The role of human resources in shaping institutions of higher education

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L-R: USIU-Africa Chief Manager, Human Resources & ACU HR in HE Steering Committee Member& East Africa Regional Representative Yusuf Saleh, ACU Head of Human Resources Tarrance Ryder-Downes, ACU Chief Finance Officer Keith Stephenson, Chair ACU HR in Higher Education Community Jennifer Ellis, Commission for University Education Chairman Prof. Chacha Nyaigotti-Chacha and Dean, School of Graduate Studies Research and Extension Prof. Amos Njuguna.

The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) and USIU-Africa held the first human resources convention in higher in education in Kenya. The convention discussed trends in human resources across the world that will improve the quality of education in institutions of higher education by strategic positioning their role in higher education. Human resources in an organization’s success is increasingly gaining traction as employee satisfaction and retention in institutions of higher education becomes a topical issue world over. The African Union Agenda 2063 titled the Africa we want envisions that institutions of higher education are expected to lead and contribute to this goal and work towards providing quality tertiary education. The convention envisioned to expand the important conversation surrounding leadership organs in order to build their collective daily workings but also inform their contributions towards academic, operational and service excellences. This engagement will lead to student retention, diversification and internationalization, build capacities and mobilize resources within institutions of higher education.

The convention comes at a time when universities globally are facing many challenges such as funding, low enrollment ratios (below 14 per cent against a global acceptable average of 38 per cent) and now the growing threat of staff cuts. Most public universities in Kenya have challenges submitting statutory deductions for their employees as a result of lack of funds and others are considering reducing number of staff members. This means that most institutions will be operating with minimal staff numbers hence compromising on quality. Commission for University Education data shows that Kenya has 16, 000 teaching staff in universities who make up 33 per cent while 77 percent are indicated as support staff.

Speaking during the convention, the chairman of the Commission for University Education Prof. Chacha Nyaigotti-Chacha mentioned that institutions of higher education must hire quality staff who will contribute to the quality of education. He said that professionals in higher education have a responsibility of preparing graduates for the job market. Most graduates are not able to execute their roles effectively and require additional training. According to research conducted by the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) indicate that over 50 per cent of graduates are ill-equipped for the workplace in East Africa. This paints a grim picture for the human resources in these countries. A well-prepared and highly trained work force is required in order to ensure continuous growth of institutions of higher learning.

Jennifer Ellis, a consultant in human resources in higher education and chair of ACU human resources in higher education community mentioned that institutions of higher education need to create an effective system that is predictive, affordable, equitable, accessible and enables institutions of higher education to succeed in their role of providing quality education and producing high quality graduates for sustainable social and economic development.

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