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Ongoing UJ protest over tuition fees elicits public debate

By Suzanna Goussous - Mar 14,2016 - Last updated at Mar 14,2016

AMMAN — Students from the University of Jordan (UJ) and other universities around the Kingdom were still protesting a UJ decision to raise tuition fees for the parallel and post-graduate programmes on Monday.

Entering their 16th day of protests, students say they have not received “a clear response” from the university administration.

“For the past two weeks, the UJ protest has been the talk of town, where many figures and media outlets either supported or attacked us and questioned our intentions,” a fourth-year student enrolled in the parallel programme said on Monday.

Political analyst and Al Ghad daily columnist Mohammad Abu Rumman wrote about the protest, voicing hope that the authorities would pay more attention to the needs of the younger generation, calling for a re-evaluation of the "harsh economic conditions" affecting all segments of society, including students who cannot afford tuition fees.

In his Al Rai column, economist Fahed Fanek has expressed solidarity with the university administration, writing that the decision to raise fees is necessary to cover UJ's financial needs.

“The university should be administered by its president and board of trustees, not by students or by Thabahtoona [the National Campaign for Defending Students’ Rights] group by raising voices and slogans to defend their own interests,” Fanek said.

“Compulsory education is free and at the expense of the government. This is for sure, but post-graduate education is not,” he wrote.

Thabahtoona said the absence of a response from the government is “strange".

UJ President Ekhleif Tarawneh wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday that the university is considering “phasing out” the parallel programme that was created in the 1980s to make up for the financial deficit caused by the regular programme. 

Thabahtoona coordinator, Fakher Daas, said phasing out the parallel programme is not “a good solution” and it has been suggested before but not implemented.

“In 2006, the university president at that time suggested closing the parallel programme, but [without providing] alternative solutions,” Daas told The Jordan Times on Monday, adding: “If they phase out the parallel programme, they will raise the fees for the regular programme.”

The parallel programme is allocated for students whose General Secondary Education Certificate Examination scores do not qualify them to study specific subjects at public universities through the regular programme.

Tuition fees for this programme are higher than regular programmes.

Daas described the suggested solutions as “vague” and “not serious” to address problems through long-term plans. 

“I believe insufficient answers are being provided. Attacking students and accusing them of being brought to campus by outsiders is not how the university should deal with the problem,” he stressed.

According to Hisham Ayasrah, one of the protesters, in the first week of protest, students were accused of being brought by political parties that want to promote their ideologies; afterwards, they were accused of drinking alcohol on campus and doing drugs. 

The PhD student said the organisers and protesters belong to different political parties and some are independent, adding that if the rumours were true about alcohol and drugs, the UJ administration should “take the responsibility for what enters campus”.

“There are around 7,000 cameras on campus, in addition to the large number of security personnel at university gates,” he told The Jordan Times.


UJ officials were not available to comment on the protest on Monday.

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