UG hikes service fees

-student society says increases unlawful

Following the announcement of hikes in administrative fees at the Turkeyen and Tain campuses of the University of Guyana (UG), the students’ society yesterday called the move unlawful and urged the student body to stand in solidarity against the increases.

The University of Guyana Students’ Society (UGSS) also signaled that it will be pursuing whatever legal options are available to fight the increases.

On Thursday, UG sent out an email to current students informing them of the approved new rates for service fees at the campuses.

While there has been opposition from the student body, as evidenced by several posts on social media as well as cries from UGSS about the “injustice,” Registrar and Secretary of the University Council Dr Nigel Gravesande yesterday explained that the new fees were approved last June during a meeting involving the Finance and General Purpose Committee (FGPC).

The UGSS, in a press release, said that it learnt of the increases only on January 8th, this year, after receiving complaints that students were made to pay extra for supplemental examinations. The statement said that it engaged the Vice Chancellor, Regis-trar and other officers and enquired about the process through which such a decision came to be made, and it was informed that it was based on a decision made last year by the University Council, which had considered an increase in tuition and administrative fees.

The release pointed out that the term of that council ended in July, 2017.

“The council approved a specific request by the administration for tuition increase for three consecutive academic years starting in 2017/2018 with 15% for continuing students and 18% for new students, and 10% for each of the subsequent year,” the release noted.

“In relation to the administrative fee increases, these increases were approved by last Council as budget estimates of income through the approval of the budget of the financial year which ended December 31, 2017. It is the position of the UGSS Executive which was installed on October 28, 2017 that these budget estimates of income cannot be extended to and approved for the financial year 2018 unilaterally by the Chancellor, Vice Chancellor or (UG) Cabinet. Such a decision is outside of the powers of the Registrar who is secretary to the Council [and] the Chancellor [and] Vice Chancellor who may chair the council. This is the job of the University Council alone as stipulated in Article 12 of the Statutes of the University of Guyana,” UGSS stated.

Dr Gravesande, speaking with Stabroek News yesterday, noted that although recommendations for the new fee structure were made by the administration, the approval was done by the FGPC.

He related that during the meeting last year, former President of the UGSS Ron Glasgow had been present. He related that there was no abstention or recorded opposition from committee members, which, aside from Glasgow and the Vice Chancellor, also includes representatives from the ministries of Education and Finance, the Bar Association, the academic board and the UG workers’ union.

Gravesande said that the committee approved the revised 2017 budget, which included an attachment of the administrative fees that were to be implemented in the 2017-2018 academic year.

He noted that a number of the fees that have been changed do not apply to current students, but prospective students. These include the application processing fees for varying categories, the late application fee, and the entrance examination fee.

There has also been the introduction of a number of new fees, namely for student letters ($5,000), the re-sit of exams ($6,000), and in relation to thesis research/projects—examination application fee ($15,000), write up fee ($10,000), review fee ($10,000) and submission fee ($15,000).

Some fees show a significant hike, like the affiliation fee for affiliate programs, which have been raised from $40,750 to $60,000.

Gravesande would not comment on the specifics of the fee adjustments.

The taxi hire car fee and the student housing fees have already been implemented, but the majority of the fee changes will take effect from March 1st.

Responding to the issue of the fees being implemented before a formal announcement was made (in the case of supplemental fees), Gravesande said that after students voiced their concerns, implementation was delayed and persons who had already paid the sums were refunded.

Following the meeting with the Vice Chancellor and the Registrar last month, UGSS President Norwell Hinds wrote to the Registrar again, registering the concern of the student body over the fee increases, including the added financial burden it poses to hundreds of them.

“…We believe that there is need for more consultation with students and notice of new fee structure prior to the beginning of the academic year in which students might have already committed themselves financially. For example, we note that routine student letters and re-sit fees will now be $5,000 and $6,000 respectively where previously there were no charges. The former will affect more 1,100 students on our campuses. In addition, we believe that the 100% increase in the cost of appeals is serious access to justice issue for which greater consultation and consideration is needed. We recommend extended consultations and information sessions with students in partnership UGSS,” the letter had said.

The UGSS release sent out yesterday called for students to unite against the “injustice” they face at the hands of the administration.

“…We urge all students to stand in solidarity against these fee increases and to support the Student Society as we continue to engage the University’s administration and pursue the legal options available to us. Let us unite and not be divided by this act of injustice that affects over eight thousand (8000+) students of both Turkeyen and Berbice campuses. Students must be respected,” the UGSS said.

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