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MBABANE – Government has increased its subvention to the University of Swaziland (UNISWA) by E80 million for the 2016/17 financial year.

This is according to Government Estimates for March 2016 to March 2019, which were tabled by the Minister of Finance Martin Dlamini in his recent budget speech. 
The E80m denotes a jump from E243m of last year to around E323m, which is equivalent to a 32 per cent hike. And it is meant to steady UNISWA’s sinking ship due to financial constraints.
However, the E80m more still falls short of what the institution said it required.

It required a total subvention of E607 million for the 2016/17 financial year, but unfortunately, the estimates indicate that the E323m subvention will continue for the next three years.
A year ago the university, through Minister of Education and Training Phineas Magagula, did present its challenges in a report in Parliament, and made it clear that life was a struggle. This was because it could not retain its academic staff; that had left for greener pastures, and also that its revenue was always at a low while operational costs were always climbing. UNISWA salaries are the lowest in the country and in the SADC region.
The report recommended that government should award the university a subvention that it had requested for each year until its financial position stabilised.

“In terms of the medium term expenditure framework, for the next three financial years, the university will require a subvention of E562m (2015/16), E607m (2016/17) and E677m (2017/18) for personnel and operations,” stated the report.
The university has, at the turn of the decade, struggled to meet salary demands of academic staff, improve the quality of its education and take care of operational costs. A sharp decline in student enrolment also compounded the situation as government significantly cut down the number of scholarships to the university. The main cause of this was the fiscal crisis of 2010/11. 

Another recommendation that was forwarded in the report was that government should allow UNISWA to increase learning fees when necessary to supplement subventions.
Minister Magagula said currently, government restricted the university from increasing tuition fees to cover the shortfall arising from the reduced subvention. They range between E15 000 to E16 000 per student per year. Tuition fees for some private tertiary institutions in the country that still received government subventions ranged between E19 000 and E30 000 per year. In the SADC region, they ranged between E40 000 and E70 000 per year.
“It is recommended that government should allow UNISWA to increase tuition fees progressively so that they are reflective of or closer to fees charged by local institutions of higher learning.

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