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Makerere justified in tuition increment, says govt

Higher Education minister JC Muyingo says Makerere had not raised fees for over ten years yet cost of running the university has been increasing

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PARLIAMENT – Makerere University Council has the justification to raise tuition for undergraduate programmes as it has been nearly 10 years since the last fees revision, the State Minister for Higher Education has said.

In a statement to Parliament on Tuesday, John Chrysestom Muyingo said that the University Council took a decision to raise fees in order to meet the challenges of the deteriorating quality of service delivery at Uganda’s premier higher education institution.

The minister added that since the fees had not been reviewed for more than 10 years, the University Council decided to raise the interim fees in the range of 49% – 91% for selected programmes.

Muyingo said the proposed reviews were still far below the unit cost recommended by the Rwendeire Committee.

“This was an interim measure, pending government’s position on unit costs for academic programmes,” Muyingo said.

The Rwendeire Commission is a Visitation Committee appointed by President Museveni in November 2016 to study the cause of persistent strikes and financial challenges at Makerere University and propose remedies.

It was chaired by Dr Abel Rwendeire, the former deputy chairperson of the National Planning Authority, who passed on in October 2017.

The committee report showed that Makerere was riddled with ghosts staff and obsolete IT system that had made the system vulnerable and unscrupulous officials took advantage to alter examination marks and commit fraud.

In January, Museveni ordered Makerere University to respond to the Visitation Committee report findings about the financial ills, suspected ghost staffing and use of outdated ICT system that has facilitated examination fraud and forgery students marks.

The university subsequently appointed a task force–as per the Rwendeire Committee recommendation– to study the findings and recommendations of the report and advise the University Council on the right action to take.

Makerere University Independent Transformation Task Force (MUTTF), the visitation committee recommended, should develop a 20-year comprehensive Operational Viability Analysis detailing strategic goals, strategy, governance and management structures, legal framework, required resources, job analysis, cost structures and revenue streams.

The task force is also supposed to “develop an Implementation Plan for Makerere University Reforms, and provide strategic oversight for the implementation of the Plan including, the recommendations of the Rwendeire Committee.”

Fees rejected

The new fees structure has been rejected by the students Guild Representative Council (GRC), who have asked that the council defers its decision pending further consultations and students’ input on the matter.

Minister Muyingo said  the University Council has accepted the request and deferred implementation of her decision to allow for the consultations.

The GRC set up a committee mandated to study the University Council decision and make an input. The committee set up by the GRC bench-marked one regional university in the East African community (Nairobi University) and they established that Makerere University charges fees that are much lower than fees charged by Nairobi University.

The GRC committee also noted that it was not feasible to charge the unit cost as proposed by the Rwendeire Committee, as most students would not afford the proposed rates.

The GRC committee submitted a chairperson of council with the recommendations that instead of increments ranging from 49% to 91% on selected programmes, fees for undergraduate programmes should be increased across the board, by 15% for the next five years beginning with academic year 2018/19.

Muyingo said that each cohort of students would maintain the same fees structure, for the duration of their studies, but that the new fees structure would not affect the current continuing students.

“There is now consensus between the University Council, management and the students guild,” Muyingo said.

MPs raise more queries

In reaction to Muyongo’s statement, the Youth MP representative, Ann Adeke, said time and again, Makerere is run by private students and government funding has remained constant.

“That 15% has been put as increment for only private students,” she said.

Adeke put the minister to task to explain the impact of the 15% increment on government-sponsored students.

“We want to exercise equity here between Government and private students, Makerere University is still a public institution. Why should private students shoulder the entire burden? The minister must show the 15% increment for Government institutions, short of that, it won’t be justifiable at all,” Adeke said, adding that the whole process has been done on a wrong benchmark.

MP Agaba Abbas Mugisha (Kitagwenda) said there is nothing democratic about equitable fees whether students agree or not.

“If the University is going to increase fees, they will increase. Parliament would like to know the cause for the increment of fees,” he said.

“The reason we have public universities is to enable education for as many students as possible, meaning government shoulders the responsibility of as much Ugandans as it can,” Mugisha said.

But Moses Kasibante, the Rubaga North legislator, said that the GRC has no obligation to determine the fees structure of the generation that isn’t going to live.

“The strikes that we have been having in public universities has been due to current problems and you can’t say, because the GRC has accepted this, the next generation should pay that money,” Kasibante argued.

Muyingo did not respond to most of the arguments fronted by the legislators on the Floor.

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