New model to harmonise higher education fees in EAC under study

The Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) is working to introduce a tool for calculating unit costs to help harmonise higher education fees, as part of its contribution to promoting equal opportunities for all higher education students in the region.

According to Prof. Alexandre Lyambabaje, executive secretary of the IUCEA, this is part of a plan to harmonise higher education fees across the East African Community (EAC) by mainly considering what he terms as “national treatment,” instead of the previously held mistaken belief that students can pay the same amounts for any programme in any member country.

“We don’t expect that a student in humanities will have the same amount as a student in sciences or student in engineering. So, we created clusters of unit costs according to the area of specialisation,” Prof. Lyambabaje told The New Times last week, shedding light on the criteria chosen for the model under study.

According to Lyambabaje, also considered were key expenditures from regional universities.

The IUCEA gathered data from universities in partner states to compare notes and reach a conclusion on what works best.

Even though data from Kenya was not available, he explained, in all other partner states, the model was tested using on hand information to make sure that what is obtained using the model gives acceptable results.

He added: “We thought that we should not impose a single value of a unit cost. There is a range for a minimum and a range for a maximum according, for instance, to the ratio of students to professors. If you increase the ratio of students to professors, the cost is likely to be lower. If you reduce it, the cost will be higher.

“So, all those specificities are included and, starting next month we shall share the model with all partner states for testing and validation. Hopefully, we will get it back within the first quarter of 2017.”

If this “national treatment” arrangement succeeds, a student from another EAC country studying in a Rwandan university will pay the same amount of fees as Rwandan students.

The search for a model for calculating unit costs, the IUCEA executive secretary explained, begun after some partner states contested the notion of similar fee charges across the bloc.

“Some partner states indicated that they are subsidising their school fees heavily and that they cannot guarantee that if a student comes from another country, they will pay exactly what local students pay,” Lyambabaje said.

“We were then requested to develop a model for the calculation of unit costs. That was approved by the executive committee of the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) last November.”

Results from previous studies on the same, he said, did not satisfy partner states.

But EAC ministers for higher education late last year requested the IUCEA to share the new developed model with all partner states so that countries validate it and then, once all partner states have tested and validated it, “the model would officially be rolled out.”

In the meantime, the East African Community (EAC) is still looking into the adoption of a common education protocol to ease movement of learners and teachers within the region.

The creation of a common EAC Higher Education Area (EACHEA) implies that qualifications will be appropriately recognised in all partner states both for continuation of studies as well as in the labour market.

Once an EACHEA is finally approved, the education system in the Community will be harmonised, comparable, and compatible, thus boosting knowledge and skills development.