The Program for Research on Private Higher Education
Dedicated to Building Knowledge about Private Higher Education around the World
WP No.9

Public Disorder, Private Boons? Inter-sectoral Dynamics Illustrated by the Kenyan Case


Otieno, Wycliffe and Levy, Daniel C. 2007. "Public Disorder, Private Boons? Inter-sectoral Dynamics Illustrated by the Kenyan Case." PROPHE Working Paper No.9.


Within and beyond Africa, it is the public sector much more than the private sector that is the scene of strikes and other forms of disorder, conflict and difficulty. Yet the private sector can be much affected by the public problems. Effects may be simultaneously positive for the private sector and deleterious for the public sector. Although a few higher education works have considered the private sector impacts of general public sector disorder, our Kenyan case study goes much further in uncovering and detailing inter-sectoral dynamics. Compared to the (sparse) literature on higher education inter-sectoral dynamics, it extends consideration from Latin America to Africa, from elite to other private higher education, and from challenges facing public universities to ensuing challenges facing private universities. It also extends consideration of strikes to the faculty side. Faculty strikes have been less common than student strikes in higher education, but Africa stands out for experiencing both strike forms. We treat faculty strikes as a prominent case of the wider phenomenon of disorder, conflict, or difficulty.

The ramifications of public disorder do not stop at one-shot impacts on private higher education. On the contrary, the Kenyan case reveals dynamic and multiple, sometimes sequential, public-private interactions. The public sector does not haplessly suffer and the private sector does not inevitably gain. Both face challenges as the other sector shifts strategies and as macro political and economic contexts change. The case of Kenyan faculty strikes tells us much about unfolding realities in African higher education and much about private-public dynamics more widely. Whether in regard to particular private gains or generally in regard to multiple public-private shifts, the case provides insights into significant conceptual and empirical questions about inter-sectoral impacts-whether in higher education or beyond.

Date Published:
Jul 2007