Saturday, October 16, 2021

BIUST doctorate students stranded as government cuts sponsorships

Hundreds of Batswana students who are studying for doctorate degrees at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) may be forced to cut short their studies should government go ahead with threats to cut their sponsorship. The Ministry of Education and Skills Development is questioning the wisdom of introducing PHD courses at BIUST when the university was not ready to offer such courses.

Sunday Standard has established that BIUST management was recently grilled by some officials from the Ministry as to why the PHD courses were introduced. The management shifted the blame to former head of the university, Professor Hilary Iyang who left the university in 2014 citing among others “wilful misinterpretation of policies by external parties above the level of Management of BIUST.”

Concerned students told Sunday Standard this week that management had informed them that they expect the Ministry to cut BIUST’s budget following an audit that unearthed some irregularities in the way the university spends its funds. They further stated that management told them that it will only be able to sponsor Master degree studies until the end of this year due to financial constraints and excludes those who are pursuing doctorate degrees. Students pursuing Masters Degrees are expected to complete their studies at the end of this year while those pursuing Doctorate courses will complete their studies next year.

“After December this year, students who are pursuing doctorate courses do not know what will happen to them. The Ministry has told BUIST management that government does not sponsor doctorate degrees at the university”, one student told Sunday Standard. It has since emerged that the students recently prevailed over the management’s decision to cut their allowances citing financial constraints. The students are accusing BIUST of betraying them by going back on its promises after it had requested them to quit their full time employment and take up jobs at the university as Teaching Assistants as well being students at the same time. They allege that they have now been informed that they will only be paid when there are “classes for undergraduate students and not when the institution has closed for recess.”  

The students demand that BIUST should pay them severance benefits at the end of their studies because they are employees of BIUST. Documents passed to the Sunday Standard, reveal that BIUST had place an advert in local newspapers inviting students that “teaching assistantships are available in all disciplines.” “This assistantship is given in the form of a 50-100 percent tuition waiver along with the following stipends; Master Level P12 000 per month (at 25 percent, 50 percent and 100 percent. PHD level: P14 000 month (at 25 percent, 50 percent and 100 percent,” states the document. It added that “Please note that those who are receipt of this assistantship are expected to support the academic delivery of programmes to students. Research and Programme Assistantships are available in all disciplines.”

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