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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (February 1, 1999 – Post-Courier)---The University of Technology (Unitech) will not open for classes this year unless the government provides an additional K 9.9 million (US$ 4.63 million) to cover operational costs.

However, all other schools and educational institutions in the country will open today for the 1999 school year.

The Unitech announcement not to open for the year follows a late-start notice issued recently by the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), which was in reaction to budget cuts announced by the government last year.

The Unitech council decision will mean more than 2,000 students at three campuses -- Taraka, Bulolo University College and the Bumbu Timber and Training College -- may have to shelve studies for 1999.

Staff, however, will be required to remain on campus to carry on with normal duties.

The Unitech council made the decision at a special meeting in Port Moresby last week.

A detailed submission was presented to the Technical Support Team within the Department of Treasury and Planning.

The government has been given two weeks to respond.

Vice Chancellor Dr. John Kaiulo said in a statement that the university needs K 31.7 million (US$ 14.84 million) to survive in 1999.

It was allocated K 20 million (US$ 9.36) in the 1999 budget appropriation.

Dr. Kaiulo said the university anticipated internal revenue of K 1.8 million (US$ 842,400) but it will leave a shortfall of K 9.9 million (US$ 4.63). The council, after comprehensive deliberations on the implications of the reduced 1999 budget appropriation, made the following resolutions if the government provides the K 9.9 million (US$ 4.63):

The council re-endorsed its decision reached at a December 1998 meeting not to enroll any students in 1999 if no additional funds were forthcoming to the university by mid-February 1999.

The Standing Committee of the Council will also meet next month to consider the government's position in relation to the university's response to the implementation of the 1999 budget.

According to Dr. Kaiolu, the council decided against re-opening the campus based on several facts:

Acting VC Dr. Phillip Siaguru said in an interview with the Post-Courier on Friday that it was a difficult decision to make.

"It is not a popular decision to make. We feel that cutting programs will not help the situation. The government has cut the university budget by 50 percent and it might as well take it all.

"Cutting courses is like amputating a person's arms. You see him down the road and feel sorry for him and that is about all, but if you see a dead man on the road, you stop and pick him up."

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

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