Yet another revamp

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Why you ask? Didn't quite like the fact that I couldn't refresh or link directly to certain posts. I liked the old one becaused it allowed me a few pages on one template file, but I realised that you sacrifice navigatability for that. I've opted for a more simplistic approach... until I get my own server which would allow more than one file support. Still, I've somewhat managed to incorporate most of the things from the previous template, so I guess it's fine...

I've moved back to my own room, so my internet connection is back and stable... yay! Didn't quite manage to finish a lab assignment because of that though, but I'll work harder for the next one.

Well, about the NUS fee hike, it's pretty disappointing that the really sought after dialogue session lasted all but 60 minutes. That's probably enough time to wait for people to come in, give an introductory/opening oratory followed by a measly question or two before they concluded. No, I wasn't free to go because of cell group, and I don't think that even if I'd went for it I'd have the opportunity to speak. I shouldn't be complaining I guess, since the Admin staff ARE busy people. The result wasn't exactly satisfactory (although some might consider it a done deal since they had different objectives), but it was definitely a good step taken by the students.

The major issue is, what now? Is it over? Do we now just go back to the way things were, accept that the fee hike is here to stay, and move on? That's it? All questions and doubts clarified? IMHO, it isn't over... Not yet at least... From the summary of what conspired in the dialogue session, it is NOT entirely clear as to WHY there is a "rising operational cost". Sure, they explained about raising the salaries of qualified professors and lecturers so that they'd stay on in NUS, sure operational costs are higher (since inflation does affect operational costs), and yes, they explained that the Centennial celebration used seperate funds... but I do question every single one of these responses.

Firstly, I do not question the capabilities of the professors hired by NUS. What I do question is the 'competitiveness' of the salaries given to them. NUS may be 'world class', but it is by no means a Harvard, Oxford or Cambridge. What is a competitive salary? Just how much on average does a qualified lecturer in NUS get? How far should we go to get them to stay? Comparatively, the cost of living in Singapore is lower than say, the UK, USA or Australia, so it would not make sense to 'pay lecturers the same amount' as those other universities since the expenditure over there would also be higher. I'm not saying don't pay them well (because undoubtedly if the pay is too low then they'll leave), but it is not an easy thing to simply pack up and leave. So although paying them a competitive salary is justifiable, paying them too high with the excuse of 'wanting to retain them' isn't.

Secondly, inflation causes costs to increase sure, but just how much can it increase in a year? 3%? Judging from this, I'd say not. Moreover, it fluctuates throughout the years, so while it is understandable that operating costs increase year by year, it is certainly not going up by 3% every year. We just had a fee hike last year, doesn't it make sense that they shouldn't hike it this year?

Thirdly, the Centennial celebrations which included the construction of the brand new University Hall may not have come from tuition fees, but I do wonder what 'donations' made to the university in general is for. Aesthetic purposes? I doubt so... unless the donations were done with a non-virtuous intention (to which I would then say should not be labelled a donation). If you were to donate to a university, even if it was your alma mater, shouldn't you focus on giving it so that the university can continue to provide quality education to the students? Perhaps I'm being naive and euphemistic, but I believe those donations should go to help pay for what the university needs to operate as a university. It is a place of EDUCATION, and that should remain the PRIMARY focus of the university. Furthermore, by building these expensive 'wonders', they will undoubtedly increase overall operating costs; which IS covered by the tuition fees.

I do accept that the fee hike is inevitable, but they should at least be smarter to spread it out in a way that does not burden a whole batch of students. Coming in from year 1 I've already experienced the fee hike twice (as have my batchmates). Why not spread it over a couple of years (say an increase only every two years) so that each batch is minimally affected by the hike? Better yet, the fees ought to be locked at time of matriculation (just like almost every other internationally reknowned university) and the fee hikes carried on to new students. It would avoid the situation where students would be stuck between paying more (at goodness knows what expense) and dropping out entirely, wasting 2-3 years of their time and money.

That aside, I went to EB today for dinner with Jamie (and Zhen Ni although she was busy working)... I think I found my favourite dish there, although I'd probably not frequent that little place... Also, I had an INTERESTING conversation with Andi today... perhaps I'll divulge more of it another time...

Posted by Gerald at 2/19/2006 01:12:00 AM