Kenya University Rankings Drop as South Africa Colleges Shine

Kenyan universities have dropped in academic rankings compared to their peers in Africa and beyond, a new research shows.

The latest study by Spanish research firm Webometrics shows that Kenya’s top universities dropped several places in the January 2011 Africa rankings compared to similar ratings in
July last year.

University of Nairobi and Strathmore University dropped to position 27 and 38 in Africa from position 26 and 22 in July last year.

Moi University was placed at 90 having dropped from position 74, according to the rankings which are based on an online measure of visibility and generation of research.

On the global front, all Kenyan universities have slipped out of the top 3,000 category since January 2009 when Strathmore was ranked at 2,404 worldwide.

No Kenyan university made it in the top 1,000 list in a more comprehensive ranking by the Academic Ranking of World Universities released in August last year, reflecting the low standing of the country’s institutions.

Lower prestige

The drop in the rankings means that Kenyan universities are relatively slow at adapting modern teaching technologies, a move that threatens critical skill base of graduates needed for competitiveness in the local and global labour market.

The poor ranking also means a lower prestige for Kenyan universities on the international stage, slowing down scholarly partnerships and funding from the top league universities and donors.

Though the choice of a university in Kenya is largely affected by cost considerations, prospective local and international students from wealthy families have started paying attention
to the league tables.

“There is enormous attention given to every league table that is published as well as its quality ranking. And they are taken seriously by students, government and especially by the media,” said Ms Ellen Hazelkorn, the main author of a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which studied the influence of university rankings.

Kenyan universities have in the past two years gone big on physical expansions, opening several constituent colleges without a commensurate spend on academic staffing and learning
resources such as libraries.

The universities are yet to offer local degrees on a pure online platform, citing high initial costs and a deep-seated culture of classroom teaching.

The latest Webometrics rankings, however, show improvements among upcoming Kenyan universities.

United States International University (USIU) and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) burst into the top 100 Africa list for the first time, standing at 78 and 89 respectively.

Kenyatta University moved up 29 places to stand at 51.

South Africa houses the best universities in the continent, chalking up the top nine places in the Webometric rankings, with University of Cape Town emerging tops.

Egypt is another major player in tertiary education, accounting for 16 of the top 100 slots in the Africa rankings.

Globally, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reclaimed its pole position from Harvard University


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