Kenyatta University (KU) modern gate.

A student who had earlier received orders to been conferred with a PHD will not have it after the Court of Appeal overturned the decision slapped to Kenyatta University (KU) by the High Court.

The higher court revoked the high court verdict saying that the latter acted beyond its constitutional mandate.

“The high court could not compel the university to perform its statutory duty in a particular manner. All that the court could do if it found that the process leading to the decision not to award the PHD on the respondent was faulty, was to order the university to go through the process again and determine whether the appellant had attained the prescribed standards of proficiency and was fit to be granted the PHD or not,” the court of appeal held.

Ms Elena D Korir, then an Assistant Lecturer at KU registered for a PHD. An issue arose regarding the data that she was using; she had collected the data before being registered for the PHD.

She was then advised to collect fresh data but she declined. Ms Korir then took up the matter with the VC who allowed her to use the same data she had earlier collected. Her two supervisors withdrew and so she was assigned another supervisor.

Ms Korir then submitted her thesis on April 29 2003 and was invited to defend it before a board of examiners. The board raised issues with the thesis and recommended that she makes corrections and resubmits it within a year which she did.

She was then invited to the 23rd graduation to be held on December 14 2007. However on December 5, she was informed that the university had received adverse reports from colleagues in her department questioning her PHD work and as a result her name had been deleted from the graduation list and a committee constituted to investigate the matter.

Ms Korir contested the matter at the High Court which delivered a judgment in her favour.

Kenyatta University through its lawyers Kibe Mungai and Emmanuel Wetangula appealed the decision to award Ms Korir with a PHD.

The Appellate Court has now set a precedence directing and not limited to how far a court can adjust in quest to deliver justice for an aggrieved party.

Three judges of the court in a unanimous decision said that the university statutes gave the senate the mandate to make a judgement with regard to the suitability of Ms Korir for the award of a PHD.

In addition, they said the senate had powers to withdraw a degree that had already been conferred…the deferment of Ms Koriri graduation was precipitated by subsequent events that threw aspersions on the propriety of her qualification thereby necessitating an inquiry.

“We concur with the submission that the deletion of the respondent’s name from the graduation list was only deferment of the graduation pending the investigations,” they said.

The three judges said that the High Court failed to take into account the university statute that provided clear regulations on the management of the university and the functions of the senate.

“It is evident that before the senate can make any decision regarding the award of degrees, it relies on information and reports from its officers and various committees such as the examination’s board and the post graduate board among others,” they said.

The appeal is allowed; and the orders of certiorari and mandamus made by the high court are hereby set aside and substituted with an order dismissing the respondent’s notice of motion, court of appeal judge H M Okwengu, G B M Kariuki (SC) and S ole Kantai said.