Makerere Cannot Bank On Just Fees [editorial]

Makerere University is raising tuition fees by 10 per cent beginning with the forthcoming academic year.

The increment, which has already been approved by the university council, will not affect continuing students. Makerere has grappled with financial challenges over the years, and so the fees increment is not really surprising. In fact, if it wasn’t for the government standing in the way, fearing a political backlash, and students threatening to strike, the increment would not only be higher but it would have come much earlier.

One of the university’s most outstanding challenges is staff salaries. As a result, strikes have become the order of the day as the lecturers seek improved service terms.

In addition, amid a very rapid increase in the student population, the university has struggled to build enough structures to accommodate the swelling numbers while aiming to invest in research and teaching aides to keep ahead of the competition.

However, it would be wrong for Makerere University to bank on students’ fees to fulfill its development agenda. The university is owned and run by the government but given the many competing priorities and interests, help from this side has not been steady.

Even without substantial government investment or student fees increment every year, if there is a public university that is capable of harnessing her resources to become financially independent, it’s Makerere.

This university is gifted with abundant resources in terms of land and other properties, which can be put to lucrative use and thus improve its financial situation. A few years ago, there were plans to enter public private partnerships (PPs) with some investors to develop some of the university’s key properties around Kampala.

It’s not clear what happened to these plans, which if properly executed could end Makerere’s financial dependency on government and students’ fees.

Therefore, while an increase in students’ fees might be justifiable in the context of a rising cost of living and the government’s reluctance to raise its contribution, the university administration should be thinking bigger and smarter or else it would have to increase student fees every year to cope.

Source : The Observer

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