September 10, 2023

Fee: Universities in desperate situation, difficult to retain old rates – UNILAG VC

Elections: UNILAG announces new resumption date

….Says no student will drop out

By Adesina Wahab

Vice Chancellor, the University of Lagos, UNILAG, Prof. Folasade Ogunsola, has said universities in the country are in desperate situations regarding the pressure to produce quality graduates and having to do that with very limited resources.

She likened the situation to when a person is mandated to run a sprint race with his hands tied behind his back.

She spoke on Saturday night in a virtual press briefing in Lagos.

Ogunsola, who said she was part of the students that took part in the “Ali must go” protest in 1978, expressed her support for students peacefully expressing their reservations about any issue, but warned that they should not let such become violent.

She explained that even if the 35,000 student population of the university pay up the new rate, it would amount to about N800 million which is not even enough to meet the electricty bill of the institution that she put at over N1.7 billion annually.

She added that power supply to the university was disconnected in May this year over indebtedness and that the power distribution company even warned that it would still disconnect the school last month.

“It is just unfortunate that these things are happening almost at the same time, I mean the withdrawal of fuel subsidy and fee hike. In fact, the fees ought to have been gradually increased over the years, but that was not allowed then. The last time fee was increased in UNILAG was over 15 years ago. So, can we say the N20,000 of today still have the same value with the N20,000 of that time?

“We started looking at the possiblity of increasing the fees in January this year and we took the matter to the Governing Council of the institution. A committee was set up to look at our obligations and what can be done. The situation was assessed and the proposed new fee regime was taken to the Federal Ministry of Education in. Abuja. The ministry moderated the bill and gave the necessary approval. The Council decided that by July this year, the new fee regime would be announced and the payment would commence by October this year. However, the Council was dissolved.

“Apart from the cost of power, I will give an insight into some of our expenses. We spend not less than N5,000 to verify results of each new student we admit. To conduct examinations across all faculties, we spend about N160 million annually. To accredit new programme or even maintain the accreditation of others, we spend about N200 million every year.

“Our hostels are ageing and need constant repair and maintenance, for that we spend about N500 million annually too. With the new rate, we can only generate about N800 million, we are pressed for finance. Lecturers are leaving in droves because of the condition of service and other issue. Only last week, five lecturers resigned.  The error is that the increment should have been allowed all these years and it would have been gradual.

“If the federal government says will should revert to the old rate, we would have no choice but to comply, but many things would be negatively affected. For instance, our campus is the most energised regarding the provision of electricity and internet facilities. I stand to be corrected on this, that may have to be reduced drastically.

“Mind you, we have not passed all the costs to the students and their parents, we are still augmenting many items through the little we generate as internal revenue, but that is limited too. The government is also doing its own part by paying salaries of workers. This is a knowledge business and not buying and selling where you pass all the costs to the buyer.

“We have not mentioned the provision of facilities and infrastructure. In those days, universities themselves were building structures here and there, but now the revenue is grossly inadequate and it is only the intervention of TETFund that has been the saving grace,” she said.

On what would become the fate of indigent students, the VC stated that a number of steps had been put in place to ensure that no student of the university drops out.

“We have made the arrangement that students will first pay 50 percent of the fee while resuming, pay 20 percent by the time first semester examination would start and pay the remaining 30 percent in the second semester. Fees to be paid are, new students who are not going to make use of laboratories or studios, N126,325, those who will make use of laboratories and or studios, N176,325. Returning students in the above categories will pay N100,750 and N140,250. Medical students to pay N190,250.

“Also, before now, we have an internal programme that takes care of indigent students and by last year, we had 600 on the list we take care of. With the new intakes and regarding the situation on ground, we have the capacity to take care of thrice that number. The affected students only have to go to the office of the Dean of Students Affairs.

“We have Study Work Programme and we have increased the number of beneficiaries and the renumeration. After we reached out to friends of the university, last year alone, about 227 indigent students were adopted and supported by such individuals and organisations. Our Endowment Scholarship is also on. Let me tell you, from the number of students who have paid so far, we can say only few would fall into indigent student category,” she said.

On the insinuations that some students have been pencilled down for sanctions over last week’s protest at the school gate, she debunked such, saying there would never be anything like that.

“The Public Relations Officer of the National Association of Nigerian Students is a student of UNILAG and he is doing his job as the spokesman of the group. We are not listing anybody for punishment. I was at the gate and the DSA was also there when the protest took place last Wednesday. One thing I know is that most of the students who protested were not our students. Our students are on holiday and we have reached out to them through their leaders,” she said.

On whether the absence of a student union leadership in the university led to a gap in communication between the management and the students, the VC said other means had been used to get to the students.

On what the leadership of universities are doing to get the government to fund the system adequately, Ogunsola explained that determining what could qualify for adequate funding was relative.

“It is obvious that the government cannot do it all alone and that is why we are calling on public spirited individuals and corporate bodies to support the sector. The body of vice chancellors of universities has also written the new Minister of Education to congratulate him on his appointment and the need to make more funds available to the sector. We are hopeful,” she said.

Recall that last Wednesday, students from the university, joined by their colleagues from other institutions, protested at the main gate of the university.

The development followed the decision of the school to increase fees payable by the students by over 800 percent.