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VC of UNIPORT hinges varsities’ survival on increased fees




As the country grapples with failing oil prices, Vice Chancellor, University of Port Harcourt, Professor Joseph Ajienka, has warned that except public universities are allowed to increase school fees, they may soon collapse due to poor funding.

According to him, the present scenario where the university system continues to strain under the weight of underfunding from statutory sources, and indifference from society at large no longer makes sense.

While briefing newsmen on activities lined up to mark the university’s 30th convocation ceremony, and the 40th anniversary of the school, Ajienka asserted that universities in Nigeria today were bogged down by a combination of factors that place additional operational burden on their operators, especially the vice chancellors, who are on the frontline.

He said it was now obvious that critically needed funding was dwindling by the day, in the face of failing oil prices, while the average cost of running each university is correspondingly escalating by the day.

Ajienka, who said he envisaged a situation in which public universities are likely to collapse on account of inadequate funding, argued that while some Nigerians parents were willing to pay outrageous schools fees for their children in universities abroad, they were the first to kick against the introduction of some form of charges at the tertiary level of education in Nigeria.

The vice chancellor said it remains inexplicable that some Nigerians were prepared to pay huge sums to sustain quality education in other countries, and yet treat the ones here with utter contempt.

“The truth is that statutory federal allocations alone can no longer be relied upon to run the universities as little or nothing is left to embark on meaningful research and infrastructural development after payment of salaries. As I have always maintained, the plain truth is that we can no longer shy away from giving serious consideration to the issue of introducing some form of school fees (or charges) in the Nigerian university system, if we hope to dig it out of the deep morass into which years of unrealistic tuition-free education has placed it.”

He emphasised that parents should pay a little more to sustain the Nigerian university system if they still hope to see public universities in the next 10 years. The situation, he noted, was that critical, and requires immediate remedial measures.

He warned that unless something drastic was done in this respect, Nigerians’ hope of attaining the indices of true national development would continue to remain a mirage.

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