The decision by the government to cut funding to higher educational institutions and channel it to the lower education echelons has been a source of discussion in the media for quite sometime now. I did write about it expounding on why it was prudent for the government to prioritize lower education at the expense of higher education.
This time I wish to highlight the fact that the institutions of higher leaarning need not cry over spilt milk but get up, dust themselves and forge ahead with or without government funds. The Rwandan government is not made up of insane bureaucrats determined to see universities collapsing due to lack of funds.
Although the funding has been cut by a considerable percentage, I am certain the government will not hesitate to bail out an institution that is found to be on its death bed financially. But this situation is very avoidable.
There are ways of overcoming this hurdle by mobilizing funds from other sources other than the government. The problem is that state universities usually have a socialist mindset. They are set up to provide a service to the community and not to make any profit and so the bespectacled professors simply concentrate on academics.
But times have changed and governments worldwide will do anything to cut spending on higher education which is viewed as a luxury while lower education (basic education) is viewed as a priority. It is no wonder that the much touted Millennium Development Goals also include the provision of primary education to all.
This new setting calls for a new way of thinking. A more innovative way of thinking is required of the people in charge of state universities. This new thinking should run along the lines of cutting costs and increasing or creating income aimed at achieving self sustainability.
To pull this off, the university officials may consider engaging a consultancy firm to assess the institution’s current spending dynamics and see where reductions can be made and where money can be mobilized from.
I must state clearly that I am not a financial consultant of any credible measure and therefore I do not expect to be hired by any serious university soon. However it is easy to see the wisdom in a university endeavoring to keep its spending at a more sustainable level while at the same time trying to source for funding.
Universities need to look for ways of attracting funding in form of grants and aid. There are several organizations in the world that can fund projects or programmes at universities and all the university has to do is to apply and convince those in charge that they deserve that money. Innovative programmes or projects are easier to sell to funding agencies.
Institutions of higher learning should also make an effort to set up income generating projects. For example, agricultural students can help the university to run a university farm where the produce is sold to the nearby community or even beyond, depending on its capacity.
In the same spirit, universities can offer outreach services to the wider community at a fee. For example, the veterinary department can treat people’s animals and vaccinate their pet dogs at a reasonable fee. Like one rector pointed out recently, universities can offer consultancy services if they register a company to do that for a fee.
Another tried and tested strategy is engaging corporate world. The corporate companies always have deep pockets and would love being associated with any initiative that fits the description of Corporate Social Responsibility.
For example a big company like MTN may offer to construct a laboratory or library and have its logo on the building.
All said and done, the leaders of our universities need to be creative and innovative in attracting funds and generating income instead of depending on the already overburdened government. They can contact other universities for tips on how to pull this off.