UZ slashes varsity fees

Chris Mahove

The University of Zimbabwe has slashed its fees following an uproar from students, parents and other stakeholders.

The higher learning institution last week increased its fees by 1000 %, inviting the ire of students who went into a demonstration demanding a downward review of the fees.

The fees announced last week saw students having to part with nearly US$1000 or its equivalent in local currency per semester

However, in a statement issued at the weekend, the UZ announced new fee structure which it said had taken consideration of the feedback from students and other stakeholders.

The revised fees will see those in the faculties of Arts and Humanities, Business Management Sciences and Economics, Education, Law and Social and Behavioral Sciences paying a total of ZWL 307, 560,00 in tuition and ancillary fees.

Those in the Faculties of Agriculture Environment and Food Systems, Engineering and the Built Environment, Science and Computer Engineering Informatics and Communications would now pay a total of ZWL 353 760,00 while those in the faculties of Medicine and Health Sciences and Veterinary Sciences will pay a total of ZWL 436, 260,00.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Chairperson, Peter Mutasa said while it was good that the students mobilized and the university was forced to review the fees, the new fees were still too steep for the majority of the working class.

“The government and employers must stop raising prices of goods and services without commensurate salary increases. We need an agreed social and economic policy that addresses all forms of modern slavery and marginalization. The new fees will result in many students dropping out because their parents cannot afford,” he said.

However, in his weekly column ‘None But Ourselves’ in a local weekly, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said while government had no intention to privatize higher education, an upward review in fees for university education in the country was inevitable.

“It certainly does not make sense that our higher education, which is at the apex of the entire education system, and which is internationally benchmarked, meaning it requires specialized facilities and tuition, turns out to be cheaper than foundational primary and secondary education,” he said.

President Mnangagwa said the whole education sector had always had a misaligned fees structure where university fees have been lower than fees charged by many secondary schools in the country

“This anomaly, which in actual fact meant enormous subsidies for higher education by Government, had to be corrected. Government, thus, supported university authorities in their decision to take the necessary corrective action,” he said.

He said higher education in the country had also expanded from just one university in 1980 to the current 17, some of which are highly specialised, with several other satellite campuses and facilities for distance education, which in sum swelled enrolments in the highly critical institutions.

“Several factors made this decision necessary, not least currency fluctuations we have experienced in the country, and which we are steadily stabilising,” he said.

President Mnangagwa said government was building more and more facilities, including students’ accommodation hostels, which meant that a significant part of the national budget was going towards setting up and expanding these institutions, including planning for new ones.

“The financing formula for our higher education has had to change, so the burden of this growth is shared to make it sustainable, and so we retain our reputation as a purveyor of best tertiary education by international standards,” he said.

He noted that universities in the country, even with the latest increases, were still far below the fees charged by other regional institutions of higher learning.

“Following this decision on fees by governing University Councils, I, as Chancellor of all State universities, requested university authorities to furnish me with a comparative schedule for fees charged by similar institutions in our region and beyond.

“After receiving and examining the schedule, it has become quite apparent that the old fees we charged were untenable, while the new fees our universities now propose are not just reasonable, but still either below or within the range of what their peers in the region are charging. With the exception of universities of Namibia and Malawi, fees now being levied by most of our universities are at par or below those obtaining at other universities in our SADC region,” he said.

President Mnangagwa said University Councils had agreed on a more sustainable way of looking at fees, which would entail measuring them against the costs of dispensing quality tertiary education under prevailing circumstances in the country.

“I am positive that the fee levels suggested fall far below the costs of providing the service. This means that even with the new, relatively higher fees, Government still has to move in with some subsidies.

“We, thus, are not privatising higher education, in which case the fees would have been based on a cost-plus formula, which we all know would make the service unaffordable to many eligible students and their sponsoring families.,” he said.

The President said he had devised ways of ensuring that gifted but underprivileged students were not left behind.

“As Chancellor, I have also directed that all State universities look at ways of making the financial burden of securing higher education bearable. There are many avenues and mechanisms which can be invoked and pursued to ensure gifted students from poor backgrounds are assisted and not disadvantaged. It is my wish as Chancellor and as the President of the country to ensure we leave no student behind,” he said.

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