After more than 70 years in existence, the National University of Lesotho (NUL), the country’s premier institution of higher learning is very much nearer to going belly-up and might be forced to close up shop, The Night’s Watch can reveal.
NUL remains cash-strapped and needs urgent financial assistance.
Two things will have to happen sooner.
Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his government will have to fork out money to bail out the beleaguered Roma-based academe or the university will either be thoroughly run down and shut (the place can be turned into a hotel).
“…the university should prepare to shut down until the government is able to finance it to the required level,” NUL’s senate said in a statement of alarm published last week.
Part of the statement read: “At its 368th special meeting held on Monday May 13, senate considered a report from management on the deteriorating financial state of affairs at the National University of Lesotho following a steep decline in the allocated subvention for the 2019/2020 financial year, coupled with the announcement that the government of Lesotho through the Ministry of Development Planning has suffered a highly reduced budget which has implications on the scholarships that the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) finances.”
In this context, senate said it noted with alarm that the government presented three options to the institutions of higher learning for consideration and implementation to address the current financial short-fall.
The proposed options are that:
• Option 1: Institutions should maintain the 2018/2019 tuition fees and not implement any fee increases while also maintaining their 2018/2019 student absorption and not insist on filling their allocated quota. For NUL, this converts to 1,630 sponsored against the allocated quota of 2,330 sponsorships. This is the preferred option for the government of Lesotho.
• Option 2: Institutions that maintain the current year’s tuition fees by not effecting any increases may continue to benefit from the allocated sponsorship quotas provided NMDS is allocated additional funds. The number of sponsorships related to this option are difficult to compute as the benefit is conditional.
• Option 3: Institutions that implement fee increases would have their sponsorship quotas reduced in relation to the budget. Indications are that with the approved fee increases, the total quota allocation for NUL would be reduced from 2,330 new sponsorships to around 1,500 new sponsorships.
But NUL senate said the immediate implications that would result from implementing any of the proposed options is that NUL would, at the most, “operate only up to the end of the first semester in the 2019/2020 financial year before it runs out of funds to cover personal emoluments”.
Having deliberated on the matters extensively, senate decided to advise the council that in the light of the permutations worked out from the proposed options, none is advisable to implement.
It said council should, instead, reiterate the required level of funding for NUL to operate to the government for it to make the relevant decisions and take appropriate action.
It also recommended for a task team made up of representatives from the four public institutions of higher learning that would adopt a common action plan for consultations with government to work towards a lasting solution.
It decided to engage the nation on the prevailing financial crisis facing institutions of higher learning and allow them to contribute in finding a lasting solution.
“In the even that none of the above strategies bear fruit, the university should prepare to shut down until the government is able to finance it to the required level,” concluded the statement.