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Minister justifies Unima fees hike

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Hiking fees might not necessarily be part of the reforms for the institutions of higher learning, but it is one way of making sure the universities have enough financial resources to run their programmes, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Emanuel Fabiano has said.

Fabiano said this in an interview Thursday when he accompanied Vice President Saulos Chilima to a tour of eight resource-mobilisation projects that Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) is implementing at its Bunda Campus as part of the university’s reforms agenda.

“When it comes to reforms, there so many things that are being implemented by different institutions. As you well know, the government is providing most of the money that is required to run the universities.

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“But if you take the University of Malawi, currently the minimum cost for some of the programmes is about K2.8 million per student per annum and other programmes are costing as much as K5 million per student per annum and what the students are currently paying in the University of Malawi, which is K275,000 is way below even 10 percent of the cost of their tuition,” Fabiano said.

He said by increasing fees for mature entry students, Unima is trying to ensure that the students are “contributing something that is significantly beyond the current 10 percent”.

Unima, in a leaked memo dated May 12, 2016 from the University Registrar to principals, finance officers and registrars of constituent colleges of the university, disclosed that it has increased fees paid by mature entry students that will be admitted into the 2016/17 academic year.

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According to the memo, mature entry students who will be admitted to Chancellor College will be required to pay K900,000, College of Medicine K1.4 million, Kamuzu College of Nursing K1 million and The Polytechnic K950,000 per academic year.

In an interview on Tuesday last week Unima spokesperson, Peter Mitunda, confirmed that the figures have been raised from K275,000, saying: “The council felt that it was not in order for the government to subsidise mature entry students who are working.”

But Fabiano said the government does not determine the fees for the universities as the University Act provides for the council of the university to do so, adding: “They can only talk to government if they need guidance.”

He said the government advises the council that as they agree on the fees, they should also consider affordability.

Educat ion act ivi s t , Benedicto Kondowe, said although he appreciates that the adjustments are long overdue, they are on the higher side considering Malawi’s economy where salaries and wages have remained low for the majority of employees.

“On that basis mature entry students will find it difficult to raise money. This is why calls for having clear [fees] adjustment plan would make planning process effective. This will have negative social economic consequences,” Kondowe said.

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