The Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVCNUs) has made it clear that it is no longer possible for any federal university in Nigeria to sustain operation again without increasing its obligatory and some other fees being charged to students.
The Secretary-General of the committee, Prof Yakubu Ochefu, shared this position in an exclusive interview with the Tribune Online at the weekend, maintaining that the old fees regime in any of the federal universities is no longer relevant in the current economic reality in the country.
According to him, it is expensive to run universities. They hardly shut down a day. They run an almost 24-hour service. Even when the students are on holiday, the universities keep their doors open.
“So, the cost of running universities just like every other educational institution in the country is huge and now the situation has become almost unbearable, especially since the removal of fuel subsidy which is continuously pushing up the cost of goods and services in the country on daily basis,” he pointed out.
While explaining that it’s not that the administrators of various federal universities and their management teams are wicked as some people made to believe for increasing their obligatory fees, Ochefu said they have to do that because they have no better option if they want to sustain operation and provide quality services.
He said even at that, they still heavily subsidized their services to students as if they should charge commensurable fees, they would have charged up to four times or more of their new fees.
According to him, universities charging lower fees as some had done already is because the Federal Government is still responsible for the payment of salaries of workers and also providing some running costs even though grossly inadequate and still gives other supports through TETFund and some other intervention agencies.
He said if not for all these, public universities would have been charging high fees like the private universities do because tuition fees would have been where the salaries of workers would come from and that would have been passed on to parents and students.
He explained that the universities are the ones responsible for major running costs, which are huge such as electricity, sanitation, water supply, maintenance of infrastructures, cutting of grass, conduct of examinations, travelling and several others.
For example, he said, the cost of papers for examinations alone has gone up from N18,000 to N45,000 a carton within two years and that will be a lot of money for universities with a student population of about 30,000 or more. And that is just one issue as many also spend several millions of naira on electricity and so forth, every month.
“So, the cost of all these items are going up each day and so the universities have to push part of the costs to students and their parents.”
Ochefu therefore called on students, especially those who are still carrying placards and protesting fee hikes and parents to understand the financial burden the universities are contending with and cooperate with them to provide quality education that the country will be proud of.
He also urged the various state and local governments across the country to adopt a bursary award policy on a yearly basis for students who are their indigenes, saying such effort would equally go a long way to cushion the financial burden on parents.
The federal government, as well as alumni associations, corporate bodies and philanthropists, he added, can also give scholarship awards to indigent but brilliant students as the provision of a well-rounded education to the citizenry is a shared responsibility by all.