Budget rises to support higher education development
The 2016 budget for higher education and research totals FCFA149 billion (US$249 million), compared with FCFA130 billion for 2015 – an increase of FCFA19 billion, reported Agence de Presse Sénégalaise, or APS, of Dakar.
According to the budget report, the increased allocation should allow construction of infrastructure for universities under the higher education development plan, reported APS.
During the budget debate in the National Assembly, Niane updated members of parliament about the country’s online Université Virtuelle du Sénégal, or UVS, which opened a year ago.
He also confirmed government’s intention to create the technological Université du Sénégal Oriental de Tambacounda, and announced plans for the ministry to use outside financial institutions to simplify the student grant payment process.
Niane announced that the success rate of students in the first year of the UVS was more than 50% – a rate that he said indicated the good management of the institution, reported APS.
“The first examination results regarding these virtual universities prove that the management is good and the results are good, because they are above 50% of those candidates accepted in the first year,” he said. He compared the UVS success rate with that of first-year students in the faculty of law and politics at the country’s leading university, Cheikh Anta Diop University or UCAD, which was 46%.
“The UVS is [addressing] a major challenge for our country, because it must take knowledge to the young,” APS reported Niane as saying.
But he told MPs there had been difficulties, with suppliers causing delays in providing the portable computers and internet keys the students needed, “although they are subsidised by the state by up to FCFA100,000 for students on grants, and FCFA160,000 for non-grant holders”.
Niane recognised that obtaining internet keys had been the “headache of all time”, but that from now on “all UVS students will have the opportunity to receive a free internet connection for the 14 months from November 2015 to December 2016.”
He said that Senegal possessed the widest bandwidth in Sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa, making the internet available and access to WiFi easier in all universities.
University Sénégal Oriental
Niane also confirmed to MPs the government’s intention to create the Université du Sénégal Oriental de Tambacounda, or USOT, which he described as special “for it is a technological university”, reported APS.
Planning on its “educational concept” had been carried out, he said, and “we are now working on this, and seeking finance. It is a decision made by the country’s president and therefore it will be carried out”.
However, it was “not possible to make progress on all projects at the same time”, and it was “necessary to spread them out”. As an example he referred to Université Amadou Mahtar Mbow, the second public university in Dakar, whose funding had now been finalised, reported APS.
Under the higher education development plan, USOT is due to open in 2017.
Student grants plan
Niane also announced that his ministry was preparing a call for bids from financial institutions which would help to simplify the payment of student grants, reported APS.
“We are working on specifications with the Ministry of Economy and Finance and with the Direction Centrale des Marchés Publics, to launch a call for bids” for financial institutions interested in helping the ministry with the process of paying grants, he told MPs.
Several financial institutions could be employed to pay the grants, said Niane. The many difficulties that had been encountered would be covered in the specifications, which were nearly finalised.
Niane was replying to an intervention from MP Demba Diop who said one bank alone was not able to take charge of paying the grants, as was the case at present. He drew attention to logjams at counters of the bank dealing with students, and suggested to the minister he should think of collaborating with several banks to make grant payouts flow more smoothly.
* This article is drawn from local media. University World News cannot vouch for the accuracy of the original reports.