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General News Mon, 22 Oct 2001

Call For Tuition Fees At Legon

THE University of Ghana has resolved to recover the full cost of training each student at the university.

Prof Ivan Addae-Mensah, Vice-Chancellor of the university, told a student gathering on campus that the university has “firmly and irrevocably resolved that we shall not allow our university to fall into the dangerous category of decaying institution”.

In what is seen as a call for the introduction of the payment of tuition fees, the Vice-Chancellor said: “Unless it gets the full value of what it costs to train each student, so as to enable it to run the institution more effectively and efficiently and provide quality education, it simply cannot go on any longer.”

The Vice-Chancellor stated this at this year’s matriculation in a speech described as the state of the university address.

Of the 7,912 students out of 18,252 applicants offered admission, 5,986 have enrolled to undertake non-degree, degree and post graduate programmes in the Humanities and the Sciences.

Throwing more light on the cost of educating students, the Vice-Chancellor said “the real average direct academic cost per student per annum for Ghanaian students is about $3,000. At current cedi-dollar exchange rate, this comes to about ?21 million. It varies from $1,530 or ?10.7 million for Humanities to $4,520 or ?31.6 million for Medicine.”

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He added that “total direct cost per student, including academic cost, residential facilities, industrial attachments, field work and vacation training programmes, utilities and municipal services, transportation and health facilities, is estimated at about $6,000 to $8,000 or ?42 million to ?56 million per student at current exchange rate”.

According to him, the resolve has the full backing of the entire university, including “our Chancellor, the University Council and the Academic Board.”

The Vice-Chancellor noted that “until the university comes to grips with the present and project into the future by taking very unpalatable but absolutely necessary decisions, it would still be left behind while universities in other African countries continue to make strides”.

Prof Addae-Mensah expressed concern about the dwindling subvention to the University of Ghana, adding that, “what the government uses as the base for determining subvention is just a small fraction of the real costs”.

He said for example that “for the 2001 budget for the universities, the base figure used for determining subvention varied from ?5.05 million for Humanities to about ?15 million for Medicine”.

The Vice-Chancellor said what this means is that even before the determination of the budget, the formula for determining the actual needs of the universities would have already cut the budget by more than 50 per cent.

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He said: “Of this amount, used as the base for budgetary allocations, the universities receive between 33 and 53 per cent from government. The average subvention per student per annum paid by government to the universities between 1991 and 2001 has fallen from $2,360 to $800.

The Vice-Chancellor said the struggle to introduce the principle of fee payment in the universities has been very difficult.

He said notwithstanding the difficulties, “we are determined to continue the fight. All we ask for is full government support, for in the long run, government itself and all Ghanaians will realise that what we are trying to do, is in the long-term best interest of government in particular and the entire Ghanaian society in general.”

Prof Addae-Mensah made it clear that: “As the Executive Head of this University, I am determined to be bold and stand up to what I believe is in the best interest of this institution and push through the reforms as enshrined in our strategic plan.”

The Vice-Chancellor said the introduction of the principle of fee payment into the university after 44 different attempts in the face of dwindling government subvention in real terms to the university had begun to show clear signs of transforming the dying departments into vibrant and active ones.

He said although the university has increased the academic facility user fees, ranging from ?368,000 for Humanities, ?529,000 for Science and ?747,500 for Medicine and a flat ?200,000 per student for the old halls of residence, the levels are totally inadequate and stated that the university will still continue to persevere.

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On the state of campus accommodation, Prof. Addae-Mensah, said the situation had got worse this year.

“While the university offered accommodation to 1,329 out of 5,237 fresh students last year, it could accommodate only 645 of the 5,986 fresh students this year in its old halls of residence.

“This was because of a decision by the university authorities to give priority to continuing students.”

Prof Addae-Mensah said 80 per cent of the 560-capacity new hostel complex built by Ghana Hostels Limited, has been allocated to fresh students, particularly female students, to cater for their peculiar needs.

The Vice-Chancellor said the Jubilee Hall, which is expected to be completed by January next year, is also oversubscribed and indicated that “negotiations have gone very far to lease to another private estate developer, about 24 acres to be developed into student hostels to accommodate more than 2,000 students and house staff of the university.

The Vice-Chancellor said the recent demonstration on campus against indecent dressing brought to the open a growing problem.

He observed that the message sent by the demonstrators should not be taken as a message to only the university community adding that “it points to a national problem that is assuming alarming proportions.”

Prof Addae-Mensah called on all, particularly the mass media to be circumspect about what they put on the screens, on the air and in print.

The Chairman of the University Council, Mr Ishmael Yamson, threw his weight behind the call for the introduction of tuition fees in the university.

He appealed to government to demonstrate confidence in those entrusted with the responsibility of managing Ghanaian universities by allowing them a free hand to get on the job.

He conceded that students and the vulnerable in society may face difficulties but explained that “for those students to whom tuition fees would pose a problem, schemes of financial assistance could be introduced.”

Source: Graphic