President of the University of Guyana Students Society (UGSS) Richard Rambarran says any plans to increase tuition fees should be accompanied by measures to ensure that current and future students are not impeded by them.
Rambarran also says that any increase in fees must be done incrementally, and that no student enrolled in a programme with small numbers should be “left behind” due to the finance shortages caused by the cutting of over $400 million in loan assistance for the university from the national budget.
Rambarran’s comments, contained in a release sent to this newspaper, were prompted by statements made by representatives of the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) and the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) last Friday.
UGSSA President Patsy Francis and Vice President Melissa Ifill, alongside UGWU President Bruce Haynes, told reporters that UG’s Vice Chancellor (VC) Jacob Opadeyi has proposed cuts to the university’s staff and programmes to deal with the hole created by the cut funds. If these measures are indeed taken, the unions promise to shut down the university. The union heads also said that increasing UG’s tuition fees, which, after a UG Council decision now seems imminent, must be accompanied by improved education and other services to students. Meanwhile, Opadeyi has said he did present the aforementioned as possibilities to cope with the lack of the loan assistance from government, but explained that no decision has yet been taken.
On the issue of increased fees, Rambarran said that while he agrees that the tuition currently paid is insufficient to effectively run the university, he believes that a procedure should have been initiated some time ago to increase fees incrementally. “The failure of the University’s governing body (council and administration) over the years to broker an arrangement for a method of incremental increases in the tuition has now, at this juncture, left us in a predicament whereby we have to play ‘catch up’ to what should have been done years ago,” he argues, while adding that measures would have to be implemented to ensure that current and future UG students are not impeded by any increase in fees.
With regard to the possibility of industrial action by the unions, Rambarran said “it would be to the detriment of all University of Guyana students.” He said industrial action by staff means students are not taught, which impedes the timely delivery of education. “In addition, library services are often times closed in these periods and the campus essentially comes to a standstill,” he added.
Addressing the possibility of discontinuing programmes considered not financially viable, he said, “No student who is currently undertaking their programme should be forced to stop their programme because of this. If the University of Guyana wants to go the way of stopping programmes which they deem as being ‘financially unsustainable’ then the current crop of students in those programmes should be allowed to complete the programme.”