Renewed calls to harmonise EAC university fees
Officials from various Ugandan universities have urged all East African Community (EAC) partner states and the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) to speed up the process of harmonising fees among the region’s universities and other institutions of higher learning.
They made the call on Thursday during the opening of a three-day Uganda Universities Exhibition at Serena Hotel in Kigali.
The first step towards the harmonisation of university fees among EAC countries is to carry out a unit cost study analysis within all sister states of EAC
Levi Busingye, a lecturer at Bugema University, pointed out that due to lack of harmonised tuition fees structures among universities in EAC, foreign students are still reeling from higher fees compared to local ones.
“Ugandan students studying at their respective universities pay their tuition fees in the local currency but foreign students are obliged to pay their fees in US dollars,” he noted.
“In my analysis and observation, this is totally unfair because in the spirit of EAC regional integration, all students should be treated equally irrespective of their origin”.
Alice Peace Nakalembe, the Marketing and Public Relations Officer at Bugema University, said: “The Inter-University Council for East Africa and stakeholders should address the issue of harmonising fees structures in all EAC universities because it will enable students to get easy access to education and to avoid unfair practices such us over-charging foreign students”.
IUCEA has so far developed an education curriculum and a common quality assurance system among member states.
In an interview, Uganda’s Minister of Education and Sports, Jessica Alupo, said the National Council for Higher Education in Uganda has embarked on a study to determine the unit cost of university education in her country.
“One can not harmonise the fee structure unless the cost of providing a programme is known. Therefore, the first step towards the harmonisation of university fees among EAC countries is to carry out a unit cost study analysis within all sister states of EAC,” Alupo said.
According to the minister, President Yoweri Museveni recently directed her ministry to charge students from EAC member states, especially Rwandans, the same amount of tuition fees as local students. She however revealed that universities were yet to adhere to the directive saying that her ministry is working round the clock to implement it.
“There is need for the recognition of qualifications from all EAC partner states, and for this to be effected, standards must first be adopted,” Alupo said.
EAC students currently studying in England, Wales and Northern Ireland pay the same amount of fees as UK students. The same goes for Rwandan students in South Africa.
The Executive Director of the National Council for Higher Education, Prof. Geoffrey Rugege, said the harmonisation of fees would play a key role towards expanding access to higher education, adding that it will also enable students to determine where to study.
“In Rwanda, we want to expand access to higher education where our students can have several choices in as far as education is concerned, and this means the issue of having standardised fee structures in universities among EAC partner states will help our students to access education from any country in the region,” he said.
Prof. Rugege disclosed that the Ministry of Education was gathering information to assist in the formulation of an informed policy on harmonisation of fees among public and private universities in the country.
“As you know, higher education is becoming a competitive market product and this means that the harmonisation of fees structures in all EAC universities will promote the value for money at any higher institution of learning in the region.”
Rugege called for a harmonised framework to stamp out unfair competition in education in the region. He further urged government to formulate a legal framework to penalise universities that violate the set guidelines.
In an interview with The New Times, Prof. Silas Lwakabamba, the Rector of the National University of Rwanda (NUR), pointed out that all students at his university pay the same tuition fees irrespective of which East African country they come from.
Contact email: steven.mugisha[at]newtimes.co.rw