Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana (UG), Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, was in a sober mood yesterday when he took his time to explain to the media recent increment of fees to be charged by the university in the 2011-2012 academic year.
“It is an extremely unfortunate misconception that the Vice Chancellor solely decides fees to be paid by students in this university. This cannot be true,” Prof. Aryeetey said at a well-attended news conference.
The decision by public universities to increase fees is causing uneasy calm among students and parents, thereby forcing some students of the university to embark on a massive demonstration last Wednesday.
The students are even threatening that should the university authorities fail to reduce the fees, they will organize bigger demonstrations in the coming days across the country, but UG authorities remain adamant.
At the Legon Hall Dining Hall yesterday, Professor Aryeetey, flanked by other top executive management members of the university, said the decision to increase school fees was determined by the Executive and Finance Committees of the university, in collaboration with the Acting President of the Students’ representative Council (SRC) and the President of Graduate Students Association of Ghana.
“The Vice Chancellor has no authority to change decisions taken by the Executive Committee. The Vice Chancellor cannot change the fees. It is only the Executive Committee that can change decisions to increase or reduce fees,” he said.
He said since he was appointed Vice Chancellor, he had ensured that students, through their representatives, got involved in decision making at the university, and added that it was not true that they did not provide enough platform for dialogue between the university authorities and students.
Prof. Aryeetey apologized to the public for any inconvenience caused as a result of the demonstration by the students last week, saying, “We are sorry that our students had cause to demonstrate and we apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused to motorists and pedestrians. It started as a demonstration against fee increase but ended as a demonstration against the person of the Vice Chancellor.”
He said he could boldly say that even though the students embarked on the demonstration, more than half of the demonstrators were not students from the university.
He said when the decision was taken to increase fees, the students expressed concern and he advised them to write a formal complaint or petition to the university authorities for consideration, but the students did not do so, adding that “it cannot be true that they (students) have exhausted all avenues of expressing grievances.”
Professor Aryeetey, who was once the Director of the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), however did not give any indication as to whether the fees would be reviewed downwards should the students formally petition the university authorities.
Reading the university’s statement on the issue, Prof. E. Kweku Osam, newly appointed Pro-Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, said Academic Facility User Fees (AFUF) 2011/2012 had gone up by 10 percent while other charges such as technology services (internet) and healthcare were charged to students based on cost.
He said fees determined by the university did not vary much from the rates at other public universities, and added that the university, contrary to the usual practice of students paying full fees at the beginning of the academic year, would allow students to pay a minimum of 50 percent of all due fees and charges for the first semester.
He noted that examination fees had not seen any increment in the past five years while fees for healthcare and sports were woefully inadequate, saying, “The issue of funding for tertiary education will have to be dispassionately discussed if we want to move forward university education.”
He said the university had invested heavily in the new halls to make students experience comfortable living on campus, saying, “Internet broadband services alone cost the university GH¢ 75,000 every month and we have to realise that we can no longer provide some of these services for free. There are certain realities we need to face if we want to move forward”.
Joseph M. Budu, Registrar of the university, said since 1997 the university had been heavily underfunded and that running an institution such as Legon demanded money for development.
Dr. Vladimir Antwi-Danso, Akuafo Hall Master, said, “We become emotional whenever the issue of fees are discussed. This university is being overrun by other universities in the country. We need to sit up instead of blaming the Vice Chancellors and others.”
Source: William Yaw Owusu
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