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By Phil-Peers Yombon

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Oct. 19, 1999 – The National)---The four state-run universities yesterday remained firm over their decision to increase fees next year by 25 percent despite a continuing boycott of classes by students.

Stressing their united stand over the fee issue, the heads of the universities made it clear that the increase would stand.

University of PNG Chancellor Dr. Rose Kekedo said the fee increase would stand unless the full University Council reversed that decision, a statement echoed by acting Vice Chancellor Dr. Cecilia Nembou.

University of Technology Chancellor Sir Alkan Tololo, who also represents the University of Vudal, said the increase was in the best interest of the students and the institutions.

Unitech's Acting Vice Chancellor, Dr. Philip Siaguru, added that raising the tuition fees was appropriate in light of the dwindling government funding to the university.

And University of Goroka Vice Chancellor Dr. Mark Solon also stressed the increase would be imposed next year unless the council changed the decision.

The UPNG Council will meet today to discuss a recommendation by its Academic Board Standing Committee to cancel the rest of the academic year, while the Unitech Council and the University of Goroka are expected to decide the issue by next week.

Speaking for the first time on the issue, Sir Alkan, who is a former chancellor of UPNG, said the tuition fee increase was in line with the recommendations made at the Higher Education Summit held here last year and the user-pay policy.

"Tertiary education is not cheap anywhere, and I want the students to be reasonable about this," Sir Alkan said, adding that the 25 percent increase was even less than that charged by some secondary schools.

"The 25 percent fee increase is also in the best interest of the students and the institutions because we came up with the decision after so many debates and discussions last year," he said.

He said that when Government funding for tertiary institutions was low, there was a need for the universities to raise funds internally, and fee increase was one way.

Sir Alkan added that tertiary institutions would face serious funding and operations problems next year.

He urged the students, especially those in their final year, to return to classes immediately, adding that they would feel the repercussions of the current boycott most as they faced the prospect of repeating courses.

Sir Alkan said the Government had been supportive of the universities' efforts.

The students at UPNG and Unitech, meanwhile, vowed to continue their boycott until the fee increase was scrapped.

UPNG Students Representative Council President Benny Tanda also denied that some students were attending classes.

University of Goroka students joined the boycott yesterday.

Classes are reportedly normal at the UPNG's Taurama School of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences here, and the University of Vudal in East New Britain province.

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



PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (October 19, 1999 – Post-Courier)--- The UPNG Council is meeting today to decide whether to prematurely end all academic programs by terminating term three of the academic year.

The council's next normally scheduled meeting will be held on November 17, while today's meeting is to deliberate on the academic board decision to terminate the academic year for all undergraduates at the Waigani campus.

The academic board at its meeting held last week voted unanimously to recommend to the council that the university be closed, following the continuing boycott of classes by students.

The university had remained open after the academic board meeting and the announcement of its recommendation until the special council meeting today.

The students were told to return to classes while waiting for the council's decision today, but have not done so. The boycott of classes at Waigani is into its third week.

The council is also expected to consider the Student Representative Council's (SRC) submission concerning the 25 percent increase in tuition fees.

The submission raises some alternative suggestions on measures which the university can use to cut spending as well as raise funds towards meeting its budgetary targets.

SRC President Benny Tanda said yesterday that the council had no genuine reason to shut the university because the students had not been violent as in previous student demonstrations.

He said students had only been trying to address a genuine issue and the SRC had tried it's best to keep things under control.

Mr. Tanda said that if the council decided to shut the university, it would be up to the National Executive Council (NEC) to revoke the decision.

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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