THE University of Zambia says the biggest source of revenue it depends on comes from tuition fees because government funding to the institution has radically dwindled over the years.
And Damaseke Chibale has revealed that an analysis of the business model of the University of Zambia (UNZA) will show that the University is currently on its knees.
But University of Zambia Students’ Union (UNZA) vice-president Piyo Grey Ndlovu says the decision to bar defaulting students from sitting their final examinations has a psychological effect on the learners.
According to a memo dated July 24 from UNZA management, all students from the schools of humanities and social sciences with unpaid fees would not be allowed to write final examinations if they did not clear their outstanding balances or fees.
“Students are hereby urged to settle their outstanding bills by August 14, 2017 to avoid missing examinations and ultimately being excluded from the University,” read the memo in part.
Featuring on Muvi TV’s The Assignment programme on Sunday night to explain the tuition fees stalemate that had been topical for two weeks now, Chibale, who is UNZA public relations manager, explained that meeting the operational cost of the University proved complicated without students paying their tuition fees in full.
“When you talk about other universities having other investment portfolios vis-à-vis the tuition fees, the bottom line is that those students at those universities pay their tuition fees in full. The University of Zambia was built for the Zambian people and at the beginning in 1966, we had very few graduates and government came in and fully subsidised the fees for those first graduates of students who were at the University of Zambia. But eventually, like what you’ve seen, government funding has been coming down and so, it is now up to the University of Zambia to stand on its own feet and the only source of revenue, the biggest that we have, are the tuition fees. We need to start realising that where there is a service, there is a cost and that cost must be paid [for] if that service has to continue,” Chibale explained.
“One thing that I want to clarify is that any [educational] institution around the world thrives on tuition fees. These other investments come as part of the other fees and so, the students cannot force management that you go and invest and leave us alone on the tuition fees. That, I think, is not making business sense! If the University of Zambia was a private university, it would have closed. Those are the facts on the ground. Look at the 69 per cent that comes from tuition fees compared to the 28 per cent we are getting from government and the three per cent that we are getting from the small investments that we have! That gives you a picture that if we do not do anything good at the tuition fees level which is at 69 per cent, then definitely the entire operations of the University of Zambia will actually come to a standstill!”
He indicated that UNZA management agreed with students that for the 2016/2017 academic year, all of them (students) should be able to pay the installments which “they have been enjoying for the past years”.
“So, the memo of telling them that they are not going to write is just a reminder, like a final one. There has been [prior] communication, unless if you have not registered with the customer service centre, probably your details are not there,” Chibale said.
“I will tell you that if we allow these fees to accumulate, who is going to pay for the cost? For example, you are talking about assessments, who prepares those assessments? When you say that management has been allowing this situation [of tuition fees arrears] to go on without attending to it, it’s a wrong proposition; we have tried on many times as management to clear the way things are done but it’s a similar pressure where we have other stakeholders who come and pressurise that these are poor people, can you allow them…. In fact, we have a number of students, some of them are still studying, who have not cleared! We also have a few others who have graduated who have not cleared.”
He added that a logical look at the way things were run at UNZA would show that an ideal modus operandi was not in place.
“That is not ideal [because] at any university, anywhere in the world, any university worth its salt must be able to manage tuition fees. We have our brothers and sisters who are studying outside the country, they pay tuition fees; it’s 100 per cent, no compromise,” Chibale noted.
“We have also colleges and universities within this country that are running without government sponsorship and the students are paying. So, are we trying to say that only at the University of Zambia is where this call should be allowed and eventually make it very difficult for the institution to operate?”
And Chibale disclosed that despite UNZA running some investments for self-revenue mobilisation, what was collected still failed to meet its financial obligations.
“East Park Mall – this is a public private partnership between Graduare Property Development and University of Zambia and we know that the lease period initially was at 25 years and it was upwardly [taken] to 50 years after the physical mall feasibility studies were done. We are receiving five per cent of the net that East Park Mall is making and that, on average, translates into K350, 000 per month. So, that is part of the three per cent that we are talking about,” explained Chibale.
“Besides that, we also have some other investments like the UNZA press, the UNZA printer, the Marshlands but these are small investments on a very small-scale and it is just a drop in the ocean! So, if you look at our revenue schedule, you’ll realise that the tuition fees are the backbone, just like anywhere in a Zambian university or college. This is what we find even in secondary schools…But when you look at it from the business perspective and model, the University of Zambia is basically on its knees because of such backlog that has been going on.”
On the same programme, Ndlovu said UNZASU and the students at large wondered how the University management could simply give a three-week ultimatum in which owing students needed to pay up.
“We are wondering as a students’ union and as a students’ population, how come management could just switch and stand on students having finished paying their fees [to to be able to sit for exams]. We need to understand that the reason universities from outside are able to manage finances or rather students in those institutions are able to pay their fees on time or in time is that it is clearly stated that probably they won’t sit for exams if at all they did not finish paying tuition fees. But then it’s different at the University of Zambia because it has been a tradition that students will actually sit for exams as long as they are registered and then they will finish up paying before the results come out and then before the results are published, they will be withheld until a student pays the fees. But management came three weeks prior to the exams [to notify] and this is just bringing about psychological stress to the students which may affect their performance and that is going to reduce our productivity as a nation,” explained Ndlovu about the decision to bar 8,000 students from writing examinations.
“What we should be looking at right now is how we are going to assist the students to sit for those exams, how management can come up with other ventures of investment in order for them (management) to accumulate funds. For example, UNZA has got enough land within this country; why can’t we have public private partnerships with other countries or banks…?”
Meanwhile, UNZASU academic affairs secretary Cornelius Daka prodded the University to show more innovation and ensure that they broadened their revenue stream.
“Let’s look at the budget of the University of Zambia; 28 per cent comes from government grant, a staggering 69 per cent from students’ tuitions and then three per cent from other revenues. But if you compare with other universities, like Mr Chibale is putting it, you’ll discover that [at] other universities student fees range from 25 per cent to 30 per cent. Let’s say Oxford University, for instance, you’ll discover that they get about 40 per cent of their revenue from external research. But if you look at the University of Zambia, you’ll discover that there isn’t much of research that goes on! If anything, the little research that goes on, the money that is gotten from there is going straight into the pockets of lecturers. Management does not put up any policy to ensure that the University is actually accumulating money from other revenues,” lamented Daka.
“Unfortunately, management has failed to be innovative enough to widen their streams from which they can actually accumulate revenue from other sources. We cannot see any special endowment or investment that management can get money from. The only thing that they have is students. They think they can get this 69 per cent from students-it’s an illusion because the fees are so exorbitant and most students cannot manage to pay in three weeks, for instance if a student is owing K20, 000! Management should show more innovation and ensure that they broaden their revenue stream and that way we’ll have a better University of Zambia.”