Minister of State for Higher Education, Dr. John Chrysostom Muyingo Tuesday explained to Parliament why Makerere University is increasing fees for its undergraduate programmes.
“The University Council took a decision to raise fees of undergraduate programmes, in order to meet the challenges of the deteriorating quality of service delivery at the university. 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, but the proposed reviews were still far below the unit cost, recommended by the Rwendeire committee,” he said.
He noted that this was an interim measure, pending Government’s position on unit costs for academic programmes.
“The new fees structure was widely advertised in the mass media and the student’s leadership, through the Guild Representative Council (GRC) resisted the University Council decision, and requested the council to defer her decision, pending further consultations and students’ input. Council 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,” he said, adding that 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.
He said 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.
“That each cohort of students would maintain the same fees structure, for the duration of their studies. That the new fees structure would not affect the current continuing students,” he said, adding: “That the university council and management put in place measures to ensure that service delivery is improved.”
He said the University council accepted and endorsed the recommendations of GRC committee, on the new fees structure.
“There is now consensus between the university council, management and the guild representative council, a body that represent the students’ community at Makerere University. The Ministry of Education and Sports notes that the University need to issue admission letters to first year students as soon as possible, to enable parents and students prepare for commencement of the first semester of academic year 2018/2019,” he concluded.
However, the explanation didn’t convince some MPs.
Anna Adeke, the National Female Youth MP said Makerere is run by private students and Government funding has remained constant.
“15% has been put as increment for private students, so, show us the 15% that Government is going to increase for each student who is going to be Government sponsored in the University and the budget has been passed.
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.
She added: “It has been done on a wrong benchmark, how can you benchmark with Kenya? Kenya’s budget is domestically funded by almost half percent, how much of our budget is domestically funded. The Kenyan economy is way stronger for you to compare the charges between the two countries.”
Rubaga North MP, Moses Kasibante said 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 have been due to current problems and you can’t say, because the GRC has accepted this, the next generation should pay that money,” he said.
Adeke asked the Education Ministry to stay the 15% increment until “they give us the proper reasons and also show Government’s contribution.”
However, Jacob Oulanyah, the Deputy Speaker said since it wasn’t a motion, but matter of national importance, it doesn’t attract debate so Parliament has nothing to do about it.