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Culture secretary queries low fees at University of Macau

Elsie Ao Ieong U calls for discussion as to why local students pay so much less than non-local students.

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Elsie Ao Ieong U calls for discussion as to why local students pay so much less than non-local students.

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UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 4:40 am

Local students at the University of Macau (UM) may be facing a steep hike in fees after the culture secretary suggested that they were getting their education too cheaply.

Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U has called for a discussion about whether it is reasonable for the public University of Macau (UM) to charge low tuition fees for local students, saying that the annual tuition fee is even cheaper than private kindergartens’ which  are not covered by the government’s free education system.

According to Ao Ieong, local students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree programme at the University of Macau will pay a tuition fee of MOP 37,500 from the next academic year of 2022/23, whereas the government currently spends MOP 210,000 on average on a student enrolled in a bachelor’s degree at local public higher education institutions per year.

Ao Ieong made the remarks to the Legislative Assembly during a one-day Q&A session about her portfolio’s policy guidelines for next year in reply to directly-elected lawmaker-cum-banker Ngan Iek Hang who asked about an increase in tuition fees at the university for the next academic year.

According to the UM website, each local student who started their bachelor’s degree course in the current academic year of 2021/22 at the University of Macau pays a tuition fee of MOP 30,000 per year until the end of the course, whereas their non-local counterparts pay an annual tuition fee of MOP 104,200.

However, local students enjoy a tuition fee deduction of MOP 5,200 per year, which means that in reality they only have to pay MOP 24,800 per year.

The UM annual tuition fee of MOP 24,800 for local students has been in force since the early 2000s.

According to the University of Macau’s new tuition fee scheme for the next academic year of 2022/23, Ao Ieong said, each local student starting their bachelor’s degree next year will have to pay an annual tuition fee of MOP 37,500, but they will enjoy a tuition fee deduction of MOP 6,000 for their first year, which means that their tuition fee will be MOP 31,500  for the first year.

Ao Ieong, whose portfolio also oversees the city’s education sector, underlined that on average the local government currently needs to spend MOP 210,000 per year on each student enrolled in a bachelor’s degree. 

The policy secretary said that the University of Macau’s new annual tuition fee will still be even lower than the fees charged by local schools and kindergartens that are not covered by the government’s free education network.

Many schools and kindergartens in Macao are privately run, but most of them are covered by the government’s free education network, so students do not need to pay tuition fees. Pupils at privately-run schools and kindergartens that are not covered by the government’s free education system pay comparatively high tuition fees. 

Consequently, Ao Ieong said she believed that civil society should discuss whether it is reasonable for a local bachelor’s degree student at the University of Macau to pay a comparatively low annual tuition fee of MOP 37,500, especially considering the large difference with the government’s cost per student enrolled in a bachelor’s degree course. 

According to the UM website, a local student who started a two-year master’s degree in the current academic year of 2021/22 at the University of Macau had to pay a tuition fee of MOP 36,000 per year, whereas their non-local counterparts needed to pay MOP 75,000.

The University of Macau has published its new tuition fee scheme for postgraduate students (master’s degree and PhD degree) for the next academic year of 2022/23 on its website, according to which local students starting their master’s degree next year will have to pay an annual tuition fee of MOP 48,900, whereas their non-local counterparts will have to pay MOP 87,000.

University of Macau Rector Song Yonghua said during yesterday’s Q&A session that his university has decided to increase its tuition fees from next year with the aim of increasing its income so that the government can spend less on the university. Song said that his university’s tuition fees for students enrolled in a master’s degree have not changed for a long time, so his university has decided to increase the annual tuition fees for master’s degrees for local students from MOP 36,000 to around MOP 48,000, a 35 per cent increase. 

Song said that the new tuition fees for master’s degrees will still be lower than neighbouring regions. He added that after an increase next year, the tuition fees will not be changed for the next two or three years, The Macau Post Daily reported.

 

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 4:40 am

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