Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Fee-Fixing In British University

Some university students in Singapore have raised concerns about the almost unilateral manner in which tuition fees are raised in their local tertiary institution.

I am not sure to what extent this is true but I will soon have an opportunity to find out. I will be joning this institution of higher education next year to pursue a postgraduate programme.

I did my undergraduate studies in law at a prominent British university. Do study there if you have an opportunity to do so!

The university administration there actively includes students in its decision-making processes, including at the University Senate level - the equivalent of the Board of Directors in organisations.

During my time in university, I served on at least one fee-fixing committee.

Any plan to increase fees is disclosed about a year in advance. Months of consultation with students, which follow after this disclosure, are a norm.

Attempts are also made to consider how operational expenses can be reduced or to seek more efficient and productive ways of doing things. Other sources of revenue are also deliberated.

My role was to represent and consult the persons who would be most affected by such decisions, that is the students. And I brought the concerns expressed back to the various committees that I sat on.

University administrators listened and they implemented measures in a way that took these concerns into account. I came back with a feeling that we had been satisfactorily treated.

There were also other safeguards that had been put in place. For example, fees could not increase by more than a certain fixed percentage between one academic year and another. This cap is usually disclosed to students in university prospectuses.

When the decision to increase fees was made, I went back to the peers I represented. I shared with them what concerns had been raised, how these concerns had been taken into account and the compromises that had been made.

I felt it was important for me to do so since I owed a duty to my fellow students and, in the appointment process, I had promised to serve them. Failure to do so would almost certainly win me a label as being a person with no integrity. And, in such a case, my expulsion as representative of such students would swiftly follow.

Of course, I would be ashamed of myself too, if I didn't.

Dharmendra Yadav

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