• market steering;
  • privatisation;
  • public universities;
  • resource dependence;
  • state control

This article examines the emergence of the public university in Kenya as a key provider of private higher education, characterised mainly by the phenomenon of the “private public university student.” It probes the broader socio-economic reforms circumscribing the privatisation of Kenya's public universities and the local and global forces responsible for these reforms. From the enrolment patterns of Kenya's public universities, where state-subsidised students are becoming a diminishing minority and where a range of exclusive programmes for private students (mainly taught in the evenings) are a growing trend, it may be argued that a new kind of private university is emerging; namely, private universities owned by public universities.