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This article appeared in the Weekend Post on 9 January 2016 - written by Devon Koen

Zero fee hikes not sustainable, says NMMU official

NELSON Mandela Metropolitan University’s (NMMU) newly-appointed finance executive director, Mike Monaghan, says zero increases in fees are not sustainable and the government needs to do more.

His comments come in the aftermath of the campaign, which brought universities to a standstill across South Africa last year.

The government’s decision to implement a 0% increase in tuition fees for this year has had a massive knock-on effect.

But Monaghan remained somewhat positive for now.

“We have to look out for tomorrow . . . we need more government funding . . . I doubt we will be able to do this again next year,” he said.

The government’s decision to cough up 70% of the shortfall to all universities was a welcome gesture, but Monaghan said: “This will have to be forever and not only this year”.

He admitted there were huge concerns about other demands made by students last year, including free studies, scrapping all debt and the end to outsourcing of auxiliary staff.

But according to Monaghan, it is not a viable option to scrap all debt. “We cannot afford to fill the gap every year,” he said.

Monaghan was acting head of finance after his predecessor Marius Scheepers retired at the end of 2014.

He has taken up the new position from January 1.

“I had 12 months to decide if I wanted to apply for the position or not,” he joked.

Previously Monaghan had been director of management accounting at NMMU.

He was a faculty accountant and assisted with financial strategy during the merger of former University of Port Elizabeth, PE Technikon and Vista University in 2004.

“The merger was an interesting time . . . NMMU is considered one of the success stories from implementing new policies, a new business model and strategy,” he said.

During his 16 years at NMMU, Monaghan attended numerous regional and national financial forums and assemblies.

He presented several budget strategy plans and investigated different forms of best practice.

He confirmed that NMMU would not be scrapping all student debt and said free education came with parameters.

Academically deserving and financially needy students could apply for funding through the university.

A further obstacle for NMMU would be the scrapping of outsourced contracts and tenders, which according to Monaghan was an issue which was brought up early last year before students raised the issue during the

campaign. “NMMU is committed to the R5 000 cost-to-company salaries of outsourced staff announced last year and we fulfilled this in December already.”

Monaghan said there were a lot of questions involved.

“NMMU is looking closely at contracts and tenders when they lapse. We have sufficient budget for the next six months . . . it is a challenging exercise, a teething process . . . we will be looking closely at allocations over the next six months,” he said.

The actual financial impact would be investigated by a task team appointed by NMMU vice-chancellor Professor Derrick Swartz.

The task team includes highranking NMMU officials, including deputy vice-chancellor for institutional support Dr Sibongile Muthwa, student representatives and an independent advocate.

“[This year is] a new era in higher education and is both a challenging and exciting time. This calls for change. I look forward to leading this process and working with all stakeholders and colleagues as we fulfil the goals of Vision 2020,” he said.

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057