Examining the incentives for knowledge production : the case of the University of Nairobi in Kenya
Following the understanding that incentives influence behaviour both in terms of eliciting and sustaining it, this thesis seeks to explore the link between incentives and knowledge production at the University of Nairobi. Given the backdrop, higher education institutions have a key role to play in economic development through knowledge production; the study seeks to see how academics can be steered to produce knowledge. The principal-agent model primarily informs the study, whose primary argument is that for incentives to attract, motivate and retain employees, these incentives have to be sufficient, fair and consistent. Additionally, the model predicts that a higher sum of monetary incentives triggers higher effort, resulting in higher productivity. Using a single case study approach, the study focused on the University of Nairobi in Kenya. The data for the study was mainly provided by the structured interviews, institutional documents and archival. The findings of this study show that there are several incentives related to research at the University of Nairobi. These include: promotion opportunities, time resources, research funding, and financial allowances for publications and successful supervision of postgraduate students. Multiple principals including the government, national research council and the university itself provide these incentives. The general perception of academics is that, the incentives are weak and do not encourage the maximization of the University’s research goals. In addition, academics are also confronted with other principals who reinforce non-research behaviour. These principals offer significant rewards for consultancies, and incentives for teaching on the full-fee-paying stream by providing additional payments, over and above regular salaries, to academics that teach on these programmes. Given the weak nature of the incentives for research, academics at the University of Nairobi seem to respond more favourably to the nonresearch incentives. Overall, the study confirms the economic principle that individuals, in this case, academics, respond to incentives. However, in the context of competing incentives, the research incentives have to be adequate, systematically applied and continuous to reinforce a vibrant research culture.