UNILAG fees: Why return to status quo is difficult — VC

The University of Lagos says the increase of obligatory fees is not intended to stop indigent students from accessing quality education.

The Vice-Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Folasade Ogunsola, made the assertion at a virtual news conference on Saturday night in Lagos, where she explained why it would be difficult to return the fees to the former rates.

Recall that the institution had, through a statement issued on Aug. 21, announced an adjustment in obligatory fees in the university.

It said that the adjustment, which would take effect from the first semester of 2023/2024 academic session, was in view of the prevailing economic realities and the need for the university to be able to meet its obligation to its students, staff and municipal service providers, among others.

It further noted that the mandatory charges for one academic session for new undergraduate students include N126, 325, for courses without laboratory/studio.

The statement also indicated N176,325 as mandatory charges for one academic session for courses with laboratory and studio.

A further breakdown of the approved mandatory charges for one academic year or session for returning students showed that they would pay N100,750 for courses without laboratory and studio, among others.

Reacting to the development, students of the university embarked on a peaceful protest on Sept. 6, to register their displeasure, over the move.

The students threatened to deploy every means within their reach to stifle the move, if the university failed to reason with them.

Ogunsola, explaining the position of the institution concerning the hike, said that the move was necessary for the university to meet its mandates.

She said it could no longer do so with what the charges used to be for over 15 years now.

“There has been this call for us to return the fees to status quo and we want to share why this could be a little bit difficult.

“We are of the belief that even those who do not have a lot of money deserve quality education. We are having bills to pay, which informs why we are where we are and why we need to adjust.

”The universities are for our children. What quality of education do we want to bequeath to them? All we we are doing is to ensure that they are not disenfranchised in the job market.

”It is not an emotional thing, it is about what we need to do to survive and remain relevant,” she said.

She added that the University of Lagos prides itself in qualitative education and research outputs.

“We feel the pains too, even as management of the university, because we are also parents. We have our children here too. But truth be told, we cannot continue to go the way we are going if we truly want to give our students the best and equip them with 21st century skills.

“The increase in the obligatory fees is not targeted at stopping indigent students from accessing quality education. The challenge I see is, we have to look at universities from all angles, especially with the current economic crunch in the country.

“My question now too is, how do we get the things we need to acquire this quality education?. Somebody has to pay for it. This whole issue is not only about UNILAG.

“Lots of other federal universities in the country have also reviewed their fees and even higher at that, just to ensure that they remain relevant.

” I have no issue with students protesting peacefully, but I have issues with violent protest. Part of protest is about how students express critical thinking, and that is encouraged.

“I know it will not sound strange to you to understand that as we speak, some secondary schools charge even higher than the current review.

“Having said all these though, I want to assure that none of our students will drop out of school because of the current hike of obligatory fees,” Ogunsola said.

According to her, already, aside the palliatives roles out to cushion the effects of the hike, the university is in talks with prominent members of the society on the need for them to adopt a student for sponsorship in the institution.

She expressed delight at the level of response, noting that already, some persons had indicated interest in the initiative.

Ogunsola listed high electricity tariffs, running into over N1billion and cost for conducting examinations and verifying results as some of the concerns that gave rise to the review of the obligatory fees.

She said others include accreditation of courses as well as maintenance of key infrastructure in the university annually.

According to the vice chancellor, government on its part is also bearing a huge amount of costs in ensuring that these universities meet up with their mandate of teaching, research and community service.

She noted that the obligatory fees were arrived at after due consultations with critical stakeholders, as well as Council of the university, before its dissolution by the Federal Government.

According to the don, electricity and internet services are two critical components in running a university successfully.

Ogunsola expressed readiness to continually engage students and other key stakeholders of the university on matters that affect them and finding means of getting prompt solutions to them. (NAN)