The Sunday Mail
Sunday Mail Reporter
Universities are justified in reviewing fees given the huge costs associated with learning, but the Government will pursue strategies to keep them affordable, President Mnangagwa has said.
State universities recently announced an upward review of fees as the old ones were considered untenable.
However, the proposed new fees, after recent consultations between university authorities and student representatives, are “still either below or within range of what their peers in the region are charging”.
Writing in his weekly column in this paper, the President, who is the Chancellor of all State universities, said the financing formula for higher education has to change, as Government needed to finance the construction of infrastructure such as student accommodation, among other projects, particularly for an ever-growing student population.
“For a very long time, fees for university education have been low; in some cases, lower than fees charged by many secondary schools in the country,” said President Mnangagwa.
“It certainly does not make sense that our higher education, which is at the apex of the entire education system, and which is internationally benchmarked, meaning it requires specialised facilities and tuition, turns out to be cheaper than foundational primary and secondary education.
“Government, thus, supported university authorities in their decision to take the necessary corrective action.”
Research shows that state universities in South Africa charge a minimum US$1 400 for undergraduate programmes per semester and US$1 700 for postgraduate studies.
The University of Botswana charges a minimum US$1 400 in undergraduate fees per semester and a minimum of US$1 800 for postgraduate studies.
Further, students at University of Zambia are charged US$800 for undergraduate studies per semester and US$1 000 for postgraduate.
In US dollar terms, latest figures show that the University of Zimbabwe is charging a minimum of US$509 for undergraduate fees per semester.
Government, the President said, had to raise funds to support the continuously growing student population at the country’s 17 State universities.
“To the university, we are building more and more structures, including facilities for student accommodation,” he said.
“A significant part of the national budget is thus going towards setting up and expanding these institutions, including planning for new ones.
“The financing formulae for our higher education has had to change, so the burden of this growth is shared to make it sustainable, and so we retain our reputation as a purveyor of best tertiary education by international standards.”
President Mnangagwa said he was concerned that many students were not taking up Government-guaranteed loans that were reintroduced in 2020 and are administered by CBZ Bank.
“I, however, remain concerned that the loan facility which Government guarantees, and which Government administers through banks, is not being taken full advantage of by our students,” he said.
“Only about 10 000 students have benefitted so far, a remarkably small number in relation to our student population.”
He encouraged the private sector to sponsor as many students as they could accommodate, especially now that the current education curriculum is closely aligned to industry through Education 5.0.
“Of course such support by the private sector may mean bonding terms for beneficiaries so sponsoring institutions benefit from their investments in human capital.”
Dialogue between universities and student representatives, he added, should continue, but should not be exploited by “some politically-minded elements” within the student community to disrupt studies and the smooth running of the institutions.
President Mnangagwa also said Government was encouraged by innovations that were coming out of innovation hubs at the country’s tertiary institutions.
“My Government believes in our students. What I have seen during my tour of innovation hubs we have created at various universities fortifies this belief and faith in the inventive capacities of our students,” he said.
“It also vindicates our decision to move towards specialised institutions in which science and technology take centre stage. I would not want to see this new and innovative thrust getting jeopardised.”