Following Cabinet’s approval in 2013 for the funding framework that aims to ensure equity and transparency in the allocation of financial resources to public higher education institutions, the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) announced it is finalising budgetary submissions for the 2017/18 financial year.
“We have already made the proposals for the next financial year. The institutions submitted their financial needs in August to the NCHE secretariat and by end of September we shared our recommendations with the higher education ministry. These recommendations have been submitted to the Ministry of Finance that is now in the process of finalising the budget submissions for the next financial year,” revealed deputy director of operations at NCHE Sylvia Demas in an interview with New Era.
The funding framework was for the first time implemented this current financial year for the country’s only two public higher education institutions, namely the University of Namibia (Unam) and Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), formerly the Polytechnic of Namibia.
During the implementation phase, the Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation Dr Itah Kandjii-Murangi said the government subsidy is determined by the difference between the estimated operational costs and tuition fees.
Operational cost is the total cost of credits in all subjects under the higher education programmes offered by the institution. The cost per credit is standardised for both Unam and NUST.
According to her, the funding formula will continue each financial year, although this is the first year of implementation of the framework.
“It was the first budget in which we implemented the funding framework. The implementation of the funding framework runs at the same time as the preparation of the national budget,” Demas said.
The purpose of the funding framework is not necessarily to give equal funding but to promote equity.
She explained the funding formula used, saying the institutions are funded based on the number of credits they are offering and not on the number of students, meaning the funding is given by the worth of the subject that is taken by a student.
“We calculate how many credits are taken by students at Unam. For example, there are 300 credits in total, so it’s those 300 credits multiplied by the cost per credit. The number of credits is not the same at these institutions. It’s not a matter of giving just equally, it’s a matter of the worth of what you are offering. There was no funding framework in the past on what the amounts given was based,” she noted.
Asked if the public institutions are happy with the funding formula, she said they are happy despite the economic crisis the country faces.
She explained tuition fees are adjusted based on the affordability by students, taking into account income levels; return on education; citizenship status of students; and the university’s own discretion. She said because of its impact on access to education, equity and public finance equilibrium, the general adjustment of tuition fees is regulated by government.
The annual increase in tuition fees determines the total amount in tuition fees and consequently the government subsidy. Thus, the lower the tuition fees, the higher the subsidy.
Regarding the affordability concerns, an average tuition fee per student should not exceed 25 percent of the average income, measured by the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita.
The minister said the decision on the most suitable annual increase in tuition fees is based on two criteria, namely the impact of the available public resources and affordability by students.
She had said the annual increase of 7.5 percent was found to be the best fit for the two criteria, adding this is the maximum rate to be applied by the public higher education institutions when charging tuition fees.