Government orders universities to charge fees in local currency

Tanzania’s government has ordered two private universities not to charge fees and other contributions in foreign currency, following student protests. It is also introducing degree assessment, validation and harmonisation processes.

The Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU) has insisted that institutions use Tanzanian shillings for local transactions, and the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training has said it will take stern measures against colleges that defy the order.

Last year two universities – Kampala International University (KIU) and the International Medical and Technological University (IMTU), from India – were hit by long strikes by students protesting against the institutions charging fees in US dollars.

With one dollar equal to 1,570 Tanzanian shillings, students were finding if difficult to come up with the money to cover fees.

About 450 students at IMTU also boycotted classes in March this year, calling for an end to foreign currency fees. A university disciplinary committee sent 30 students packing after finding them to be ringleaders of the action, and distorting the image of the university.

Speaking during a stakeholders' meeting to discuss ways of improving higher education in Tanzania, TCU Executive Secretary Professor Sifuni Mchome said charging students in dollars was causing unnecessary hardship and disruption.

“We have asked the management of the two universities to stop it. We don’t see why they were doing it because it was only the two…we have not had these complaints from other universities,” the executive secretary said.

Speaking to University World News, Deputy Minister of Education and Vocational Training Phillip Mulugo said the government would take stern action against the universities – including closing them – if they defied the order.

Charging in foreign currency, he said, “contributes to the lowering of the value of our local shilling. We can’t allow that to continue.”

“Most of these students are Tanzanians. Why is it that they are being treated like they are studying in a foreign country?” Mulugo asked. The government would follow up on the matter and did not see a problem with shifting students to other institutions if the offending universities were to be closed.

TCU’s Mchome told the meeting that the validation of foreign degrees offered in Tanzania had started. This also involved establishing an assessment programme for postgraduate teaching and examinations in local universities.

These activities, he said, were aimed at putting in place best practices for academic staff promotion and recruitment, minimum standards for universities and harmonised degree qualifications.

Mchome said Foreign Awards Assessment Systems (FAAS) would be used to validate degrees awarded outside Tanzania and would enable qualification holders to seek employment in the country without hindrance.

It was a simple process involving logging in to the TCU website, entering required details, uploading the certificates required for recognition and submitting the application. “They will know the results in two weeks.” Original certificates would need to be taken to the TCU for validation before the holder would be issued with a recognition certificate.

Asked why quality assessment of programmes offered in Tanzania had not been done before, the TCU boss said everything had to start from somewhere. There would also be best practices set for postgraduate teaching and examination, and harmonisation of all degree assessments, including for PhDs.