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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 11, 1998 - The National)---The University of Papua New Guinea will open late for the 1999 academic year and courses will be cut or merged following the reduction in its funding in the 1999 budget.

There will also be staff cuts, the University Council decided at its meeting last week.

The council said that the 1999 academic year will open in late March instead of January for the Medical Faculty at Taurama and early February for the other faculties as a measure to cut costs.

It said that because of the late start, the university will reduce its semesters to three next year from the current four.

UPNG Vice-Chancellor Dr. Rodney Hills said that among the many subjects discussed by the council was how the university would respond to the significant budget cuts.

"The University Council has decided that UPNG will not be able to open on the planned date but defer its opening until March 1999. This is to permit discussions with stakeholders and the public about changes to courses resulting from the budget decisions," Dr. Hills said.

"The council decided to undertake a major review of the university programs with a view to consolidating, merging and cutting programs where required.

"The council also agreed that part of the rationalization planning would be to study possible ways in which fees and other fundraising measures could assist bridging the university's revenue gap."

The University Council has already sanctioned individual faculties to take appropriate measures to cut costs.

The university will be forced to boost its internal revenue to supplement the operational costs because the Government's budgetary allocation of K 20 million for 1999 was K 5 million lower that this year's.

The university raises about K 6 million annually in internal revenue.

On top of the budgetary reduction, the university has also been told to reduce 160 staff positions.

Other State-sponsored tertiary institutions are similarly affected.

At the University of Technology in Lae, the appropriation has been reduced, to K 20 million from K 25 million and it has been told to cut 170 positions next year.

(NOTE: US$ 1 = K 2.12765 on December 11, 1998.)

The University of Goroka has been allocated K 4.5 million, a reduction of K 500,000. It has been told to cut 40 staff positions.

Former Unitech Vice-Chancellor Dr. Moseley Moramoro said the Goroka university would require an additional K 6.3 million to continue its work.

Dr. Moramoro, who is the Chairman of the Board of Port Moresby National High School, said at the school's Grade 12 graduation on Wednesday that the University of Vudal in East New Britain province had been allocated K 2.6 million, which was inadequate for a new university.

He said Vudal budget had been cut by K 270,000.

Dr. Moramoro, who has served as a member of the UPNG University Council, said that on top of this, the Office of Higher Education (OHE) allocation had been reduced, which effectively undermined the continuing usefulness of the National Scholarship (Natschol) scheme.

The OHE administers Natschol but, because of the budget cuts, it can only support 6,600 of the current 7,000 recipients. This means that 400 students would have to sponsor themselves.

"We are unaware of the fate of the country's technical colleges, the country's agricultural colleges, the teacher training and nursing schools, as line departments are responsible. But our information is that these institutions are not doing too well either," he said.

Said Dr. Moramoro: "For the universities, the implications are that there will be severe shortfalls in salary budgets which will in turn have a direct detrimental impact on all teaching and research operations and will certainly undermine the already poor record in recruiting quality academic staff."

"Teaching equipment will not be purchased or replaced and there is the real possibility that institutions will be closed."

He said that the problems for Grade 12s was very real. Because of the ongoing budget cuts, the universities would not be able to admit new students into their courses.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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