Vice chancellors from Ugandan universities have opposed a government proposal to charge same tuition fees from East African students, saying the matter should be left to individual institutions.
Speaking on the sidelines of a consultative meeting between vice chancellors and officials from National Council for Higher Education in Kampala recently, Prof Venansius Baryamureeba, the chairperson Uganda Vice Chancellors Forum, said Uganda is a free market economy and universities set their tuition fees depending on their operational and administrative needs.
“It is like saying the government is going to start determining the retail price for sugar. Once it is a liberalised economy, issues of fees or prices are determined by the service provider and the consumer has an option to choose where to go,” he said adding, “Otherwise, if we simply adopt such a proposal, universities will become secondary schools-meaning there will be no research and publication.”
But minister for Higher Education John Chrysostom Muyingo who presided over the function, said by delaying to implement the proposal, the universities are defeating the spirit of integration.
“We are urging you to enforce what the regional presidents agreed upon and have mercy on fellow East Africans.Why should a Kenyan student come to Uganda and be charged differently?” the minister asked.
A host of universities in East Africa charge students from member countries higher tuition and functional fees compared to their nationals.
It is only Tanzania which charges uniform fees in some universities.
Recently, President Museveni directed the Ministry of Education to harmonise tuition fees for all university students from East African member states, saying it is a shame for higher institutions of learning in Uganda to charge higher tuition fees for students from other states at a time of regional integration.
The director for higher education in the ministry of Education, Ms Elizabeth Gabona, has since explained this disparity, saying it is due to a government policy where tuition for its private students is subsidised yet the one for foreign students is not subsidised.
Last month, the government accepted a proposal by the South Sudan government to allow its students pay similar tuition fees like Ugandans in public universities.
This means South Sudanese students studying in the six public universities will no longer pay tuition fees in dollars like it is the case with other foreign students.
Mr Muyingo said government had finalised a public-private partnership policy that will enable all universities to be well facilitate to do research and also integrate ICT in teaching.
Fees structure in pipeline
The Inter-University Council for East Africa – which is responsible for the development and coordination of higher education in the region, is currently working on a standard tuition fees structure, which member states will be required to endorse before it comes into effect.
Uganda ,which currently boasts of at least 35 licensed universities has in the last decade proved to be an education hub for the region due to her cheap but good” higher education.