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Factors Influencing Unequal Cross-Border Higher Education Student Mobility in The East African Community

Stephen O. Odebero (Masinde Muliro U of Science and Technology, Kenya)
Publication Date 2016
Publication CAS Working Paper No. 7
Publisher Leipziger Universitätsverlag
Language English
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Summary:
While already for years thousands of students leaving Kenya in search for higher education, this study interrogates the central question: why is cross border higher education students mobility in EAC unequal? The study generates a four tier typology of integration that includes (i) stagnant integration (LL), (ii)moribund integration (LH), (iii)synergistic integration (HL) and (iv) inequitable integration (HH) based on the relationship between students HE mobility and levels of inequality. Overall, the study advocates for the synergistic type of integration that encourages higher students mobility but with lower inequalities in students movement.

Stephen O. Odebero is associate professor of education planning in the Department of Education Planning and Management at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (Kenya).


Synopsis:
Education is now widely recognized as a scarce commodity but whose investment leads to future pecuniary and non pecuniary returns. Individuals invest in HC with hope for future returns, while family investments expect social returns. Indeed governments in the East African Community are motivated by the perceived social rate of returns in their investments in HE. Emerging school of thought hold that Higher Education (HE) is a big business whose investment must be carefully planned. In East African community (EAC), cross border movement in search for HE in neighboring economies has been to say the least, the most unequal. In her own admission, Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the country loses over 2 billion annually in students’ mobility to Uganda in search for HE. While this has gone on for years unabated, this study interrogates the central question: why is cross border higher education students mobility in EAC unequal? The study generates a four tier typology of integration that includes (i) stagnant integration (LL), (ii)moribund integration (LH), (iii)synergistic integration (HL) and (iv) inequitable integration (HH) based on the relationship between students HE mobility and levels of inequality. Overall, the study advocates for the synergistic type of integration that encourages higher students mobility but with lower inequalities in students movement. The study was done as a spatial variation based on the concept of extreme case selection and the most likely condition. Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda were seen as influential cases to be included in the study because, Uganda was seen as the destination point for cross border students movement, while Kenya and Rwanda were the exit points. An extensive but selective review of existing literature was also done as well as modest collection of primary data which was done prior to the research visit. Greater premium was placed on empirical and government reports. Quality appraisal strategy adapted was in line with the central research question in the initial proposal. Heterogeneity of included studies, the likely impact of bias and the applicability of the findings was also addressed. Inequitable cross border students’ movement is a product of many interrelated factors. Dominance of cross border students in Uganda’s tertiary institutions was largely attributable to the relatively lower cost of higher education in Uganda. However, varied tuition fees charged by HE institutions in EAC was a product of different corporate tax regimes instituted by partner states with Kenya and Tanzania registering the highest corporate tax regimes while Uganda and Rwanda had the lowest. Overall, the study established that asymmetries in systems of education practiced in EAC has disadvantaged Kenya as a destination of students mobility in search of HE. Students in Uganda and Tanzania, upon sitting their Advanced level examinations, expect to clear their basic university education in 3 years. Studying in Kenya, Rwanda or Burundi, would mean they are subjected to a 4 year curriculum and this would lead to unnecessary increase in duration and costs of their education. In the short run, universities in Kenya should consider reducing tuition fees in order to stem students movement to Uganda and possibly attract students from other countries in the region, however, in the long run, the EAC member states may need to establish a more comprehensive strategy to harmonise tuition fees. To achieve this it may involve establishment of harmonized taxation measures for education in the region. The long and short of it is that the integration effort cannot run away from the reality for long because the reality is that EAC requires a unified system of education be it the 7-4-2-3 system or the 8-4-4 system of education. This thinking is alluded to by article 102(e) of the EAC Treaty which requires partner states to harmonize curricular, examination and certification.

 

Biographical Note:
Stephen O. Odebero is associate professor of education planning in the Department of Education Planning and Management at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (Kenya). He holds a PhD in education planning and is specialized in higher education financing. Throughout the last years, he has given lectures at numerous universities, including Egerton University (Nakuru, Kenya), Laikipia University (Eldoret, Kenya), Chuka University (Kenya), and Mount Kenya University (Thika, Kenya).

Stephen O. Odebero is also Kenya’s representative of the African Higher Education Collaborative (AHEC), a division of the Council of International Exchange of Scholars (CIES), and founding member of the Education Management Society of Kenya.

His research deals with education and training matters in high schools and universities. He was nominated by the Ministry of Education to attend the seminar For Presidents of Universities in Anglophone African Countries held in the Peoples’ Republic of China in 2007, organized by the Institute of African Studies Zhejiang Normal University (Jinhua, China). During this time, he also addressed the 3rd meeting of China-Africa Think Tanks Forum in Beijing. In 2014, Prof. Odebero was granted a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) scholarship and undertook a research stay at the Research Academy Leipzig at the university.