Barely a year after Mzuzu University (Mzuni) and generic students battled over fees hike from K250 000 to K300 000, the university has again increased students annual contribution to K350 000 per year.
Mzuni, one of the country’s four functional public universities, said in a statement yesterday the Mzuni Council approved the fee hike during its 56th ordinary meeting.
In an interview yesterday, Mzuni spokesperson Chigo Gondwe-Chokani justified the fee hike, saying the university did not implement a huge hike as other public universities did last year. She was apparently referring to the University of Malawi (Unima), the country’s oldest public university established in 1965, which raised fees from K275 000 to between K400 000 and K600 000.
Despite students earlier protesting the K300 000 fees, Gondwe-Chokani argued there was already an arrangement to implement the new fees hike in phases.
She said Mzuni does not expect students to protest the hike this time around because they were represented at the meeting.
Said Gondwe-Chokani: “If there will be resistance, it will be very surprising because the students were represented.”
But Mzuni Students Representative Council (Musrec) academic director Alfred Chuma yesterday said students are not comfortable with the timing of the hike.
He said the hike has been effected at a time students had already applied for government loans through the Higher Education Students Loans and Grants Board.
Chuma said most students have been given K200 000 by the Students Loans Board; hence, it will be hard for them to raise an additional K150 000.
He said: “It is the wish of every student that fees should not be hiked, but we have no choice. However, what we are mostly concerned about is the issue of timing.
“Last year, the fees was raised after students had already applied for government loans which heavily affected students. This time the fees is also being raised after students already applied for loans.”
In the statement announcing the new fees structure, Mzuni has also set the fees for upgrading students in the face-to-face programme at K400 000 per year while open distance learners will be paying K300 000 per year.
Last year, students forced Mzuni to stop implementation of a hike from K250 000 to K300 000, arguing the hike was unrealistic in the wake of economic challenges facing the country.
The students wanted the fees set at K270 000, but after negotiations the fees was set at K280 000. However, the university has raised the fees higher than what was being disputed last year and has justified the hike saying it is also affected by economic challenges.
In 2015, about 100 students dropped out of Mzuni as they could not afford fees, a development that saw the university coming up with a scholarship fund to assist needy students.
However, the scholarship fund too does not have capacity to support all students left out of government loans.
Besides Mzuni, founded in 1997 but accepted its first students in1999, other public universities are Unima, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) and Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must).
Unima which has four constituent colleges, namely The Polytechnic, College of Medicine, Chancellor College and Kamuzu College of Nursing is on the verge of being unbundled to have stand-alone public universities.
In August last year, President Peter Mutharika reacted to the Unima fees hike impasse by ordering a K50 000 reduction in its fees.
The President also directed Treasury to provide K1 billion to the Unima Council to meet the shortfall the ordered fees reduction would cause in the running of the university’s four constituent colleges. n