Students Slap MSU Over US Dollar Tuition
3 March 2024
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In a bold move that may set a precedent for educational institutions across Zimbabwe, Midlands State University’s (MSU) Masters in Business Administration (MBA) students are challenging the university’s demand for tuition fees to be paid exclusively in United States dollars. The heart of the dispute lies in the $1,888 USD per semester fee, a sum that students are required to pay—or at least half of it—by March 8 to register for their courses.

Taking a stand against what they view as an unlawful demand, the MBA cohort has enlisted Wintertons Legal Practitioners to represent their interests. In a decisive letter dated March 1, 2024, addressed to MSU’s Vice Chancellor Professor Victor Muzvidziwa, the legal firm issued a 48-hour ultimatum. The university is to provide an option for fee payment in the local currency, or face legal proceedings in the High Court.

The legal argument pivots on the assertion that demanding payment in US dollars contravenes existing laws. The letter firmly states, “Demanding payment in United States dollars is clearly in contravention of the law and should not be allowed to stand.” It further declares the students’ readiness to pay the requisite fees in local currency, in alignment with the legal stance.

This legal battle does not occur in isolation. Last August, the Zimbabwean Government, through the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, permitted universities and colleges to set tuition fees in US dollars. However, the MBA students argue this policy does not inherently grant institutions the right to demand payment in said currency exclusively.

The case echoes a similar situation faced by Harare Polytechnic students earlier in January. Their legal victory, secured by High Court judge Justice Gladys Mhuri, mandated the institution to cease demanding fees solely in US dollars, allowing for payment in the local currency at the prevailing interbank rate.

As the 48-hour deadline looms, the university’s response—or lack thereof—will determine the next steps in a potentially landmark legal confrontation. Will the students’ legal challenge prompt a reevaluation of fee policies across Zimbabwean universities? Only time will tell, but one thing is clear: the outcome of this dispute could have far-reaching implications for the affordability and accessibility of higher education in Zimbabwe.- state media