquiry, critical thinking, innovation and creativity. This simply means that the institution will always be working toward developing graduates who can quickly and creatively respond to demands of the rapidly changing Kenyan and global markets.
Employers are attracted to graduates from a facility that glorifies research. Such graduates come to the work environment with solution oriented mindsets. They are always thinking and seeking new ways of delivering value to the clients. A research oriented and creative mindset is a treasured asset by employers.
The millennial students on their part want to be part of something unique whose impact goes beyond their individual lives. They want to be in institutions that will allow them research on problems and creatively contribute innovative solutions to their world.
Positive expert commentary
Kenya is full of intellectual minds that know a lot about higher education, and are constantly and consistently offering advice and speculating about developments in the world of Academia.
They give coveted views and opinions about the different universities in our country. With justifiable and well researched pieces, they are always demonstrating their support or opposition towards certain programs, policies, and activities by various Kenyan universities and tertiary institutions showing how useful or useless such programs are.
This opinion plays a critical role in the minds of wanna-be students (either on Diploma, under-grad or post grad programs) and educational financiers not forgetting to mention the employers.
With high internet penetration in the country, it is easy to access this information and use it in making the decision on which institution one would prefer in their quest for knowledge.
It is important then that any university interested in getting the preference nod of the said parties, deliberately start working to ensure they have credible and worthwhile presence in the information space as documented by recognised and respected individuals or institutions.
University ratings and rankings
How tertiary learning institutions in Kenya are ranked and rated influences how the general public and relevant stakeholders perceive them. This directly affects the institution’s preference rating.
Whether general ranking or specific subject ranking, it is important for a university to have a positive rating in order to boost the confidence of the students who would like to join it.
The general human belief is that, one has high chances of performing well in a high performing environment than in the opposite one.
The power of association also plays a critical role. Humans always want to associate with other successful individuals or institutions.
Diversity in students and workforce
Any institution that demonstrates an appreciation for diversity, creates a warm environment where potential students feel they will be appreciated, respected and accepted as part of the community.
On their part, parents would readily send their sons and daughter in such an institution with the comfort that they will not only be safe but also have great exposure to diverse cultures and minds.
The employers would earnestly seek graduates from such an institution since they will be joining a workplace where diversity appreciation is thematic.
Top Kenyan universities should recruit students and faculty personnel without concern for national and ethnic borders. This enables them to focus on attracting the most talented people, no matter where they come from. The institutions also open themselves to new ideas and approaches in addressing societal challenges.
Tertiary institutions with a perceived ethnic bias will rarely be a preference to students, parents and employers. One’s physical and psychological security will always be in doubt in such places.
With a millennial population touted as being the most tech savvy , universities can only ignore investing in technological infrastructure at their own peril.
Students want an environment where they can engage with the rest of the global village at the click of a button. They want to do academic transactions from the comfort of their hostels. They want to be in a lecture room that has technological interiors aiding their learning sessions.
To be a preferred academic destination, then any interested Kenyan institution must invest in appropriate technological platforms that will make both the academic and administrative transactions between the school and its clients more effective, fast and fun.
Production of all rounded and employable graduates
The good book says that you shall know a tree by its fruit. Likewise the most tangible evidence of a great university is the quality of its graduate. Beyond every other factor, this one speaks more volumes than all.
Any university will be the preferred choice of students, parents and employers if its results are evident. Everyone will want to be associated with the school courtesy of the positive results.
Which kind of graduates is a particular university churning into the Kenyan economy? How are the final graduates fairing on in the workplace? What are employers saying about graduate from those universities? What do parents see as the returns to the school fees investment?
To be a preferred university in the minds and hearts of Kenyans, then the institution’s fruits need to be positively evident in the eyes, minds and hearts of the stakeholders.