Determination of strategic positioning of newly chartered public universities in Kenya: The case of Laikipia University
Kosgey, Isaac Sanga
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A major pre-occupation of universities in Kenya today is how to achieve sustainable competitive advantage in a complex and challenging context of the higher education sector. Universities need to strategically re-position themselves to attract and retain students, win research grants and make optimal use of their resources by striving to be efficient and effective, and engaging in continuous improvement to ensure their survival and sustainability. The purpose of this study was to determine the factors that influenced strategic positioning of the newly chartered public universities in Kenya, with specific reference to Laikipia University in Laikipia County, to survive the current competitive and operational issues they face, and become profitable and viable institutions in the university training services value chain in the long-term. A descriptive survey design entailing stratified random sampling was used, with the sampling frame comprising the University‟s employees whose opinions were sought. The formula of Israel (1992) was adopted to determine the sample size of the survey respondents. The employees were categorised into three strata of senior management, teaching and non-teaching staff, and support staff. Quantitative and qualitative data was collected by use of both structured and unstructured sets of pretested questionnaires, and analyzed with the aid of the SPSS (Version 17.0) computer software. Firstly, descriptive statistics (frequencies, percentages, means, modes, medians and standard deviations) was used to analyze quantitative data. Secondly, Pearson correlation analyses were computed to determine the significance of the findings and the strengths of relationships between variables. The results are presented in the form of tabular summaries and discussed. Further, content analysis of written materials drawn from personal expressions by the survey respondents was used to analyze qualitative data. The results showed that senior management support was crucial for execution of strategic objectives of the University, especially in response to environmental factors like competition from other universities. Further, employee capacity was necessary in strategic positioning of the University, and needs to be enhanced through acquisition of requisite knoweldge and skills by employees, for instance, through on-job training and external capacity building programs. The University‟s capacity for development was deemed to be unlimited in the dimensions of policy, infrastructure, student numbers, more campuses and income generating units, but this requires to be realized. Additionally, government support was found to be insufficient in the University and its role in enhancing strategic positioning of the University was seen to be auxillary and unsustainable. Consequently, the University should design strategies for resource mobilization to complement capitation from the government. In conclusion, this study provides information on positioning strategies Laikipia University would need to employ to achieve sustainable competitive advantage among universities in Kenya. This would assist current and future scholars in the field of strategic management, university managers and policy makers to understand the positioning strategies that add value to the strategic intent of academic institutions in the face of intense competition. The findings on Laikipia University can be generalized across the whole sector in the country.