The Kenyan Government has continued to cut the funding for public universities, with the capitation barely enough to pay staff salaries. Some Universities are unable to pay staff salaries and others delay the staff salaries. Most if not all public universities are unable to remit statutory deductions and pay suppliers.
This situation is likely to continue unless the University administrators leave their comfort zones and stop ruling from the ivory tower. They need to get out of their offices and manage by walking around, mingling with staff in cafeterias for lunch to get ideas and the status on the ground.
Whereas there is a need for short-term measures, university administrators must have long-term strategic solutions to stay afloat. They need to forget about cost-cutting strategies and focus on cost optimization strategies and think about how to generate funds.
For the generated funds to be useful to the organization, the university administrators must weed out corruption and nepotism by having systems with integrity. It will be an exercise in futility to generate funds that end up in the pockets of a few workers. Lack of systems with integrity may lead to a deeper hole where the institution makes losses due to flawed procurement leading to the high cost of generating revenue.
Some University administrators may also use the various generating revenue projects as an avenue to advance nepotism and recruit their kin. I am of the opinion if university administrators in public universities exercised Integrity the funding gap would be greatly reduced since the received capitation would be utilized better. The weird ratios of teaching vs non-teaching staff would be better if the university systems had integrity.
Public universities must begin to concentrate on the core business of the institution, that is teaching, research, innovation, and consultancy. The university administrators should begin to strategically plan how to achieve the ratio of 70:30 however painful it will be. The question is whether they are willing to do this given that the culprits may be their own relatives and those of their godfathers. Unfortunately, those that are unwilling to bite the bullet may make the already bad financial situation worse. But do they really care whether the institutions remain afloat or not? the only one who can answer that question is themselves.
To generate funds university administrators need to motivate staff, build trust and walk the talk. They must be at the forefront in generating income and saving costs and must be seen to be doing so. Be honest, open, and transparent in your dealings with employees. This is not the time to be mean with information. It is the time to lay bare all the information at all times.
Be honest with your staff and embrace the bottom-up approach in your decision-making process. Research shows that most brilliant ideas have come from the lowest cadre of employees. Accept that nobody knows everything and seek solutions from employees. Interestingly public universities are full of experts who are rarely consulted in their areas of expertise for whatever reason.
University administrators must honor and keep their word. If you cannot keep your word communicate to your employees and clean the mess you create for being out of integrity. Be true to yourself and do the right thing for that is what Leadership is all about.
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Dr. Mary Mugo
Strategy, Governance, and Management Consultant.