Tertiary education fees skyrocket

November 24, 2015, 7:17am

By Tuhafeni Moses, the Villager Newspaper. Photo: the Villager

Tuition fees at Stateowned higher education institutions (HEI) have continued to rise annually due to the effects of inflation, although the quality of education at HEIs remains questionable.

HEIs have seen increases of tuition fees of up to 15%, which has not only been felt at local institutions, but also in neighbouring countries like South Africa, where students initiated the movement #FeesMustFall to freeze the increase.

The rising tuition fees have been brought under scrutiny as the question of whether the quality of education is increasing along with the fees. Industries have continuously complained that State institutions are not producing quality Namibian students, which usually leads to the importation of the workforce from neighbouring countries as well as Asia, the Americas and Europe in special fields such as medicine and engineering.

“The sought-for quality higher education is something which is independent from the raising of tuition fees. It is a major concern of HEI’s, the line Ministry and the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE), whose motto is ‘Equitable Access to Quality Higher Education,” said Mocks Shivute, Executive Director of the National Council for Higher Education’s Secretariat (NCHES). Shivute emphasised that there is no quality without adequate funding.

Therefore, the Funding Framework aims at providing HEIs with adequate funding. The formula for funding is based on an estimation of public HEI’s needs, and its objective is to ensure the optimal use of public resources.

“The monetary value of each course/programme is based on the number of credits attached to the course. It is determined by cost per credit. This cost is estimated by taking into account the year of study (Firstyears have a cost lower than the advanced ones), and the cost of the field of learning (some fields of learning are costly, i.e. engineering versus humanities)”, he continued.

He explained that the cost per credit is updated annually to account for the increase in the cost of delivery. The rate of increase should, however, be determined in a manner which allows for the maintaining of affordability. The average cost of a programme should not exceed 25% of the average per capita income (measured by GDP per capita) in Namibia, as stipulated by the Funding Framework.

In 2013, Cabinet approved the public HEI’s Funding Framework as a sectoral policy for higher education. The Funding Framework concerns the direct public funding of public HEI’s, and has three main components. First, it establishes a funding formula, which is a mechanism for determining operational funds.

Secondly, it includes an investment model, which addresses the need for additional facilities, given what exists and what enrolment in relevant programs is expected. Finally, it has a tuition fees’ model, which addresses the principal issues surrounding tuition fees. The following year, the Ministry of Education gave a directive for the roll-out of the implementation of the Funding Framework, which was used to estimate the 2016/17 budget.

“As part of the implementation of the Funding Framework, the level of the tuition fees will be decided upon by the Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation (MHETI), based on advice from the NCHE (in consultation with HEIs). However, the public HEIs are free to determine the level of their tuition fees as long as it is within the threshold agreed upon. Each institution has its own methodology to annually update these fees as costs of delivery are growing”, Shivute stressed.

He furthermore stated that since the mission of public HEI’s is to provide training which meets the national development goals at optimal cost, public HEI’s should therefore guarantee training in all fields, irrespective of the cost. The private sector is essentially oriented towards cheaper qualifications, and can therefore not ensure this cost-effective training in certain fields and qualifications as they are expensive.

“The funding framework aims to encourage HEI’s to improve their performance and efficiency in the use of public resources, which both the PoN and UNAM are benefitting from. The funding framework aims to introduce equity and transparency in the funding of public HEIs”, he continued.

One of the major objectives of Vision 2030 is to “develop diversified, competent and highly- productive human resources and institutions, fully utilizing human capital and achieving the efficient and effective delivery of customer-focused services, which are competitive not only nationally but also regionally and internationally”.

Education has been outlined as one of the key sectors which needs major improvements in order for the nation to reach the Vision 2030 goals. Education, like any other service, does, however, come at a price. Although primary education is free and secondary education will soon follow suit, tertiary education still remains costly.