Strategic Alliances between Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and Middle Level Colleges in Kenya
Strategic alliance is one of many methods of strategy development. It has been defined as a situation where two or more organizations share resources and activities to pursue a strategy. Alliances vary considerably in their complexity, from a simple two partner alliance co-producing a product to a one with multiple partners providing complex products, services and solution. Research on strategic collaboration between firms has received increasing attention in literature during the last decade, reflecting the increasing frequency and importance of strategic alliance in business. In the recent past, competitive firms are truly smart at conducting their business and have learnt important lessons in the process. You need to know when and how to compete, but even more importantly you need to know when and how to co-operate. Many firms these days have come to rely on alliances as strategic necessities for sustaining competitive advantage and creating customer value. In the recent past, higher education sector in Kenya has experienced dynamic changes in the external environment. Increasing demand for higher education as population grows has stretched physical infrastructure of public universities. Government funding has also been dwindling and not going in tandem with increasing demand. Competition has gone a notch higher as private and international universities fight to increase their market share. All these have prompted public universities managers to be proactive and think “outside the box”. We are currently seeing public and even private universities collaborating with middle level colleges in same domestic market. The purpose of this study was to shed some light on motivation of such domestic strategic alliances where internationalization is not one of such motive. The research study through a case study of JKUAT also sought to know the challenges encountered in the formation of the network. The research methodology used was a case study. The study sought to have a thorough understanding of the phenomenon from the perspective of JKUAT. An in-depth case study was used. Data was gathered through interviews with three respondents who were involved in the formation and management of the alliances. Content analysis was used to analyse the information gathered. The study qualified the relationship between JKUAT and collaborating middle level academic institutions to be a network. The alliance were formed with a motive/s of enabling students who would otherwise be locked out of universities owing to stiff competition to progress with their studies hence exploiting this niche market. It also intended to reduce brain drain and capital leaving Kenya economy. The collaborations intended also to tap the resources from vocational economies of scale and enjoy faster payback on investment. The network faced challenges like opportunism by some partners, lack of adequate man power, loss of trust among partners, difficulties in meeting critical deadlines by partners, failure to discover shortcomings before “marriage” and hence being stuck with the wrong partners and lack of experience in the management of strategic alliance by some partners. However, these challenges were amicably sorted out or, they learnt to live with them and relationships continued to thrive. The alliance success was found to be more than luck and was based on successful effort despite natural occurrence of tensions with a failure rate of 24.3% when the dormant (inactive) relationships were included to those that pulled out. The study recommended that the commission of higher education should undertake rigorous inspections to public, private universities and middle level colleges entering into collaboration arrangements. The brand owners should ensure that the middle level colleges have enough qualified personnel and proper infrastructure to ensure quality. The challenge of high demand for education can also be solved by using ICT for online education which should focus from teaching to learning by creating new learning environments. Due diligence is necessary in the formulation stage by ensuring that prospective partners have the right attitude toward quality and the brand owner should be able to confirm this. Trust should start to be cultivated at this stage by all partners and retained in the long run. The study had some limitations. It would have been for instance been interesting to get the views of all network members. However this was not possible, the thirty alliance members are scattered all over the country. Time was a limiting factor as research was to be done within its planned time frame. The research would have wished to interview more respondents to follow up on some information gathered. Some of those targeted respondents happened to be unavailable. The researcher would have wished to carry out a survey from JKUAT and thirty (30) collaborating institution. However, this was not possible and the researcher got the view from the perspective of JKUAT. This should be an area for further study. Other public universities like Kenyatta and Moi University are collaborating with tertiary college albeit on a small scale. A survey study can be employed by other scholars to include them in their study.