DECISION ON UNIVERSITY OF PNG CLOSURE DUE TODAY

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By Phil-Peers Yombon

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Oct. 13, 1999 – The National)---The Academic Board Standing Committee is expected to decide today the fate of the remainder of the school year at the University of Papua New Guinea, where students have voted to continue their boycott of classes.

The students are protesting the decision of the University Council to raise user fees at the university by 25 percent, a decision which the students want scrapped before they return to classes.

They have boycotted classes since last week, and were joined this week by students from other tertiary institutions in the country.

They have presented a petition to the university administration calling for the scrapping of the increase, saying it wasn't justified and parents would be unnecessarily burdened by the increase.

Acting Vice Chancellor, Dr. Cecilia Nembou, said yesterday that decisions made by the ABSC would be final as far as academic matters at UPNG were concerned.

Student leaders told a press conference that they would continue to boycott classes until the UPNG Council met their demand.

Dr. Nembou, while addressing students at a forum, said the full University Council would meet on Nov 17 to deliberate on the petition, and urged students to return to class pending that meeting.

But she pointed out also that the urgency of convening a special council meeting would depend on the decision of the ABSC decision today.

Meanwhile, final year students at the campus unanimously agreed to return to classes and finish their academic year.

The students, who won't be affected by the increase, said in a memo circulated at the university that while they supported the cause, they had only four weeks to go before the end of the academic year, and it was only fair that they return to class and finish their studies.

Also yesterday, Middle Ramu MP and Petroleum and Energy Minister Tommy Tomscoll called on students from his electorate at UPNG to return to classes or risk losing sponsorship from him next year.

Mr. Tomscoll said he had spent so much money on school fees and if students want to take part in strikes and forget their studies, he would not hesitate to withdraw sponsorship.

He said, "It won't affect the affect the Government or anyone else for that matter."

"The students who are taking part in the current strike are the ones who will pay the price. Therefore, I am calling on students from my electorate to return to classes, because there is no guarantee that they will get any sponsorship from me next year if they do not complete this year's studies," he said.

The students' petition to the University Council also includes demands that the Government provide an additional K30 million (US$ 11 million) to the university next year to cover any shortfall, scrap the academic restructure program, and investigate allegations of mismanagement and corruption practices.

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

 

UNITECH CLEARLY SPELLS OUT REASONS FOR HIKE

LAE, Papua New Guinea (October 13, 1999 – Post-Courier)---The 25 percent fee increase for universities is unavoidable, Lae's University of Technology Vice-Chancellor Dr. James Kaiulo said yesterday when giving details of finances at his campus.

He said decreased Government funding and hefty increases in prices of goods and services had forced universities to raise fees.

Responding to a petition by the Unitech Students' Representative Council to scrap the fee increase, Dr. Kaiulo said the university council's decision, taken on July 29, was consistent with other universities.

"The fee increase was considered necessary for the university to ensure that students are accommodated, fed and the provision of educational facilities for teaching activities is sustained,'' he said in a formal letter to the SRC.

"The decision has already been conveyed to the Office of Higher Education, which is the major sponsor of tertiary students in PNG.

"The university is mindful of the implications of this decision in regard to possible financial difficulties the parents and students would face.’’

In a four-page backgrounder, Dr. Kaiulo explained that the 25 per cent fee increase would raise K1.45 million (US$ 531,426) for Unitech next year. This money, he said, would enable the university to meet the shortfalls in the student facilities budget it had been carrying for 1998 and 1999.

He said it was estimated that the academic programs this year would require K500,000 (US$ 183,250) to maintain at 1998 levels and to compensate for increases in prices of goods and services. The university was only able to raise and allocate K790,000 (US$ 289,535) from tuition fees for this purpose when it actually cost K1.2 million (US$ 439,800), he said.

An additional K350,000 (US$ 128,275) was required to meet a 20 percent increase in catering costs recently slapped on by the contractor SHRM, he said.

Dr. Kaiulo said the shortfall in food cost this year was because there was no corresponding board and lodging increase to meet the 20 percent hike.

He said that while the university raised K3.753 million (US$ 1,375,476) from board and lodging fees, the bulk (K3.1 million – US$ 1,136151) was paid to SHRM for catering.

"Student accommodation maintenance and repairs, replacement of tables, chairs and mattresses, and the upgrading of dormitories which cost K653,000 (US$ 239,325) this year, may increase drastically next year,'' Dr. Kaiulo said.

The university's income from government grants is expected to continue to decrease, which has forced the administration to sacrifice a planned maintenance program, replacement of capital equipment and general upkeep of the campus in order to fund shortfalls in the student facilities budget, he said.

"With the decline in the budget support from the Government, it is no longer possible for the university to continue funding shortfalls in the student facilities budget,'' Dr. Kaiulo said.

He said internal income generation activities were no longer viable.

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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